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 walkingdead on 25. March 2014 - 18:54  (115279)

I read about SecurityKiss here and used it for about 6 months without any incident. Then one day it said I had to re-register to continue. Ok, I did, then a few weeks later it would show that I had used it for 23 hrs. when in reality I had just signed on. I don't understand it's behavior. Finally it just stopped working urging me to view the packages available that I could purchase to continue uninterrupted. I just uninstalled it getting nowhere. Now I kind of feel naked without my VPN shielding me.

Will try HotSpot shield hope this works indefinitely without incident. Excellent site by the way,, you guys have very detailed information and it's very explanatory. Keep up the great work! This is my "GO TO FIRST SITE" whenever I need anything.

The WalkingDead

by Chiron on 25. March 2014 - 23:28  (115284)

On behalf of everyone at techsupportalert I would like to thank you for your kind words.

Now, about SeucirityKiss, this sounds to me like something probably went wrong with the SecurityKiss application. Reinstalling it may be able to solve this, although I can't be sure. If you like you can create a new topic in the forum, then send me a link to it through my contact link, then I can try to troubleshoot this.

However, if you would like to try out HotSpot shield, that is another good option. Let me know what you think of it and if you have any questions.

Thank you.

by MarkIt8Dude on 3. March 2014 - 22:36  (114761)

way outdated article.

by Chiron on 3. March 2014 - 23:57  (114762)

Please specify in which ways you believe the article is outdated. If you give me specific examples I can improve it.

Thanks.

by das.markus on 12. March 2013 - 0:09  (106149)

Hi

I'm coming back to the site after several months and I'm catching up the new site's rules just now.
Anyway, I decided to register to say "thank you a lot" for this great guide. Perfectly clear and easy to follow.
I've used it in my SOHO and I couldn't be happier.

Keep it up Gizmo's!

by Chiron on 12. March 2013 - 2:05  (106153)

Thank you very much.

Please be sure and let me know if you have any questions.

by das.markus on 12. March 2013 - 19:35  (106184)

Sure, I'll do so. Thanks again!

by Daria Wilen on 5. March 2013 - 5:35  (105949)

Ratzo! "Hotspot Shield" is very secure, this VPN is safe and never keeps your log info in records. I am using it from 6 months and do not found any flaw in that. I suggest! you should always keep your public wifi usage with Hotspot Shield VPN.

For better online web privacy use only AnchorFree's Hotspot Shield free VPN without any hassle.

by PetGuerilla on 24. January 2013 - 13:17  (104783)

Hello, im new to this site and I'm looking for a program that I administer in my own network that can alert me when a 3rd party entity is monitoring my own on-line activity. For example, a 3rd party that may be monitoring posts in social media sites or communication with others that tend to voice certain political vews. I've noticed that little coincidences are occurring more and more often when posts are not reaching thier destination. My system tends to slow down in certain sites, and it feels like my messages/ posts are being filtered, eventhough there is NO profanity or any talk of any type of illegal activity.
Any help would be greatly appreciated ...Pet_

by Chiron on 10. February 2013 - 18:11  (105279)

I would recommend first ensuring that your computer is not infected with malware. To do that please follow the advice I give in my article about How to Know If Your Computer Is Infected:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/how-know-if-your-computer-infect...

If that shows no problems then I would suggest you start a new topic in the forum. This type of issue is not one which can be solved in the comments section.

Thank you.

by Ratzo on 19. November 2012 - 11:42  (102553)

Hi ,firstly a good article .. thanks .Now here is an interesting find . I use Hotspot Sheild and firefox with many addons . I use iquix as the main search engine . I reside in Aus. Now what I find is that when doing a search it firstly lists mostly .com.au adverts .
Wouldnt this suggest it was leaking my IP address ? on DuckduckGo it dosent , any thoughts on this ?

by Chiron on 19. November 2012 - 14:10  (102559)

Ixquick's privacy policy says that it uses Google's Adwords, but that no personally identifiable information is sent. Thus, I believe what is happening is that Ixquick identifies which country you are in, but no more specific information is sent.

Thus, I wouldn't be worried. I think it's likely just due to Ixquick trying to make the results as relevant as possible without breaking users privacy.

by chitaw (not verified) on 27. October 2012 - 8:57  (101431)

Hi Chiron,

I had Hotspotshield installed on my PC, I made a scan of my PC with Doctorweb cure it and it found a trojan (TROJAN Siggen 4.27860) in Hotspotshield. So I unistalled Hotspotshield and downloaded Securitykiss from their official website. Before installing it I scanned the installation application of Securitykiss with Doctorweb cure it and it found in it another trojan called Back door trojan, which after an online search came out to be one of the most dangerous trojan infection, so I did no installed Security kiss.
Have you any ideas about?
Thanks in advance for your help

by Chiron on 27. October 2012 - 17:11  (101467)

I am certain that both of these are false positives.

As long as you downloaded them from official sites you will be fine.

by chitaw (not verified) on 29. October 2012 - 12:23  (101554)

Thanks chiron for your reply.

by Chiron on 29. October 2012 - 15:10  (101564)

You're welcome.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

by alexxx46 on 27. October 2012 - 14:11  (101452)

SecurityKissSetup.exe (dl from Softpedia): VirusTotal 0/44, MalwareBytes - clean.

by MidnightCowboy on 27. October 2012 - 14:37  (101458)

Thanks for checking this one too. :)

by MidnightCowboy on 27. October 2012 - 13:48  (101445)

Anonymous1 below is spot on and here is the VT scan result:

https://www.virustotal.com/file/39ac219476d20dfb5475ecc690beae1eab6008aa...

