If you spend any amount of time online, it is good idea to learn privacy from hackers. Since the founding of the United States, the protection of personal privacy from government intrusion has been seen as a major tenet of democracy. In fact, the Fourth Amendment of the constitution written to protect the right of the people to be free against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, in the digital age, this idea of privacy seems to be eroding. Malicious actors and governments have easy access to see our private communications and habits through our use of smartphones, tablets, laptops, or any other device connected to the internet.
Hackers do this by using various tools and techniques that allow them to safely spy on victims and steal their data while keeping these crimes hidden from the authorities. The good news is that these same tools and techniques are available to all internet users. And if we can't beat them, we can at least learn from them. If we start to think like hackers, we can use their tools, tips, and tricks against them to keep ourselves safe and secure.
Keep Privacy In Communications
The best way to keep your messages private is through "end-to-end encryption." This ensures that only the sender and the receiver know the contents of the message. If the message captured in transit, all that would be visible would be an unreadable code.
For mobile phones, apps like WhatsApp are great for end-to-end encryption messaging. And it's free!
For email, certain services offer end-to-end encryption, such as Tutanota. Services like these are free and store only encrypted messages on their servers.
The issue with both of these options is that both the sender and receiver must be using a secure, encrypted service for it to work properly. If only the sender is using an end-to-end encryption service, the messages will not be encrypted.
Avoid Tracking While Browsing To Help Privacy
A simple way to protect your privacy while browsing is to install a browser extension such as Ghostery or uBlock Origin. These are free and work with most browsers. They can block advertisements but also block websites from tracking your visits via cookies.
Encrypt All Activities
For additional security outside of a simple browser extension, consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs securely encrypt all of your internet traffic through a network of computers. With a VPN, instead of directly connecting to a website, your computer creates an encrypted connection with a "middle-man" computer which then connects to the website on your behalf. It then encrypts the information from the website and sends it back to your computer. Although VPN connections are just a hair slower than normal connections, they are much more secure.
There are free VPNs out there, but the paid options are typically far superior. A great option is VyprVPN. It is very easy to use and you can connect seamlessly from your phone, computer, or tablet.
Below are some additional steps you can take to improve your security when using the internet:
- Private web search. Use a search engine like DuckDuckGo to avoid search engines like Google that track your every move.
- 2-Factor Authentication. When available, always use two-factor authentication (2FA) or two-step verification when singing into any of your online accounts. When you enable the two-step sign-on process, you will be asked to provide a third piece of information in addition to your username and password. This typically takes the form of a numeric code that is texted to your mobile phone. 2FA makes your accounts infinitely more secure.
- Be smart. This may sound silly, but the best way to protect your privacy online is to take the responsibility to safeguard your information. For example, don't give out your personal information unless it is absolutely necessary. Use throwaway email addresses when possible. Keep your social media accounts private. Etc.