Increasingly, almost every aspect of our lives is becoming under surveillance by the industrial estate and governments alike. It's all around us.
Many things we would never suspect, can be or are used to track us from hydro smart meters to financial transactions. Even money in digital format, at this point in history, is surveillance.
Nowhere is the fight for your inherent right to privacy more apparently than the digital world.
Advertisers, particularly in the mobile world thanks to customer analytics and location based marketing technologies, are tracking your every move as a "consumer" (there are no shortage of such companies tracking your every move across all devices).
By this point, thanks to Edward Snowden, we are all intimately aware of the incestuous relationship between tech companies and the all-seeing panopticon known as the NSA.
Luckily, there are some steps that we can take to minimize the invasion of our personal lives and protect our anonymity as much as possible, perhaps even bullet-proof it.
Protect yourself with a VPN
Luckily there are some private VPN providers out there that do take Online privacy seriously.
VPN is essentially an encrypted SSH (Secure Shell) tunnel between your computer to the VPN provider's machines to wherever you visit online.
So, if you happen to be in Vancouver, Canada and connect to a VPN provider in Phoenix, Arizona, that connection between the two is obfuscated by an encryption layer, so your own ISP cannot even tell which websites you are visiting.
Choosing a VPN provider. The most important thing about whether or not you can reasonably trust them is if they keep logs on their users or not. Some do, some don't. And if they do, guess who can subpoena them?
Also, ironically enough given that the NSA is an arm of the US government, the US itself doesn't have any mandatory data retention laws.
VPN services will allow you to browse, download, and upload with complete anonymity. Your actual IP address will be hidden to the world, and the sites you visit and Online activities will remain hidden from ISPs and governments.
Great if you do lots of torrenting etc, or if you are in Canada, and want to access the US-based Netflix. And especially if you want to bypass state censors.
One of the best VPN providers out there which does not log user's history is Mullvad. They do not log, or monitor traffic at all!
Some other recommendable ones are:
ProtonVPN. A "zero knowledge" VPN network which does not retain any user data. For VPN providers like this which do not yet accept bitcoin, you can always use pre-paid credit cards.
IVPN. They are based in Gibraltar and also do not log and take Cash, Monero and Bitcoin payment options for better anonymity, do not have any incoming ports monitored, so that they cannot even acknowledge takedown requests from the state.
NordVPN. NordVPN lets you connect to over 5000+ servers in over 60 countries. It offers double end-to-end VPN encryption, Onion router over VPN and is P2P-friendly. Their CyberSec blocks domains known to be used for phishing. It is very user-friendly, and they offer one of the best prices on the market. The key feature of NordVPN is the no-log policy.
Online Privacy In 8 Steps - Easy Tutorial
Use a Live Linux CD/DVD
Using a so-called Linux-based "Live USB" is a great way to go. Just write all your saved data to a flash drive and access the Internet from a public WiFi. The whole desktop Linux operating system loads into RAM memory, there is nothing written to the machine.
Some Linux distributions are especially made to either be used in live-only mode and are made for maximizing anonymit:
Whonix. Similar to Tails in that it anonymizes you through the Tor Network, Whonix can be installed inside your existing operating system
Qubes OS. Another option to install a secure operating system in a virtualization layer on your existing operating system is to use Qubes OS.Qubes OS is a security-focused desktop operating system that aims to provide security through isolation in a so-called “hypervisor” a sort of virtual machine.
Tails, Whonix and Qubes OS
Spoofing Your MAC Address
Every device has a unique hardware identifier known as a MAC address, similar to the VIN number on a car. However this can be faked for an added layer of security. There are some easy to follow guides on how to spoof your MAC address (Windows).
Apart from using a VPN, you can also use a proxy to connect. There is a huge ongoing list of them at Premium Proxy List and more at TechJury. Although it is infinitely better to use a VPN because you are guaranteed an encrypted tunnel to connect to the outside, proxies might be a good thing to hide your browsing activities while at work etc. Not all proxies are anonymous, so look for ones that are.
Secure Your Browser
Aside from using the above-mentioned Tor Browser, another alternative is to use the Brave Browser, which incidentally has Tor built-in! You are a lot harder to track when using Incognito mode.
One thing to note is that one of the main threats to your online anonymity besides your IP address is something known as “browser fingerprinting”.
Various identifiers besides just cookies are collected about the browser you are using (Chrome, Firefox etc) and this data is correlated with other things such as operating system, IP address (if not using an anonymous VPN), MAC address of your device, and more granular details such as browser extensions, screen resolution, operating system and so on.
The Brave Browser has some fingerprinting prevention built into it!
Use Throwaway Emails
It is unnecessary to use your main email to sign up for most services. One good way around this is to use a temporary throwaway email service. These allow you to get the email confirmation link to sign up for access to an online site or service and be anonymous.
Use Secure Messaging Apps
SMS is not secure due to its protocols. Your ISP can easily recover your chat history. Very good choices here are:
Encrypt Your Files
Cryptomator. Most people use some sort of cloud folder platform such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive and so on. Using Cryptomator, you can securely encrypt your files locally and sync them with the online cloud provider you choose. This can secure your images, media and text documents!
VeraCrypt. VeraCrypt can create an encrypted folder as a virtual disk on your machine which it accesses as a real disk. It can also encrypt the contents of a USB flash drive or external hard drive.
Encrypted Productivity Software and Note-taking Apps
CryptPad. If you are looking for an end-to-end encrypted productivtity software for spreadsheets, word documents, presentations, planning tools and more, CryptPad is just what you need. It also offers cloud storage.
Etherpad. Similar to CryptPad, Etherpad is an encrypted online editor which allows multiple users to edit documents. The bonus here is that it resolves the need to email sensitive documents back and forth and all the security liabilities that come with that.
Cherrytree. If you need a note-taking app that stores your notes in a hierarchical tree-style fashion and has encryption functionality, Cherrytree might suit your needs.
7-Zip. If what you want to do is simply encrypt a single file or folder, you can use the compression software 7-Zip. It can zip/unzip any file in a variety of compression formats with built-in encryption functionality.
For a comprehensive list of Privacy Tools, visit the privacytools.io website for an exhaustive list of tools and options