How to Protect Your Online Privacy

 

These days it often feels like online privacy is an unattainable illusion. The truth is that there are many things you can do to greatly increase your privacy. This article is meant to present you with some general strategies to protect your online privacy. Please choose the methods that work best for you.

 

Also, you should be aware that protecting your online privacy also requires that you keep your computer safe from many other types of online dangers. Because of that I would also suggest that you read through my article about How to Stay Safe While Online.

Recent Changelog:

5/23/2014-Removed some dead links and added link to Best Free Antivirus Software article.

6/9/2014-Replaced http links with https links wherever possible.

 

Index

1. Basic Strategies

    A) Make Sure Site Is Safe Before Sharing Information

    B) Protect Your Wireless Connection From Dangers

    C) Follow This Advice To Remove Your Information From Most People Search Databases

2. Increase Privacy Of Your Browser

3. Use A Privacy Oriented Email Service

4. Use a Virtual Private Network To Hide Your IP Address

5. Use Peerblock To Block Known Risks From Even Seeing Your Computer

6. Check Out This Site For Further Reading

 

1. Basic Strategies

 

A) Make Sure Site Is Safe Before Sharing Information

The truth about the internet is that often you can’t be sure who people really are or who's actually running the site you’re on. A general rule of thumb is that if you don’t trust the site don’t give them any personally identifiable information. This includes your real name, email address, credit card number, etc… To make sure the site you're considering visiting isn't a security or privacy risk you should read my article about How to Tell If A Website Is Dangerous

 

B) Protect Your Wireless Connection From Dangers

Also, if you're connecting to the internet via a wireless connection you need to make sure that the connection is password protected. If possible use WPA type encryption, as this is very strong, and choose a password that would be very difficult for anyone else to guess. This will help prevent your browsing data from being spied on and, even more importantly, will help to protect your computer from being hacked. Once a hacker has breached your network defenses it becomes much easier for them to now try to get into your computer. Also, a further concern is that if you don't encrypt your wireless connection, and someone else uses it to do something illegal, it's possible for you to be held responsible for their actions.

 

C) Follow This Advice To Remove Your Information From Most People Search Databases

In addition, if you want to remove your information from most of the people search databases on the internet, you can follow the advice given on this page. The information on how to do this is actually provided by a company which offers to do it for you for a fee, but if you like you can also do it yourself for free. The problem is that it will take a good amount of time.

 

2. Increase Privacy Of Your Browser

 

Nearly all privacy threats enter your computer through your browser. Thus, protecting your browser from these privacy threats is a very important part of protecting your online privacy. To protect your browser from these types of threats please read the article I wrote about How to Harden Your Browser Against Malware and Privacy Concerns. Pay special attention to the parts which are concerned mainly with protecting your online privacy, but also remember that securing your computer against malware and other threats also plays a large role in protecting your privacy. Thus, I would really recommend that you read the entire article.

 

3. Use A Privacy Oriented Email Service

 

If privacy is really important to you then I would advise you to also consider using an email service which cares about privacy as much as you do. A very good list of free webmail services, which offer very good privacy, can be found on this page. Please read through it and figure out which email service is right for you.

 

However, if you instead need a service which can allow you to send emails anonymously, with no worries about receiving anything back, then there are some other services you should consider. For this sort of situation I would advise that you use either Send-Email or AnoneMail. Both are quite anonymous, although AnoneMail is slightly more anonymous. One aspect of AnoneMail is that it will even wait up to 12 hours to send the email, so it definitely can't be traced back to you. However, this may be too much of a disadvantage if you really want the other party to receive the email immediately.

 

4. Use a Virtual Private Network To Hide Your IP Address

 

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, securely tunnels all of the connections from your computer to the secure servers of the service you are using. From there it is sent out to the site you're communicating with. However, the site sees only the IP address of the server, and has no idea what your real IP address is. Even better, because your connection is encrypted until it reaches their servers, nobody can spy on what you are doing. Thus, for the most part, nobody should be able to associate what you're doing with who you really are. Using a VPN is one of the most important steps in attaining true online privacy. Also, they are so easy to set up and use that anyone can use one.

 

In addition, some VPN's will allow you to choose servers which will make it appear that you are in a different country than you really are. This can help you to avoid censorship and even access content that may be restricted in your country. A review of some of the best free VPN’s can be found on this page.

