The past few years have shown us that nearly every company we interact with is hell-bent on invading our privacy rather than protecting it. All this data collection and surveillance benefits these companies massively. While the government is making attempts to rein in these corporations collecting our data, these attempts have been mostly futile.
If and when your data or personal information gets stolen, leaked or hacked, you’re the one who has to deal with the consequences. While many of these breaches are clearly the result of negligence on the part of the companies holding the data, we as the individuals impacted have a responsibility of our own to clean up for these companies. The companies may have to pay a fine or deal with lawsuits, but they don’t have to live with the identity theft or other issues that may impact their users.
The sole purpose of this article is to introduce you to a number of tools you can use to protect your data. These simple tools and tips can help you protect your data on the internet.
Private Search Engines
Private search engines are useful because they let you search without leaking your search history to other sites or other users on your computer. These search engines won’t track your searches and in some cases will use end-to-end encryption to offer perfect forward secrecy.
These search engines are different than Google because they don’t use your search history to determine which results you see, and what types of ads you see on other websites you visit.
- HideMySearches: HideMySearches keeps your searches private with top of the line encryption. Unlike some privacy tools online, this search engine isn’t clunky or slow and offers perfect forward secrecy. If you want your search terms to remain private, this search engine will make sure of it.
- DuckDuckGo: DuckDuckGo is probably the most well-known “private search engine” on the internet. It has grown a large user-base and processes millions of searches per day.
- Search Encrypt: It is a very popular private search engine which uses local encryption technique to secure your browsing. Search Encrypt combines the AES-256 encryption with the Secure Socket Layer. It retrieves the search results from the search partner network. After you are done browsing, the search items expire so that they stay private and no one else will get access to it.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
VPNs work to re-route your internet connection through a “virtual” network to separate your browsing behavior from your actual network connection location.
- ExpressVPN: It is a service which is marketed as a privacy and security tool. ExpressVPN encrypts the user’s web traffic and masks their IP addresses entirely from all surveillance systems. It is even awarded the Editor’s Choice for its brilliant Internet Privacy features.
- NordVPN: It is a VPN which has desktop applications for Windows, MacOS, Linux, mobile apps for both Android and iOS, and there is an application for Android TV as well. It is like an all-in-one privacy protection tool. NordVPN can also be set up for wireless routers, NAS devices, and other platforms. In 2017, this VPN was rated as the best VPN by PC Magazine.
- Perfect-Privacy: As the name clearly suggests, this VPN is a good example of one of the most reliable internet privacy tools. Its servers spread across 23 countries and they use dedicated servers only. If the VPN detects that you are being monitored, it will simply spin up a new address and use a new VPN to direct traffic.
There are other tools also which are effective such as Private Internet Access, Hotspot Shield, and TunnelBear. All these VPNs keep you covered and hide your IP address to protect your information.
Private Web Browser
Google has been criticized for its disregard for user privacy. So it makes no sense that people continue to rely on Google for almost all internet activities. Even if you aren’t using Google as your search engine, Google Chrome still lets Google track information about your browsing. Using an alternative web browser is a good place to start for keeping your browsing more anonymous.
- Tor Browser: TOR stands for The Onion Router. The browser works by anonymizing your web activity using a smart technique of directing your connection through multiple locations.
- Mozilla Firefox: Firefox is likely the most popular alternative browser on the web. It works like any other browser, except with additional security.
- Brave: This is an open-source browser that offers similar functionality to Chrome and Firefox. The main difference is the high-speed browser with privacy controls and built-in ad tracking feature.
Installing a private browser on your computer or smartphone is a quick process. It could be the difference between having your data tracked and used against you and keeping it secure.
Encrypted File Storage
If you’re using Google’s cloud storage service or Dropbox, there are better options. Using an unencrypted cloud storage service is risky, especially if you’re storing sensitive or private information.
- Cryptomator: Cryptomator uses client-side encryption specifically designed for cloud services. This tool is open source and is funded by donations, which is one indication that they are dedicated to privacy over profits. Cryptomator uses transparent encryption which means there will be no difference when you use the files, but the files will stay protected.
- Tresorit: This file encryption tool is used for sharing files and syncing them across multiple devices. Its system ensures that even Tresorit knows nothing about the contents that you are trying to protect.
Internet privacy tools like these are barely noticeable and they are really effective in their job.
If software alone isn’t enough to keep your files and network activity private, these hardware tools can also help.
- Apricorn: It is a designer and manufacturer of reliable computer storage products, accessories, and utilities. Its products provide 256-bit encryption to external storage for companies, organizations, and individuals that need high-level data security.
- Purism: It is a security-focused computer manufacturer which has the goal of combining free software movement with the hardware manufacturing process. Purism ensures that users feel safe and secure while using its hardware.
- Helm: Helm is a very popular secure personal server. It makes it easier to keep your online data safe including emails, messages, and media files. You can set up your own email with a custom domain that will work on all your linked devices.
- Kingston Technology: Kingston Technology is a leader in flash memory manufacturing.
The Domain Name System is the main building block of the Internet. And the DNS protocol is used to translate the domain name of a specific website into the IP address format in order to provide your browser access to the various resources from that website. DNS is an essential and last link between you and the websites you visit on an everyday basis. So, if someone can hack into your DNS, it will create a security vulnerability.
