Internet Privacy: 20 Tips on how to Be Safe and Secure Online, by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Do you feel the need for more privacy now that you know that Big Brother has his beady eye on you 24/7? If so, you may find this article of some use.

internet privacy

Note.  The recommendations put forward by the author of this article are his own personal choices and in no way reflect the views of those associated with this website. Readers must therefore make up their own minds whether to accept or reject these recommendations. — John Scott Montecristo, Editor

For a long time now I have been deeply concerned about the invasion of privacy as recently brought to light by Edward Snowden’s shocking NSA revelations. This has prompted me to write this article. As a specialist in IT with many years’ experience in the field of computer science, I thought it might be useful if I were to address this important question that most internet users are now bound to be asking: how can I protect myself online and obtain maximum privacy and security?

There are several components to online safety and I shall deal with them one by one. Let me state at the outset that the ideal of absolute 100 percent privacy and security is virtually impossible to attain, given the high degree of sophisticated surveillance nowadays. However, there are ways of making it much harder for Big Brother to invade your privacy. Hopefully, an effective barrier between you and this persistent pest might be erected. My aim is to help you to keep Big Brother at bay.

Here are 20 tips you might like to consider:

1.   Computer and Operating Systems. If you are using Microsoft Windows, any version, please don’t read any further. Nothing I say here will be able to help you. You have passed the point of no return. No matter what you do, Microsoft Windows have the master key and they can open your vault for the NSA.

No I don’t have any prejudices against you. But you should read here first.

2.   The same caveats apply to Apple/Mac/iOS users, although I am not sure to what extent you are exposed. We know for a fact that Apple has agreed to cooperate with the NSA.

3.   Recommendation.  This brings us to Linux. Don’t think of it as a geeky, text-based operating system, only used by the tech enthusiast. In fact, there are many user-friendly Linux distributions which can help you a lot. For example, you can check out Fedora and Ubuntu. If you want a system that feels and looks exactly like Windows, you can try Zorin. These operating systems are safe as they are not proprietary. Installing them is not very difficult and you can find lots of online guides to get you started. If you are not computer savvy, you can ask the local computer shop to instal one on your computer for you. The money you spend on it comes back to you eventually as you don’t have to buy these operating systems—all of them are completely FREE.

4.   Search engines. The first thing you should do is to get rid of Google search. This is Google’s most powerful medium to collect data from you. They track everything: your location, age, IP number, internet provider, login sessions, and, most importantly, the subject matter of your searches. The moment you open Google, they set a cookie—a small computer program in your PC to collect data from you—a feature which is presently set to expire only in 2038.

5.   Microsoft and Yahoo have now teamed up. You should therefore also avoid Bing, the search engine by Microsoft.

6.   Recommendation. Shift to DuckDuckGo. This is an anonymous search engine which neither tracks you nor stores your data. You are perfectly safe when you are searching using DuckDuckGo.

Another point in favor of DuckDuckGo and against Google is this: Google shows you the search results which they ‘think’ you might be interested in, based on the data which they have collected previously from your computer. DuckDuckGo does nothing like this. It presents you with pure data, unadulterated with material someone at Google thinks might be of interest to you based on your previous searches. By doing this, Google is in fact restricting your choices and nudging you in a particular direction.

7. Browsers. Avoid Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. Both these browsers collect data from you at all times and rob you of every vestige of privacy. Google Chrome sends all your private data to Google, whereas Internet Explorer sends all your private data to Microsoft. Your data is then funneled to the spies at the NSA.

8.   FireFox is a much safer option, though Firefox cannot help you if the site you are visiting is keeping its tracks on you. Firefox however allows you to use a few security add-ons, I personally recommend Do Not Track Me, Better Privacy, and Cookie Controller.

9.   There are other options available for Linux users, like RNQ and Konquerer.

10.   Recommendation. Download and use TOR. Here are the download links for Linux, Mac and Windows (alas!). Don’t worry, there is nothing scary in it. Download the zip file, extract it, you will see how simple it is. They have modified a FireFox browser in a way that it is 10,000 times more difficult for anybody to check what are you surfing. How Tor works or achieves this would need an article in itself to explain—so this is not the place for me to do it.

Trust me: using TOR, which is a modified FireFox browser, will increase your online anonymity a thousand times. Admittedly, it’s a bit slow due to the various re-routing of data, but then we must be ready to do a trade-off: in exchange for the inconvenience of a little extra slowness, you get the huge benefit of near-perfect anonymity and privacy. It’s worth it.