 

For ordinary surfing my top recommendation would be SecurityKISS. This program does store your IP address, but this is only associated with the total amount of data sent tunneled through SecurityKISS. No other personally identifiable information is logged. Therefore I do not consider this to be a threat to your privacy. Also, this service does limit free users to 300MB of data per day. However, they do allow you to choose the country you would like to appear to be in. Sadly, SecurityKISS also does not work with torrents.

 

If you require a VPN which will also anonymize torrents you should check out CyberGhost. In fact, when compared with an un-anonymized connection, the torrent speed is not even slowed down significantly. This VPN does require registration, but you are not required to supply them with personally identifiable information. Also, this VPN only allows free users to use it to tunnel 1GB of information per month. That said, that amount should be sufficient for most users. Also, you cannot choose the country you would like to appear to be in.

 

A further restriction to this program is that free users can only use this service for 6 hours at a time before it will automatically disconnect. That said, the default action for this program is to block all internet connections in the case of a loss of connection. Thus, this should not be a large problem. Also, this service will not anonymize any emails sent via SMTP. Note that this service will anonymize https connections.

 

5. Use Peerblock To Prevent Known Risks From Even Seeing Your Computer

 

Peerblock can be downloaded from this site. It monitors all IP connections and blocks any connection which is in any of its lists of known unwanted IP addresses. It comes with default block lists and allows you to easily download more lists. It even comes with a list of known anti-P2P IP addresses, which you can select so that your computer will not communicate with them. All of these lists will be automatically updated each time you open the program. Additional lists can be found on this page. However, using this program does take a lot of getting used to. Thus I would really only recommend this program for advanced users.

 

You can also create custom lists, either for blocking or allowing sites. As long as you don’t use too many lists your connection speed shouldn’t decrease noticeably when it's enabled. Peerblock can greatly increase your level of privacy, but this comes at a price. Using certain lists may cause many of the sites you regularly visit to not work correctly. Thus, you will need to either temporarily disable Peerblock, when privacy concerns are not as critical, or create a whitelist of allowed sites.

 

Personally, I create a whitelist. The way I would recommend creating this is by first clearing the log. Then go to a site you visit regularly and see if important aspects of the site are blocked. If they are, and you trust the site, you can select the option to allow the connection for 15 minutes. I always start with the one at the bottom of the list. After temporarily allowing the single connection, and waiting for about 5 seconds, reload the page. If the site now loads fine then you can select the option to allow that connection permanently. This way the site will always work, even when Peerblock is active. Repeat this for each site you would like to whitelist.

 

6. Check Out This Site For Further Reading

 

Prism-Break is a site which is geared towards moderate to advanced users. The information provided on that site is comprehensive to the extent that the site claims that if you follow their advice you will be able to avoid data surveilance programs like Prism, XKeyscore, and Tempora. Advice, and links to programs, are provided for nearly all aspects of internet privacy. Thus, for those who are very serious about protecting your online privacy, I would strongly suggest that you check out that site. There is some very useful information provided. However, please be aware that I do not agree with all of their suggestions, and believe they have left some other very good alternatives out. Thus, I would recommend that you first follow the advice I give above. Also, before you decide to change the applications, and services, you currently use I would recommend that you first make sure that there is a problem with what you are currently using.

 

 

 

 

Please help by rating this article. Also, if you believe this article deserves anything less than 5 stars, please leave a comment below explaining how you think it can be improved or where you find fault. This article is written by me but fueled by the community. Thus your opinions and advice are not only much appreciated, but actually necessary in order for this article to grow and improve.

 

If you found this article useful then perhaps you'd like to check out some of my others.

Best Free Antivirus Software

How to Avoid Spam

How to Clean An Infected Computer

How to Fix a Malware Infected Computer

How to Harden Your Browser Against Malware and Privacy Concerns

How to Install Comodo Firewall

How to Know If Your Computer Is Infected

How to Report Dangerous Websites

How to Report Malware or False Positives to Multiple Antivirus Vendors

How to Report Spam

How to Stay Safe While Online

How to Tell if a File is Malicious

How to Tell If A Website Is Dangerous

 

This software category is maintained by volunteer editor Chiron. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or suggestions they might have by clicking here.

