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You can never be too careful out there in the wild west that we like to call the Internet. A place where drive-by bandits can relieve you of your money, your identity, and the shirt off your back if you’re not vigilant enough.

burglar

There’s no reason why you can’t pull up the drawbridge and stop the bad guys from getting in; plenty of free 7 Essential Security Downloads You MUST Have Installed 7 Essential Security Downloads You MUST Have Installed Read More (and low cost) security software tools What Security Software Should You Be Using in Windows 10? What Security Software Should You Be Using in Windows 10? Despite being bundled with its own security tool, Windows 10 needs additional software to keep your data secure and make your online experiences safe. But which security software should you choose for WIndows 10? Read More  are available. Not sure what to use? The following ten have the Mark O’Neill Seal of Approval.

KeePass

keepass

One of the most absolute drags of installing software and creating web-based accounts is having to remember yet another password. After all, we all know not to use the same password more than once – don’t we? But since @jHjddlrPoiQ#+9nB@ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like butter, we end up taking the easy road and instead use something really difficult like password or 123456. Then we wonder why we get hacked so easily.

The best solution to this dilemma is to use a password manager. Everyone has their favorite (LastPass LastPass for Firefox: The Ideal Password Management System LastPass for Firefox: The Ideal Password Management System If you've not yet decided to use a password manager for your myriad logins online, it's time you took a look at one of the best options around: LastPass. Many people are cautious about using... Read More , 1Password Let 1Password for Mac Manage Your Passwords & Secure Data Let 1Password for Mac Manage Your Passwords & Secure Data Despite the new iCloud Keychain feature in OS X Mavericks, I still prefer the power of managing my passwords in AgileBits's classic and popular 1Password, now in its 4th version. Read More ), but my favorite is KeePass KeePass Password Safe – The Ultimate Encrypted Password System [Windows, Portable] KeePass Password Safe – The Ultimate Encrypted Password System [Windows, Portable] Securely store your passwords. Complete with encryption and a decent password generator – not to mention plugins for Chrome and Firefox – KeePass just might be the best password management system out there. If you... Read More , for various reasons. The password database can be left in Dropbox so it can be opened and used on every computer I am on. The iPhone version can be unlocked by Touch ID Touch ID Woes: Troubleshooting The iPhone 5S Fingerprint Scanner Touch ID Woes: Troubleshooting The iPhone 5S Fingerprint Scanner There's no doubting that Apple's iPhone 5S introduces one of the best implementations of fingerprint scanning, but it's not been plain sailing for everyone. Read More , and the required password copied to the clipboard by simply touching it. KeePass also has a password generator PWGen - A Very Advanced Password Generator [Windows] PWGen - A Very Advanced Password Generator [Windows] If you aren't using cryptographically-strong passwords by now, you're late. Trusting LastPass is not for everyone. No matter how much security software you have installed, a secure password is always going to be the foundation... Read More built in, and it tells you how strong the password is before you use it. Totally sweet.

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Tails

tails

Tails Your Interest in Privacy Will Ensure You're Targeted By The NSA Your Interest in Privacy Will Ensure You're Targeted By The NSA Read More (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) is a secure Linux operating system, which runs on the Tor network Really Private Browsing: An Unofficial User’s Guide to Tor Really Private Browsing: An Unofficial User’s Guide to Tor Tor provides truly anonymous and untraceable browsing and messaging, as well as access to the so called “Deep Web”. Tor can’t plausibly be broken by any organization on the planet. Read More , and is designed to be run from a Live DVD The 50 Cool Uses for Live CDs The 50 Cool Uses for Live CDs This Live CD how-to guide outlines just a few of the many uses live CDs can offer, and is a great resource for live CD beginners and enthusiasts alike. Read More or a Live USB stick Live USB Install Puts Linux On Your Thumb Drive With Ease Live USB Install Puts Linux On Your Thumb Drive With Ease Boot one of over a hundred Linux distros from a USB disk. With Live USB, software you can run on both Windows and Linux computers, it only takes a couple of clicks to make your... Read More . I am no Linux expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I found Tails very easy to set up and use.

