LEVEL 3: CONSIDER – WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU HAVE TIME
13 Encrypt your emails
Encryption is another privacy option that’s not just for MI6. You can use specialised encrypted services such as Protonmail ( https://protonmail.com), which was developed by scientists working at CERN (presumably in their tea breaks from fiddling with the Large Hadron Collider). It’s so private that it doesn’t even ask for your personal details when you sign up, just your ‘Display name’ (see screenshot below).
Gmail also encrypts emails, but only in messages sent to other Gmail accounts. We wouldn’t recommend trying to encrypt emails in Outlook – it’s a real palaver. If you are sending a lot of sensitive information, we suggest you use Gmail or Protonmail instead.
14 Switch to a more private browser
Which browser is best for protecting your privacy? It largely depends on how you configure the settings and what privacy risks you’re most concerned about.
If you don’t want Google hoovering up your data, don’t use Chrome. Firefox might be a better choice. Its developer Mozilla promises not to share your data with others, and last year created a tab specifically for privacy settings, which is available when you open the browser to make sure you have access. The company has also stopped advertising on Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This won’t strengthen your privacy directly, but it’s a reassuring sign that it takes the problem seriously.
There are other good options, notably Opera ( www.opera.com) and Vivaldi ( https://vivaldi.com). The latter is made by the founder of Opera, after it was bought by a Chinese consortium (see tip 1 on page 51 for more). Opera has a few key features that help protect your privacy, notably a built-in VPN (see tip 11, page 55) and an advert blocker.
There are two browsers specifically designed with privacy in mind: Epic and Brave. Epic ( www.epicbrowser.com) is always in private mode, so all cookies and trackers are deleted when you close it. It won’t save details you type into online forms or a record of websites you visit, apart from a short history for the back and forward buttons.
It even blocks ultrasound signals that websites send to your phone to coordinate tracking. Key settings such as Do Not Track are always on, and it uses its own search engine to keep you off Google.
15 Browse the web using Tor
First used by the US Navy, Tor is privacy software that disguises your identity by moving your web traffic across servers, building up layers of encryption like the layers of an onion (TOR is short for ‘the onion router’). It gives you a different IP address every time you send or request data, disguising your actual one. Some antivirus programs, suspicious of Tor’s privacy techniques, may show a warning when you download it, but it’s safe to use. It’s now run by a non-profit organisation led by computer scientists in Massachusetts.
To use Tor, you need to download its browser from www.snipca.com/27365. Click the ‘32/64-bit’ link at the top, next to ‘English en-us’ (see screenshot above). We also suggest you visit www.snipca. com/27364, scroll down and read the section headed ‘Want Tor to really work?’, which is a handy list of useful information. It explains some of the side effects of using TOR – some browser plug-ins may not work, for example – and warns you about unsafe actions while browsing in Tor, including opening downloaded documents.
As all this indicates, using Tor isn’t something you should do lightly. It essentially means entering the dark web, a place of untraceable anonymity, often exploited by criminals. But it’s also used by honourable organisations that rely on absolute privacy: the police, medical researchers, whistleblowing journalists, and human-rights groups, for example.
Tor itself is perfectly legal and won’t give you a list of dubious websites to visit. It simply provides the means to browse the web without anyone knowing what you’re doing. And we mean anyone: not Google, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Cambridge Analytica, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Darth Vader or the Daleks. It’s your ultimate weapon in the ongoing battle to stay private online.
Protonmail asks only for your ‘Display name’ – no personal details
Click this link to download the Tor Browser