The crazy thing here is that Dr.Web finds it clean, but Eset doesn't - and that's wrong too.:D

http://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?t=266230

Some of these security programs are so chock full of false positives as to be almost useless unless their owners are prepared to invest ages re-checking everything on line, reading reams of user guides in order to find out how these detections are arrived at, and fine tuning the program settings to avoid PUP and "reputation" scores.

MC
Site Manager

by Anonymous1 (not verified) on 27. October 2012 - 11:26  (101436)

As far as SecurityKiss goes it is almost certainly a false positive as I have been using it for a long time without any problems.
You could try uploading the installer to VirusTotal to see what that shows.

I have notified the SecurityKiss developer of your comment.

by chitaw (not verified) on 27. October 2012 - 13:46  (101444)

Hi Anonymous1,

I just finished the scan on VirusTotal and the result was: DETECTION RATIO 0/44 (in green colour). I presume it means the file is clean, is that correct?
Thanks in advance for your help.

by chitaw (not verified) on 27. October 2012 - 13:35  (101443)

Hi Anonymous1,

Thanks for your reply, have you also some suggestion/idea for the trojan Doctorweb found in Hotspotshield?

by Anonymous1 (not verified) on 27. October 2012 - 13:58  (101446)

If VirusTotal showed 0/44 the file is clean.
It is a long time since I used Hotspot Shield but I suspect that too is a false positive.

Be aware that the two programs are very different.
Hotspot Shield only works on your browser, SecurityKiss works on everything that connects to the internet.

by chitaw (not verified) on 27. October 2012 - 14:06  (101450)

Thanks Anonymous1 for your help and clarification, it looks like you always have to keep eyes open wide to avoiv bad surprises and never relax though!

by Redback813 (not verified) on 23. October 2012 - 10:14  (101215)

I have been using various products over the years and I found there are a couple of setups that I would drop. One been chrome browser since this browser tracks it user and relay that info back home, adblock plus for it failure to block request but to hide from or within the browser, DNT plus for this relies solely on the service in question and there interpation of what is the version of DNT policies. Peerblock use to work in old version of OSX but the current version is too problematic too use now. I beleive that keeping it simple is a must and that to gain privacy, one must give something in return , say connection speed for example to acheive the desire privacy. TO many browser Add-on's has the oppsite affect and creates problem and conflict's.

This is what I use on my Mac and windows
All browser have Ghostery, #Mac and windows
Both internet DNS have DNScrypt, #Mac and windows
Firefox, SRW Iron these are the only two I will only use, #Mac and windows
Privoxy which covers all OS/browser's connect Ad and track, etc Privacy filtering, #Mac and windows
Glimmerblocker for catching unfiltered trackers or ad sites not caught by privoxy, #Mac
Little Snitch to control apps and service that connect to the network's, #Mac
Privatefirewall 7.0 to control apps and service that connect to the network's, #Windows

by Chiron on 23. October 2012 - 22:23  (101248)

Thank you. I think you will agree, for the most part, that the advice I give in this article and also in the related article about How to Harden Your Browser:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/how-harden-your-browser-against-...
are very similar to those recommended by you.

The main difference is that we mainly appear to advise users to use some programs which are slightly different, but are of the same type. Also, my article is aimed only towards Windows users.

The main problem with an article such as this is that it is not possible to list all the different possibilities and variations which could be used. Attempting this would cause the article to become much too long and likely unreadable. I've run into this problem in the past.

That said, please let me know if you think there is an area of privacy which I have not accounted for. I looked over your list of recommendations and I am impressed with your approach, but it does appear to me that you are largely covering the same bases covered in my article. Do you see something I am missing?

I really appreciate your very informed feedback.

Thank you.

by Telly S (not verified) on 23. October 2012 - 15:32  (101227)

Is DNScript meant to be used even if one is already using a service such as Norton DNS?

by alexxx46 on 23. October 2012 - 16:25  (101230)

It is used with OpenDNS only.

by freestuffrocks on 25. August 2012 - 9:39  (98284)

Great job as usual Chiron. 2 things:

1) I'd been using Peerblock for about 2 years with no problems. Then a few months ago I started getting a BSOD every time it loaded due to pbfilter.sys driver. The only suggestion they gave was to turn off driver verifier, which I don't want to do. Any other suggestions?

2) As for VPNs, how about Comodo TrustConnect? There's a paid version but also a free version that offers 10 GBs a month.

by Chiron on 25. August 2012 - 16:18  (98302)

In terms of peerblock I would suggest that you look for advice in their forum. I can tell you that I have had no problems (Windows 7 x64), but in terms of troubleshooting a problem they would probably be your best shot. By the way, did you make sure it's not a compatibility issue with any other security software you are using?

As for Comodo TrustConnect, I did not include that because although it may be good for security it is not as good for privacy. They explicitly say in their FAQ that they have logs of all system connections and will provide them to the authorities upon request. Thus, I believe there are more privacy oriented options.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks.

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