 

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Comments

by Chiron on 24. February 2012 - 16:22  (89380)

Although it's back I've updated my advice to recommend Do Not Track Plus. It does much more than Disconnect.

by Chiron on 24. February 2012 - 16:22  (89381)

Yeah, what he said. :)

by Chiron on 24. February 2012 - 16:26  (89382)

Okay, I've included this in my article. It seems to perform well.

However, please let me know if anyone encounters any problems.

Thanks.

by Chiron on 24. February 2012 - 16:31  (89383)

Hello, I'd like to thank everyone for the great comments you've left. I've just updated the information in the article. However, I'd also like to be able to expand the VPN section further.

Does anyone know of any other combinations of a fast and secure free VPN with a high download limit, and a good torrent downloader? I'd like to be able to recommend an alternative to HotSpot Shield and qBittorrent. If anyone knows of another VPN that would also work well I'd be very interested to hear about it.

Once again, thank you very much for all the help you've given me.

by Chiron on 24. February 2012 - 16:32  (89384)

Actually, I tested this out more and it appears that Ghostery still is useful. However, I now prefer Do Not Track Plus to Ghostery and thus I am not recommending Ghostery.

by Chiron on 24. February 2012 - 16:33  (89385)

Okay, it's not compatible with too many other addons, but it's very good at what it does. Thus I've updated the article and am now recommending it.

Please let me know what you think.

Thanks.

by Chiron on 24. February 2012 - 16:34  (89386)

Thank you for pointing out this addon. I've now updated my article and am recommending it.

Please let me know what you think.

Thanks.

by n01paranoid on 24. February 2012 - 17:48  (89390)

Thanks for the reply and info Chiron. I was rather surprised to see Chrome outscoring Comodo Dragon. Hopefully the issue will be addressed soon.

PS - I was the person who raised it in the Comodo forums.

by Chiron on 24. February 2012 - 19:18  (89394)

Sorry, I hadn't paid attention to the name of the original poster. Yeah, regardless of minor differences in security I'd still prefer CD.

by cinnamon toast crunch (not verified) on 14. March 2012 - 13:44  (90577)

why everybody prefers chrome and comodo dragon puzzles me. who is behind chrome? thank you enough said. also comodo firewall is always trying to phone home. ive locked it down to the extreme and i still catch it trying to connect to its mothership. so i dont trust the dragon browser. my answer is the king of browsers firefox. OPEN SOURCE!!! the official browser used by tor project. just open it up and start tweaking to your hearts content. massive addon support if you wish, and available in portable.. should i continue? thank you.

by cinnamon toast crunch (not verified) on 14. March 2012 - 14:02  (90582)

other free vpn offered not on list.

http://en.globalvpn.net/

by Chiron on 15. March 2012 - 15:20  (90655)

Actually, Chromium is open Source. Google Chrome is just Google's version of the project. Thus there are other versions with different code or who take Google's version and remove components of that. Therefore just because a browser is Chromium doesn't mean that it's made by Google.

Firefox is another very good browser and that's why I've included it in the list. I do also advise that people use Firefox, although I also list a chromium browser as many people like to use them. Currently I'm running Comodo Dragon myself.

by Chiron on 15. March 2012 - 15:20  (90656)

Thank you for making me aware of this. I'll look into it.

by hertew (not verified) on 4. April 2012 - 15:32  (91643)

Hi,

Thanks for your article.
I have installed Hotspotshield, but both Ghostery and DNT keep alerting me that they have blocked somebody (companies etc.)trying to track me. My question is, if with Hotspotshield my Ip is hidden and all my data are encrypted, so basically I am, (or should be) invisible on the net, how can somebody try to track me?

by hertew (not verified) on 6. April 2012 - 15:19  (91711)

Hi again,

Could you please also explain me this: I visited CyberGhost vpn home page (while connected to Hotspot shield)and this page could perfectly read my IP Adress and it was clearly shown in the midlle of it where it says "YOU ARE NOT CYBERGHOSTED , Your IP is...". Wasn`t Hotspotshield supposed to hide my IP?!???

Thanks in advance.

by Chiron on 13. April 2012 - 15:56  (92030)

Are you sure that Hotspot shield was turned on and working properly? Was the shield green?

by Chiron on 13. April 2012 - 15:59  (92031)

Hotspot Shield should be able to hide your IP. However, there are also other ways of tracking you. One of these is by putting cookies on your computer, which can still indicate to them which sites you've visited. Although these would originally show the false IP address next time you connect they could now give them your actual IP address. There are many other security concerns other than just your IP.