11.   TOR is available for your Android as well.

12.   Emails. The second most valuable service we use online. Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail, right? Well, please note that these are all being read by someone. Yes, every email you send, including any attachments, are being recorded. You stand a better chance of privavy if you shift to a non-USA based company.

13.   Recommendation. Start by ditching Gmail in favor of Yandex. It is actually a Google-like service and allows you to search text and images, watch videos, and send emails. It is based in Russia. I have read the user agreement carefully. They say they might use the data to show you advertisements, but as they are based in Russia, it is next to impossible that they will share your data with the American-based NSA. Yandex has a nice interface too. You won’t miss Gmail or Hotmail. Yandex also allows you to send attachments of up to 2 GB.

14.   If you really want increased privacy and real anonymous emailing, you might try TorMail, a mail engine based in TOR network which is really anonymous and almost impossible to track. You can send and receive emails and do all the other normal things. Setting this up is not so difficult. Open your TOR browser and copy this link there, http://jhiwjjlqpyawmpjx.onion/.

15.   Please note, TOR mail will work only if you use TOR browser.

16.   Mobile or cell phones. Google’s Android is Google’s latest weapon to check all your data. As this is virtually developing into a pocket computer, and we use almost every Google service there, you are not safe with Android.

17.   The same goes for your beloved iPhone or the latest Nokia Lumia you might have bought, as that is a Windows phone by Microsoft.

18. Recommendation. I am not sure right now, though I may be in a year or two. Maybe you should go back to old Java phones, the phones we used to use before these smartphones came. You can use FireFox phones but they are still not much to talk about. Your hope can be the upcoming pure Ubuntu phone but nothing can be said before they are launched.

19.   Social networks.  FaceBook, Twitter and Google Plus: the more you share information, the more exposed you are. Never forget this.

20.   You should reject every Google service or use them under the disguise of TOR. There are, of course, other services of Google like YouTube, but by using TOR you can access those. The problem is, the moment you create a Google id to comment there or to upload a video, Google will start tracking you.

If you need any help in setting up anything I have discussed here, you might wish to leave a comment below. Please let me know if I have missed out anything important.

I hope I have been of some assistance to you.

______________________________________________________________

Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who holds dual post-graduate degrees in IT and Management, is a professional writer who lives and works in New Delhi, India. The advice he offers here is objective and impartial and based on his own personal experiences as an  IT consultant over many years. He can be contacted at faiz.ahmed@yandex.com
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32 thoughts on “Internet Privacy: 20 Tips on how to Be Safe and Secure Online, by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

  1. Thanks, Faiz. Very useful. I see I’ll have to get to work on my antiquated computer. Many changed needed.

  2. Good article. Many excellent tips. But a bit scary.

    Btw, how is life in New Delhi? I used to live in Old Delhi once . . . many years ago.

    I guess you weren’t around when they had the Swiss Hotel standing there in its palatial splendor, surrounded by its vast gardens…? I wonder what has replaced it? Any idea?

    Ed Sallis
    (Sri Lanka)

    1. Ed, I settled in Delhi only in 2012. Before that, here and there, Calcutta, England, Iran, Phillippines and what not. (If nothing, it made me speak a few languages) 😀

      I dont think you meant 2012 when you said “many years ago” 😀
      thanks for liking my effort.

  3. This is a great article, but those who post on this site are already GUARANTEED to be monitored – or at least ‘noted’. I, myself, am already on ‘lists’, so any overt avoidance of same would flag.

    I have a friend who says he can make for me an encryption program which would cause so much trouble to hack that it’d take a looonnngg time to do it. What good would that be, anyway, if the party with whom I communicate doesn’t have the same?? I hardly see why it’s worth the trouble – especially since there are no matters I can imagine discussing which I give a rat’s eyeball whether Big Brother hears it, or not. For certain, Big Brother doesn’t give a damn what little peons like us discuss, here!

    NOTHING, hereon, is strictly private.

    1. Charlie, I agree and disagree completely.
      Agree to this, “NOTHING, hereon, is strictly private.” and I think I mentioned it in my article too that those steps will make it difficult for others to track you , mighty difficult I say but certainly not impossible.

      Disagree to, “Big Brother doesn’t give a damn what little peons like us discuss, here!”. I believe the scapegoat is always picked from a list prearranged. (The boston bomber case which has been discussed here many times). And later, these comments will be used against. Why give them the chance?

      cheers mate 🙂

  4. very useful to know, thanks faiz.
    i have already made some changes, including a switch to yandex, tried tot couple of years ago but either set it up all wrong or some bug caused it to take forever.

    likewise, would switch to linux in a heartbeat except that a crucial bit of software i use runs on win platforms.

    what about vpn, setting up your own or joining a professionally administered one?
    i think it is a viable alternative to tor (or could be wrong, my patience with technology is wearing razor thin as i age).

    another poster of old, grettir could chip in here … hey, grettir, you old maniac, come to us in our hour of need, y’hear!

