ESSEN­TIAL DIG­I­TAL PRI­VACY SKILLS

Up your per­sonal se­cu­rity game with Nathan Tay­lor’s guide to the 10 key dig­i­tal pri­vacy skills you need to know in 2018.

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Up your per­sonal se­cu­rity game with Nathan Tay­lor’s guide to the 10 key dig­i­tal pri­vacy skills you need to know in 2018.

Main­tain­ing your pri­vacy and se­cu­rity on­line is not re­ally that hard, but it’s a task far too many peo­ple fail it. So here are our top ten tips to get you started.

1 USE A VPN ON YOUR PHONE AND PC

When it comes to per­sonal pri­vacy, VPNs are good for what ails ya. They have the ef­fect of both pro­tect­ing your iden­tity from the sites that you visit and pre­vent­ing any­one in be­tween from read­ing the con­tents of your data or know­ing who you’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing with. It stops snoop­ing from gov­ern­ments, ISPs, net­work providers and web­sites. The only party that knows what you’re do­ing on­line when you’re con­nected to a VPN is the VPN provider, and most of those de­lib­er­ately don’t keep logs.

It’s not just for your PC ei­ther. Your mo­bile phone can use a VPN as well. It’s es­pe­cially rel­e­vant when you con­nect your de­vice to pub­lic Wi-Fi net­works. When you share a Wi-Fi net­work with strangers (in a ho­tel or cafe, for ex­am­ple), it’s easy for some­one else con­nected to the same net­work to in­ter­cept your traf­fic. A VPN pre­vents them from read­ing your data as it is sent over the air­waves.

2 KNOW WHAT YOUR BROWSER’S PRI­VACY MODE DOES AND DOES NOT DO

Pri­vate modes (incog­nito mode in Chrome) were a great ad­di­tion to browsers, but you should be aware of what they can and can­not do.

What they will do is delete any cook­ies and other data you down­load dur­ing the pri­vate brows­ing ses­sion. No his­tory will be recorded, and your aut­ofill forms won’t be up­dated. Cer­tain plug­ins will be dis­abled. Essen­tially there will be no trace on your lo­cal com­puter that you vis­ited the site.

What they don’t do is stop peo­ple from lis­ten­ing in on your com­mu­ni­ca­tions or pre­vent the web­site you’re vis­it­ing from know­ing your IP ad­dress or browser de­tails. It doesn’t make you anony­mous on­line — for that you need the ser­vices of a VPN, a proxy or Tor.

3 USE DIS­POS­ABLE EMAIL AC­COUNTS

Ev­ery site on the in­ter­net now wants to know your email ad­dress — de­mands to know it if you want ac­cess — and there are plenty of those that you never, ever want to give your real email ad­dress to.

That’s why it’s al­ways a good idea to have a few ‘ burner’ email ad­dresses up your sleeve. Go to a free web email provider and cre­ate a few ac­counts that you never in­tend to use for ac­tual com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Then, when you come across a site that wants your email ad­dress, you can give it one of th­ese, spar­ing your real email ad­dress the tor­ture of be­ing added to spam and mal­ware distri­bu­tion lists.

4 OPT OUT

As the say­ing goes, if some­thing is free then it’s not the prod­uct; you are. When­ever you’re of­fered some­thing that you didn’t specif­i­cally ask for free, just say no. No to “spe­cial of­fers,” “free se­cu­rity soft­ware,” “free tri­als,” or any­thing else that peo­ple try to foist on you. None of it is ever good.

We ac­tu­ally have a num­ber of pro­grams we like that can help you out with re­ject­ing crud. One of our favourite is Unchecky ( unchecky.com), which au­to­mat­i­cally de­s­e­lects “spe­cial of­fers” dur­ing pro­gram in­stalls. Many suites and se­cu­rity tools also have PUP (po­ten­tially un­wanted pro­gram) re­movers built in, to clear the junk off your sys­tem.

5 MAN­AGE YOUR PRI­VACY SET­TINGS

Fol­low­ing a long his­tory of pri­vacy scan­dals, most of the ma­jor so­cial me­dia and in­ter­net ser­vices com­pa­nies now pro­vide the op­tion to skip out on large por­tions of their data gather­ing ap­pa­ra­tus. They don’t ac­tu­ally want you to turn up your pri­vacy set­tings, so they of­ten make the process as ar­cane as pos­si­ble, but the fact is that you have

“For ev­ery so­cial me­dia ac­count you have, take the time to check the pri­vacy set­tings. As a rule of thumb, turn ev­ery­thing to “off. ” ”

a lot of tools now to opt out of their record keep­ing sys­tems.