The most secure and encrypted domain name system you can use is Cloudflare. It runs one of the largest authoritative DNS networks in the whole world. It represents 39% of the Global Authoritative DNS market. Other providers leave your website and other web resources vulnerable to DDoS attacks. Cloudflare provides protection against all threats and keeps your website running without a security breach.
The communication media you are using contain sensitive information about you. And they can also be hacked even without your knowledge. Therefore, you will need to use the apps which have encryption feature to keep your conversations and files private and safe.
- Signal: This app uses end-to-end encryption and it is designed and engineered to keep your communication private. Signal is an open-source project which is supported by donations and grants. And that’s why it put the needs of users at first. The developers mainly emphasize on fast, simple, and secure messaging experience.
- Wire: It is another private alternative for instant messaging services. It allows the users to keep the communication secure throughout the server. You can create an encrypted guest room on this app and send an invitation link to anyone. You don’t even need a Wire account to use this app.
- Telegram: Sounds old, right?? It offers a private cloud-based messaging platform for mobile users and desktop users. At present, this internet privacy tools have 100 million monthly active users which are impressive. It uses end-to-end encryption technique with a special feature called self-destruct. Once you send a message with self-destruct, it will disappear from your device and the recipient’s device after a set amount of time.
Search engines like Search Encrypt can save you when you are normally browsing. But even your email accounts have security risks. They also need to be protected. For that, you can use the top services here:
- ProtonMail: It is an encrypted email service newly developed solely for the purpose of online privacy. The emails are in the encrypted form when they are sent from the user’s computer. Within a short period, it gained over 2 million users due to its strong privacy features.
- HushMail: It is slightly older encrypted email service. It is designed for enterprise uses like healthcare and legal professionals. The users of this email services are free to send the mails in encrypted or unencrypted form. But if you sent a mail to the Hushmail users, it will be encrypted by default. The non-Hushmail users can view the emails using a secure webpage.
Almost every website recommends using a strong password for your accounts. Luckily, there are password managers tools in the market to gives us additional security and privacy. The list of tools includes:
- Bitwarden: It is an open-source password management tool which is available for the users for free. It can handle the passwords for individuals, teams, or any business organization. It can be used as a password generator and storage tool simultaneously.
- Blur: This tool has cool features for password protection. It also protects your payment information and other private data stored on various servers. This tool even has a Burner Credit Card which prevents your information from being hacked or stolen.
Other than these, you can also consider other popular tools like Enpass, KeePass, LastPass, Master Password, or SuperGenPass for password protection.
You can use antivirus software for internet privacy and security. These tools will prevent you from downloading files that may contain malware or viruses. Some common names in the field are:
- McAfee AntiVirus Plus
- Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic by Norton
- Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus
- Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus
- Avast Pro Antivirus
These antivirus software choices provide brilliant features in order to keep your connection secure and your data safe. They limit the threats you might face while browsing the internet and makes sure that no one can steal your private information. They are available for PCs, mobile phones, and tablet altogether. But keep this mind that you may have to pay for these tools to get the security level you want.
Ads are one of the most commonly seen threats you face on the internet. They not only make it difficult to read the content but also contain tracking scripts which let the ad provider know which sites you’ve visited and where you’ve seen certain ads.
- Ad Guardian Ad Blocker: Using this ad blocker tool improves your browsing experience by blocking all annoying ads. It has additional privacy features that help the users to stay protect you from tracking scripts.
- uBlock Origin: It is a widely used ad blocker tool for online privacy. It uses very few resources so it doesn’t slow down your computer.
Apart from the above internet privacy tools, private browsers, antivirus tools, etc. you can also use Tracker Blockers.
- Disconnect: It is a service that scans the web to look for companies that track people activities and blocks them from your device.
- Privacy Badger: It is a browser add-on that prevents third-party trackers and advertisers from tracking our online activities. If an advertiser is tracking you, Privacy Badger will immediately notify you and you can block that advertiser from tracking your information.
Other Privacy Tools
You have already learned about many tools that can successfully protect the user data. But there are still many options left. Some of these options include:
- Let’s Encrypt: Let’s Encrypt is a tool which issues free SSL/TLS certificates.
- Dock: Dock is a tool which gives you more control over your information on the internet. It is a blockchain technology that decentralizes the storage of user information.
- HTTPS Everywhere: This is a tool which automatically forces the websites to load a secure version so that the users don’t have to take so many preventive measures for online privacy such as using Search Encrypt or VPNs.
- Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (ToS;DR): Websites’ privacy policies are very long and boring documents. But you should read these policies to make sure that the websites you visit aren’t taking advantage of your personal information. These documents make it easy for a user to understand how a website collects and uses the information you provide.
The first step of keeping your identity, browsing data, and accounts safe is to be aware of which information you’re protecting, who you’re protecting it from, and how to protect it.
Therefore, choosing the right internet privacy tools is very important. And the great thing is that you don’t have to use just one tool. You can be smart and intelligent and combine these tools in such a way that no one will be able to spy on you.
The digital age we’re living in has introduced us to new types of threats and crimes. However, if you take precautions to protect yourself, you’ll be able to safely access the greatest information source in the world: the internet.