Earlier I had talked about my decision to stay anonymous online. Along the way, I have picked up a lot of knowledge, and thought sharing that with my readers is a good idea. I know that some of my friends have neither the time or the patience to do their homework on the subject, so thought more than a few of my readers are in the same group.
Online privacy and security is becoming not only essential, but profitable for a lot of startup companies since even 5 years ago there wasn’t the level of concern among the public that there is today. Of course, the NSA-Snowden connection didn’t help much. So now that people are beginning to make money off of the issue, finding ways to keep your anonymity and use the Web in a secure environment without having it cost much is a priority.
First, let’s go through some ways that will cost you something, but not much. I put this out there first because, as with the case of being an Apple fan, I don’t think you get something good for nothing. Most Apple users are willing to pay something for services and software, so if we have to let’s get it out of the way and move to the no-cost stuff. That stuff will be easy to find and require usually nothing but a download from a secure server.
A virtual private network (VPN) is one of the best tools I have found to keep your anonymity online. Basically what a VPN does is to scatter your connection through many servers, making tracing your exact location almost impossible.
Though GMail is a popular e-mail address (statistics show 36 percent or about 1 in 3 people have a GMail account), Google are a massive collector of your personal data and browsing habits. Just having GMail account puts cookies on your hard drive that will track your activity even when you aren’t using Gmail. I read somewhere that after 6 months the content of your e-mails can be accessed by Google – and sold to the highest bidder. As the old saying goes, you don’t get something for nothing. The same is true in the universe of online privacy and security.
The same applies for many of the other free e-mail boxes such as Yahoo! Mail and Microsoft’s Live, Hotmail and Outlook.com services. I’m not sure how much of your privacy is potentially violated at those sites, but you have to think it is along similar lines as Gmail.
So what is the solution? You might consider using a web hosting site and having your primary e-mail box located there. Depending on the site, you will have to check with the web hosting company for their exact policies, your e-mail is reasonable safe from prying eyes and because you are paying for the service, the content of your e-mail is safe. Again, the rule seems to be that for the higher levels of privacy you will have to pay something.
There are some technologies such as private browser windows that sound like they offer a degree of privacy and security. The reality is that their offered privacy applies only to your computer. Your Internet Service Provider, lovingly known as your ISP, tracks all your activity and has a record of it.
The final point I want to make here is probably the elephant in the room: just how secure is your WiFi, especially a home network? For example, WEP security is far more easily hacked than a network system that has stronger encryption. 128 bit is better than 64 bit, etc. And even though network encryption is available on your computer you must be sure to implement it! The idea behind default settings is that they are never the manufacturer’s fault. The fault lies with the buyer of the equipment or software, for not choosing to implement an effective level of security to protect themselves and their personal data online.