While using it, no digital traces of what you do will be left on the computer, so this is the ideal system to test a suspicious piece of software, view some sensitive files, or carry out some private browsing, without allowing any viruses to get on to your computer.

In fact, Tails was the operating system used by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras to communicate with Edward Snowden. Documents revealed by Snowden show that the NSA has serious problems breaking into the Tails system. So there’s a good reason right there why you should use Tails.

Tunnelbear

tunnelbear

I’ve written before about my love for Tunnelbear Set Up A VPN On Your iPhone In Minutes With Tunnelbear Set Up A VPN On Your iPhone In Minutes With Tunnelbear For those of you who want to have absolute privacy and no geo-restrictions while browsing the Internet, a Virtual Private Network is the way to go. Read More , and it is worth mentioning again. The security advantages of a VPN What Is The Definition Of A Virtual Private Network [Technology Explained] What Is The Definition Of A Virtual Private Network [Technology Explained] Read More are numerous, to the point where not using a VPN Do You Use A VPN? If So, Which Do You Use, & Why? [MakeUseOf Poll] Do You Use A VPN? If So, Which Do You Use, & Why? [MakeUseOf Poll] The use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to add privacy, anonymity, and/or freedom from regional blocking, is becoming more common with each passing month. Read More could be seen by some as downright reckless.

First of all, if you are using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection (say at Starbucks, or at the airport), then it is not completely safe to use. Anyone with the right equipment can snoop on your connection and scoop up sensitive information such as usernames and passwords, instant messaging chats, online banking details Is Online Banking Secure? 5 Risks That Should Worry You Is Online Banking Secure? 5 Risks That Should Worry You There's a lot to like about online banking. It's convenient, can simplify your life, you might even get better savings rates. But is online banking as safe and secure as it should be? Read More , and so forth. A VPN stops all that in its tracks by encrypting the data going in and out of your computer, and makes it look as if you are in another country (by assigning you a foreign IP address in the country of your choice).

What I like about Tunnelbear Filter Your VPN Tunnels With Tunnelbear's Intellibear Filter Your VPN Tunnels With Tunnelbear's Intellibear In the past I have made no secret that my favourite VPN by far is Tunnelbear. Now they have a brand new feature which makes me love the app even more. Read More includes the fact that it is cheap ($5 a month for unlimited use), they provide support for numerous countries, the app is very easy to use, they have a Chrome extension which is very fast and very easy to use, their smartphone app is very well designed, and as a whole their connections are extremely stable. I have very rarely had the connection drop on me, within the past year.

OTR (Off The Record)

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I’ve just mentioned how instant messaging can be intercepted over an unsecure Wi-Fi connection. This is why you should seriously consider using OTR (Off The Record) to encrypt your IM’s.

OTR works with Pidgin (Windows) and Adium (Mac OS X). It is a plugin which you add to Pidgin or Adium by dropping it into the plugin directory of that chat app. When you restart it, you will notice that a padlock is now in the chat window. You will have to generate private keys, but the plugin does a good job of setting all that up for you.

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You have the choice of requesting an encrypted chat, or insisting upon it. But bear in mind that the other person in the chat must also have OTR installed for this to work. Snowden documents also reveal that the NSA has tried and failed to crack OTR.

PGP (Pretty Good Privacy)

gpgam

If you want to encrypt your emails, then it’s time to step up to PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) PGP Me: Pretty Good Privacy Explained PGP Me: Pretty Good Privacy Explained Read More .

If you use Apple Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Microsoft Outlook, then you are already covered with specialized plugins (Apple Mail | Microsoft Outlook). But if desktop email is not your gig, and you are more of a webmail-based kind of dude, then there are a couple of good plugins for Gmail, notably Mymail-Crypt, and Mailvelope. Although they may be eventually made redundant by Google’s active development of an official PGP encryption plugin called End-to-End, which is currently in its alpha stage.

PGP works by generating a pair of keys – one private (also known as “secret”), and one public (here’s my public key). If you click on that link, you will see that my public key is a very long amount of meaningless gibberish. You can freely hand your public key out to everyone but you MUST keep the secret one…well, secret. If you want to send a message to someone, use their public key to encrypt and send the message, and they can then decrypt and read the message using their private key. Since the private key is private only to the owner, only the recipient can unscramble the gibberish.