    1. Lobro, lobro dear lobro, I never fail to read your comments here. Thats a confession and a compliment 🙂

      Anyway, Yandex is good. I am trying my best to shift completely to Yandex. I always knew Google gets my data but I used to think its for targeting me better as a customer. As blocking their ads is easy (and I mostly use DuckDuckGo search engine for pure results) I never gave it a damn.
      But when this NSA thing came up, I was not at all easy. By that time I was using many Google identities as my primary one. Need a little time for complete transition. Already have ditched Google Chrome and Google search and Gmail (partially).

      About VPN, I dont know how that point was missed out. A very good alternative. I discussed TOR probably because I use it predominantly. The mechanism of TOR is excellent as well (although not full proof)

      As you sound an advanced user, Onion Pi might interest you. No VPN cost and still very very effective. (http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/4204)

      There is also a Linux distro called TAILS (https://tails.boum.org/) which is a plug-n-play distro. Give it a read. 🙂

      As for your Win software, may be WINE?

      Grettir, never read or heard of him, but now curious to see what more he can say. hope he returns soon.

      1. honored that you take me seriously, faiz, hope to have contributed a bit to your worldview.

        i searched all my address books for grettir and found him, forwarding to lasha.

        i know that he likes his privacy and he told me that he wasn’t in the most robust health.
        i sincerely hope that he is well because of some unique qualities.

    2. @ lobro (re Grettir)

      Why don’t you send “the old maniac” a link to the article and ask for his input? I’d do it myself if I could find his address. If you happen to remember the first few letters of his address, maybe I’d be able to find it…

      We wouldn’t mind posting some of his poetry on our site. Xanadu was one of his greatest admirers. His verse had wit and verve, oomph and animation.

      (Ooops, I’ve overdone the alliteration there). 🙂

      1. there is a thing called DNS Domain Name System
        (From Wikipedia) An oft-used analogy to explain the Domain Name System is that it serves as the phone book for the Internet by translating human-friendly computer hostnames into IP addresses. For example, the domain name http://www.example.com translates to the addresses 192.0.43.10 (IPv4)…..
        If I understand that a little bit: his is done usually by your internet-provider, so that at this point they can keep a list of all the sites you’ve visited. I don’t have engl.references but some social networks committed against censorship provides private services (but some changes in the o.system have to be made = other addresses for networking) perhaps you find something here
        http://www.ccc.de/en/ Linux now is mostly perfect in its graphic surface, drivers are build into the kernel but not all hardware can be used e.g. laptops, printers, scanners – there are hardware lists for the distro – it is almost like windows or even makes less trouble, almost no danger of virus.
        With Tor it was difficult to install, but now they have tor-browser that runs independently, although slow, and wordpress or discus or blogspot recognize it and if you send a comment, you have to fill in the test with the scrappy numbers and letters.. these things take away a lot of time, maybe years.
        yes, grettir did have on his website some computer-stuff, the site with the dwarfs, but I don’t have a copy or an adress, didn’t he also write in another language? somtime he said, because he had a holmgang with an axe, he was exspecting a legal trial or prison? funny when put into search (e.g. at ixquick) “Grettir xymphora” his comments will appear: e.g. “Man From Atlan said… Anyone notice how Xanadu has been awfully quiet, lately? 5:04 PM, March 02, 2009 – – grettir said…
        MfA,
        Xanadu was never real you idiot. 5:45 PM, March 02, 2009
        …//xymphora.blogspot.de/2009/03/son-of-noam.html excuse me, at that time I didn’t read there, I believe.

  5. o no, me was commenting , if you put the adress in until including html, .. he was angry at the despotic, colonialist politics in Germany. I wish he is well. his poetry was often good.

    1. if you go into the world of nets, you can use an OS system that runs from an usb stick (e.g. knoppix) or even tor browser but all this takes time and you have to be patient. If you have given up making career then don’t worry. btw grettir said, the jews he knows are interested only in making money , dont care for assimilation.

    2. dear Scott, editor, perhaps it would be better to remove some address and dates from my comments. have read and it’s understandable considering the anger in the air but since those peoples incl.grettir aren’t here it would be more fair, i think.

