LEVEL 3: CON­SIDER – WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU HAVE TIME

Computer Active (UK) - - What’s All The Fuss About... -

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.

Brave ( www.brave.com) also has pri­vacy tools built in, as part of its mis­sion to “fix the web”. Co-founded by Mozilla co-cre­ator Bren­dan Eich, it’s eas­ier to use than Epic, though both browsers may feel a lit­tle odd after years of us­ing In­ter­net Ex­plorer, Chrome or Fire­fox. Brave blocks Javascript, sends you au­to­mat­i­cally to HTTPS sites (when the op­tion is avail­able), and blocks ad­verts and track­ers. It’s cur­rently de­vel­op­ing a new fea­ture that makes it eas­ier to use Tor (see fol­low­ing tip) in pri­vate brows­ing ses­sions.

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

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