For ev­ery so­cial me­dia ac­count you have, take the time to check the pri­vacy set­tings. As a rule of thumb, turn ev­ery­thing to ‘off’. It will prob­a­bly save you a lot of grief in the fu­ture.

6 DON’T GIVE UP YOUR LO­CA­TION OR PRI­VATE DE­TAILS

This one seems too ob­vi­ous to even list here, yet too many peo­ple still fail this ba­sic test of in­ter­net pri­vacy. Don’t give out any per­sonal de­tails to any­one un­less you’re 110% sure they’re le­git. Yes, that’s 10% more than 100%. Don’t let them to know your lo­ca­tion; re­ject no­ti­fi­ca­tions; and don’t give out your real email ad­dress, where you went to school or your mother’s maiden name. Don’t tell them your birth­day or part­ners name. Noth­ing. Tell them noth­ing.

7 USE STRONG PASS­WORDS (AND A PASS­WORD MAN­AGER TO RE­MEM­BER THEM)

Most pass­words are very easy to crack. Crim­i­nals use what are called dic­tionary at­tacks to crack pass­words — they sim­ply try ev­ery word in the dic­tionary and some com­mon phrases and tricks.

This is why you need good pass­words — and ad­ding a ‘1’ to the end of a dic­tionary word or re­plac­ing a few let­ters with num­bers (like “f00t­b4ll”) doesn’t cut it. They’re on to those tricks. You also need a unique pass­word for each site — if they crack your Twit­ter ac­count there’s a 100% chance that they’ll im­me­di­ately try Google, Mi­crosoft, Face­book and ev­ery other so­cial me­dia ac­count with the same pass­word.

Of course, no­body can re­mem­ber good pass­words, so it’s essen­tial you use a pass­word man­ager like LastPass to keep track of them for you. It means you only have to re­mem­ber one good pass­word, and the man­ager can take care of the rest.

8 WATCH WHAT YOU DOWN­LOAD, AND TEACH YOUR KIDS

Only down­load soft­ware from the devel­oper’s site or cer­tain trusted on­line mar­ket­places like Google Play or iTunes. Never down­load ex­e­cutable soft­ware from BitTor­rent or pi­rate sites. That’s where mal­ware is born.

This is an im­por­tant lesson you need to teach your kids and fam­ily as well. Kids in par­tic­u­lar are in­clined to down­load what­ever with­out think­ing of the con­se­quences, which is why the av­er­age kid’s com­puter is a nest of viruses and un­wanted pro­grams. (One good way to fix this, by the way, is to use User ac­counts in Win­dows rather than Ad­min ac­counts for your kids. This pre­vents them from in­stalling soft­ware with­out per­mis­sion.)

9 KNOW YOUR SCAMS

Stay­ing abreast of the state of the art in on­line scams is a pretty key skill for stay­ing safe on­line. Scam­mers can be quite so­phis­ti­cated, and the best de­fence against them is to know what to look for.

We can highly rec­om­mend the gov­ern­ment’s Scamwatch site ( www. scamwatch.gov.au), which has up-to­date de­tails on the lat­est tricks do­ing the rounds. Check in once a month or so just to see what’s hap­pen­ing.

10 USE EN­CRYPTED MES­SAG­ING

If you don’t want any­body lis­ten­ing in on your pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions, you need to use a com­mu­ni­ca­tions tool that has end-toend en­cryp­tion. End-to-end en­cryp­tion is not nearly as com­pli­cated as it used to be, and it’s ac­tu­ally built right into a large num­ber of pop­u­lar mes­sag­ing tools now. Even Skype has it as an op­tion (though it’s not on by de­fault).

The most se­cure so­lu­tions are the ones built for se­cu­rity, how­ever. Sig­nal and Tele­gram are mes­sag­ing tools that are de­lib­er­ately and specif­i­cally built for se­cu­rity — not even the soft­ware mak­ers can tell who you’re talk­ing to or what you’re say­ing.

Incog­nito mode is use­ful, but it doesn’t make you in­vis­i­ble on­line.

Use a pass­word man­ager like LastPass.

A VPN ser­vice pro­tects you from a va­ri­ety of threats.

Tools like Unchecky opt out for you.

Mes­sag­ing tools like Sig­nal have end-to-end en­cryp­tion on by de­fault, en­sur­ing no­body can snoop on your conversations.

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