  6. OT, but this may be important, for the actual situation in the world:#

    “MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) – Reports alleging the use of chemical weapons in Syria may be aimed at disrupting the preparation of an international conference on Syria in Geneva, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

    The Syrian opposition has accused the government of killing scores of people in a massive nerve gas attack in Damascus on Wednesday, with death toll estimates varying from a hundred to more than a thousand people. The Syrian government promptly denied the reports as baseless….”
    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20130822/182913878/Russia-Says-Syria-Chemical-Attack-Claims-May-Target-Peace-Talks.html

  7. Well we know who you are and the minute you logged on to this article we immediately tagged your computer with tracking which monitors every keystroke you ever make. Don’t think you can get beyond the
    All Seeing Eye
    We know who you are and what you are up to. You can remain slient and go along with the Agenda and perhaps remain safe for the time being but just remember you are property and are already promised as collateral for the National Debt. You belong to US.

    1. oooooh u skare me roten! so wot u gonna do 2 me huh?… i aint dun nuthin rong… cept i cant spel… beeng dislecksick.

      u gonna put me in a fema kamp coz i cant spel?

  8. Do you rally think that Russia will not share data with the US? The US is the country behind the Bolshevik Revolution and has remained Allied with America since WWII.Putin has said that the US and Russia are allies and even with the Snowden incident they are as much in compliance with ongoing Communist Revolution where the US has picked up the ball and Putin as well as Obama are only puppets playing out their roles in perpetrating the goal of the One World Government where soon there will be no United States nor Russia but only a Global Government which cooperates in the interest of World Peace with a Central Government run out of Israel. A brighter and more unified World where there is no National Governments.
    You can comply with this arrangement and be a part of this Gobal Alliance or you can become a casualty of the necessary cleansing of the dissodents. It is your choice.

    1. it certainly looks this way to me too

      putin looks like the allied commander of the coming jew-created WW III … obama is being setup as the fall guy for millions of american genocides … of course jews will be sure to bomb iran, venezuela, north korea, and round up all the jew wise people for extermination … which will be the real reason for WW III, much like the other WWs

      no one needs to stand up now and show some spine more than putin … he is pussyfooting around the truth and playing mona lisa with both sides

  9. I don’t worry about satan, evil, all-seeing-eyes, or even THE one evil eye, and I don’t even worry about anyone giving me the evil eye or eyes anymore — not since I got myself a real bona-fide Madonna red string Kaballah anti-evil bracelet I wear religiously around my left wrist…

    1. amen brother … i dont worry about having a brain, heart, or soul

      i just visit the great wizard and hell give me one … with a diploma too

    1. The admin of this website is comprised of habiru-sagiz jews. liars, all of them. Nothing “quality” about darkmoon. Actually, darkmoon is a putrid website.

      “The fish rots from the head”.

  10. If the rumors are true about the hardware companies (like Intel) including back doors for the NSA, as well as through your modems, then I’m not sure exactly how much software security is going to matter.

    I’m a believer that if you’re on the internet and the Feds really, really want to see what you’re up to, then they will have their ways.

    But that doesn’t mean this information is bad advice, it might just mean the feds won’t as easily be able to casually snoop on you.

  11. Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are
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    I would be great if you could point me in the direction of
    a good platform.

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  13. i have an idea for a service to pour sugar in nsa’s tank when they harvest and scan our email.

    first, a translator program that converts ascii alphanumerics into captcha graphics, legible only to human eye.
    so, instead of sending an easily readable text message, you send a graphics doc in captcha format that cannot be machine converted back into the original text.

    then a simple program that generates pseudo-random word-sized gibberish according to “etaoin-shrdlu” distribution (“e” is the most commonly used letter in english, followed by “t”, followed by “a”, &c).

    then it runs this mash through the captcha converter, so that whoever looks at it will see nothing but visual garbage, except how does he know that there isn’t a secret message encoded in it?

    he must retype it into text, then run it through a sophisticated decrypter in order to ensure there are no nuggets of hidden information, ie, lots of manual work due to the graphic representation of letters.

    this program auto-generates nonsense messages randomly sprayed to your list of recipients who trash it after a single look, since they know there is no encoding, unless prearranged with sender.

    the idea is to completely gum up the human capability of the spooks because their machine based capability is unlimited for practical purposes.

  14. Hi, love the blog, just wanted to throw a thought out there regarding everything that is the nsa and snowden. Before the snowden shenanigans took place I had written an innocuous piece about the longtime feud that has existed between the nsa and cia going back to the end of ww2. http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB431/docs/intell_ebb_014.PDF
    Consider also that mossad agents have been relentlessly trying to probe the utah facility, and two of the three main governments mentioned in snowdens leak were zogs germany and israel. All I am really trying to say is don’t be so quick to label the nsa as an enemy, especially as msm has started its predictable u-turn to villainize the nsa and make eddie a saint.

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