That's why I have such varying advice in this article. Online privacy is a relatively difficult state to attain.

by hertew (not verified) on 13. April 2012 - 16:15  (92033)

Thanks for your reply.

Yes, I am sure.
After that I also made another check: I downloaded and installed Proxpn and (while logged in) I visited IP lookup homepage and my IP Adress was clearly displayed on their home page. I than disconnected from Proxpn and connected to Hotspot shield and IP lookup homepage could again clearly read my IP Address!!!
You can try it yourself if you like, the web site I visited is ip-looup.net.

by hertew (not verified) on 13. April 2012 - 16:20  (92034)

This is just to correct my previous post.

The website I visited to check both Proxpn and Hotspot shield is ip-lookup.net

by hertew (not verified) on 13. April 2012 - 16:46  (92037)

Thanks again for your reply,

I red all of your article about privacy, and not just that one, but also all those you yourself list: How to stay stay safe online, How to innstall Comodo etc...
I followed basically all of your advices: I installed Comodo internet security,PeerBlock, all the browser extensions you recomend, I have set my browser not to install any cookie from any website and I am using Startpage as alternative search engine.
So it`s really strange that, as I said, both DNT and Ghostery keep telling me that I am traked, and both Proxpn and Hotspot shield seem not to work at all.
However I still appreciate all the work you did to give people some adcvice. I am just trying to get some help with what seems not to work with my PC.

by Abu Ammaar (not verified) on 14. April 2012 - 5:03  (92072)

Hi

I have hotspot shield on and using qBittorrent - when on, it does not start my torrents, why is this ? How do i configure qBittorrent correctly to work with Hotspot Shield

by Chiron on 16. April 2012 - 21:28  (92182)

Actually I'm having trouble getting them to work well together as well. At this point I don't have a combination that I like.

Sorry, hopefully someone else can help.

by Chiron on 17. April 2012 - 14:54  (92208)

I'm sorry but I'm not able to figure out what may be going on with your computer. However, since both of these programs work fine for most people I am assuming that whatever the problem is is specific to your computer. Thus what I would suggest is that you contact support for one of the products and see if their experts can diagnose what may be going on with your computer.

by hertew (not verified) on 18. April 2012 - 7:37  (92232)

Do you mean that you and this "most people" that you mention have cheked this programs on Cyberghost and IP-Lookup homepage and actually found no IP address diplayed?
Or (having them installed) actually found that neither Ghostery nor DNT extensions showed nobody traking?
My computer has got nothing wrong and, by the way, is one of the best on the actual market.

Thanks for your post.

by MidnightCowboy on 18. April 2012 - 8:21  (92234)

As the editor has already stated, it is impossible for us to offer a diagnosis/probable cause based on information we do not have for a single computer to which we do not have access. The correct place to obtain this is via the support offered for the product(s) concerned.

by hertew (not verified) on 18. April 2012 - 13:20  (92247)

I was no longer asking about my computer. I was asking if Chiron and the "most" people he mentions have checked the programs the way I did and found them to work fine. Hope it is clear now.

by Chiron on 18. April 2012 - 15:39  (92254)

Yes. For most people if they check their IP address, after running the VPN programs you mentioned, they will find that it now indicates a different IP address then their true one.

I wasn't saying that there's anything wrong with your computer. Sometimes a setting that was changed by another program, or an incompatibility with another program, can make a program like HotSpotShield not function correctly. The problem is that this problem is difficult to diagnose. Therefore I think your best bet is to contact their support and see if they have any ideas.

If that doesn't work then I would recommend starting a new topic in a forum and seeing if anyone can help.

Thanks.

by hertew (not verified) on 18. April 2012 - 15:58  (92255)

Thanks again for your post Chiron, this helped me a lot as all of your clear articles did.
Again I do appreciate all of your work. Keep going on!

Best whishes!

by GrosManche (not verified) on 19. April 2012 - 17:14  (92296)

I've no problem torrenting with Hotspot Shield + Tixati.
By the Way I find Tixati great, my preffered bit to rant soft after lots of tests.

by Chiron on 20. April 2012 - 13:10  (92325)

Thanks. I'll look into that for my next rewrite.

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