Paranoia has become reality. According to whistleblower Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) is directly accessing the central servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple, and “soon Dropbox”, to extract ALL audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs, possibly in real time.
You must assume that every electronic communication you create is being stored and analyzed in real time. Therefore encryption and cryptography are essential for liberty in this brave new world.
Don’t ask your government for less surveillance; take control of your internet privacy with the best encryption software available.
Encryption is used to send sensitive information over the Internet. Encyption uses math to make information unreadable to anyone except those with a “key”. If done correctly, only you and the people that receive said key can view the data.
An ideal future would include good encryption and advanced security in all ISP services, web hosting, and operating systems. Until then, get familiar with the following software and programs that fit your growing privacy needs.
Web Browsing Privacy
AdBlock Plus is an open source, community project that is the world’s most popular browser extension. It addresses the annoying problem of intrusive and privacy-stealing online advertising. AdBlock Plus’ motto: “We want to make the Internet better for everyone. Purging bad ads is a good start.”
EasyList & EasyPrivacy
These two subscriptions are lists of filters created for AdBlock Plus. Once activated, EasyList and EasyPrivacy will automatically remove unwanted adverts and troublesome tracking from your Internet. No more web bugs, tracking scripts, or information collectors, so you can keep your personal data private.
Ghostery helps you be a web detective, by tracking over 1200 trackers and giving you a roll call of the ad networks, data providers, web publishers, and any other company that is interested in your web activity and habits. The more you learn about the companies using your online data, the more you can make decisions on how to control your exposure to these companies.
Open source internet anonymization tool Tor and the accompanying browser bundle lets you use Tor on Windows, Mac, or Linux without needing to install any software. Originally paid for by the U.S. Navy and DARPA, Tor prevents anyone from learning what sites you visit, prevents your physical location from being used, and it lets you access blocked sites.
The FBI recently claimed that the use of HTTPS by Google and Facebook was making these sites difficult to wiretap. If you are thinking “that’s the point”, you are right.
Most websites use the unencrypted HTTP, which is prone to eavesdropping. HTTPS encrypts pages, therefore third parties have troubling seeing what page you are on. If a site doesn’t start with HTTPS, don’t send sensitive information to it. The app “HTTPS Everywhere” promises that all sites you go to will be encrypted. Download it for Chrome (BETA) and Firefox.
Update from commenter Sebastian:
New revelations show that HTTPS and commercial encryption software contain hidden backdoors. The NSA is able to decrypt HTTPS/SSL in real time. Please, use open source encryption software.
Other Types of Encryption Programs
TrueCrypt is a free and open sourced disk encryption service for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The program creates a virtual encrypted disk inside a file and then mounts it as a real disk. You can encrypt a USB flash drive or a hard drive automatically and transparently. Check out TrueCrypt’s FAQ for more information.
Invented by Navy SEALs and Silicon Valley cryptography professionals, Silent Circle is a global encrypted communications service that includes secure tools for your mobile device; encrypted video, e-mail, phone, and text. Your smartphone will now have a fortress around it for $20 a month.
Whisper Systems’ Red Phone for Android
Whisper Systems is a company acquired by Twitter at the end of 2011. RedPhone is Whisper Systems’ mobile Android app for end-to-end encrypted voice calls. The cryptography helps keep your communications secure so that nobody can listen in. It uses Wi-Fi or data, not your plan’s voice minutes. Bonus points to Whisper Systems for the fun and wild blog they have put together recently.
Why is it so important to secure and encrypt your phone calls? Well according to unlikely whistleblower Shia LaBeouf, the FBI records at least one in every five phone calls (likely more than that):
Pidgin + Pidgin OTR Messaging
Free chat program Pidgin connects all of HostDime’s employees across multiple continents. Pidgin lets you log in to accounts on multiple chat networks simultaneously. For instance, you can be talking to friends on MSN, Google Talk, and Yahoo at the same time. Add Pidgin’s “Off the Record” Messaging for encryption and now no one can see your private conversation. You are also assured the messenger is who you think it is, and your chat will not have a digital signature that can be seen by a third party.
Enigmail, GPGTools, & GPG4win
If you have Mozilla Thunderbird or Mozilla Seamonkey for your e-mail service, give the plugin Enigmail a try. Enigmail is a security extension that lets you send and receive encrypted and digitally signed email easy. Enigmail has been around for 12 years now, so you can trust that they know what they are doing.
GPGTools also encrypts and decrypts your e-mails and files for your MAC. If you are using Windows, use GPG4win for your e-mail cryptography. All of these e-mail services are free of charge.
Bitcoin is a cyber currency that is a peer-to-peer, electronic cash system. The open source cryptographic money is not controlled by any central bank or government. You can now send money to anyone, anywhere, anytime, no questions asked. BitCoin has been in the news a lot lately due to rapid adoption (including WordPress, Reddit, and Namecheap) and a roller coaster ride of high and low value.
Here’s a highly informative video that describes BitCoin in under four minutes.
Remove Your WHOIS Information
When you buy a domain for your website, your name, e-mail address, home address, and phone number is publicly accessible information. Privacy protection is a must, especially if you are a small business owners working out of your house. Remove your WHOIS information when you buy your domains from HostDime.com.
For more information on data privacy, check out the defenders of your digital rights, the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. They are an amazing source for breaking news and information on rights and privacy.
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HostDime.com is a safe and secure place to host your websites. Check out HostDime’s web hosting plans that fit any need.
Jared Smith is HostDime’s Technology Writer. Follow him on Twitter.