HTTPS Everywhere

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If using a virtual private network seems like a bit too much for you, then at the very least use HTTPS Everywhere.

The plugin for Chrome and Firefox was developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (which I have written about before The Electronic Frontier Foundation - What It Is & Why It Is Important The Electronic Frontier Foundation - What It Is & Why It Is Important Electronic Frontier Foundation is an international non-profit group based in the US, committed to fighting for digital rights. Let's take a look at some of their campaigns and how they can help you. Read More ). HTTPS Everywhere encrypts your visits to websites, making your privacy more secure. It keeps the text of your outgoing emails private. It makes things more difficult for anyone trying to piggy-back on your Wi-Fi connection if you are having a latte in Starbucks. And when paying for something online using your credit card, HTTPS encrypts your payment details so it is not intercepted en route.

The plugin doesn’t work with every website. In that case, if the website is really important to you, you can whitelist it, so only the regular http is used. But it doesn’t conceal which sites you have visited. HTTPS Everywhere also doesn’t work with websites that don’t support the https protocol. So there are some limitations. But it’s better than nothing, and most big websites do support it.

Tor Browser

torbrowser

If you don’t want to install and use the Tails operating system, then at least download the Tor browser How the Tor Project Can Help You Protect Your Own Online Privacy How the Tor Project Can Help You Protect Your Own Online Privacy Privacy has been a constant issue with virtually all major sites that you visit today, especially those that handle personal information on a regular basis. However, while most security efforts are currently directed towards the... Read More . The Tor browser is designed to keep you anonymous as you browse the web. It also enables you to visit the dark underbelly of the Internet How To Find Active Onion Sites & Why You Might Want To How To Find Active Onion Sites & Why You Might Want To Onion sites, so named because they end with ".onion", are hosted as Tor hidden services – a completely anonymous way to host websites. They're part of the deep Web – an invisible part of the... Read More – the so-called “Dark Web Here's How Much Your Identity Could Be Worth on the Dark Web Here's How Much Your Identity Could Be Worth on the Dark Web It's uncomfortable to think of yourself as a commodity, but all of your personal details, from name and address to bank account details, are worth something to online criminals. How much are you worth? Read More “, where drug dealers, pornographers, and hitmen ply their trade (so I’ve heard – I haven’t actually gone browsing!).

The only downside to using Tor is that it is rather slow as your Internet connection is constantly being re-routed. The upside, apart from the whole anonymity thing, is that the browser is portable. So you can run it off a USB stick, and not leave any traces on the computer you are on. It’s also cross-platform (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux).

Signal

signal

During the whole NSA poopstorm, German chancellor Angela Merkel discovered that her phone was being tapped. So if the German chancellor of all people is not safe from people listening to her calling up the Speaking Clock, then what awaits the rest of us? That’s why you need to start encrypting your phone calls.

Signal is a free open-source app for iOS and Android which kind of mimics WhatsApp a bit. You can send instant messages with text, pictures, and video, to other Signallers who have the app and your phone number. But you can also call that person and the call will be encrypted.

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I have tried it out in the past and the sound quality for calls has been extremely good. I was very impressed.

VeraCrypt

veracrypt

Being a huge TrueCrypt TrueCrypt User's Guide: Secure Your Private Files TrueCrypt User's Guide: Secure Your Private Files To really keep your data safe, you need to encrypt it. Not sure how to start? You need to read our TrueCrypt user manual by Lachlan Roy, and learn how to use TrueCrypt encryption software. Read More disciple, I was really upset when they announced that the project was being discontinued. What will I use now to hide all of my Katy Perry pictures? So I was somewhat mollified when I found out that another version was coming out under a different name – VeraCrypt. It’s totally identical to TrueCrypt except for a few cosmetic changes in its appearance, and a really irritating name. Vera? Really guys? That’s the best name you could come up with?

VeraCrypt (just like its predecessor) is a free software app which enables you to make encrypted folders (called “volumes”). You can also encrypt a whole hard-drive, USB stick How To Create A Truly Hidden Partition With TrueCrypt 7 How To Create A Truly Hidden Partition With TrueCrypt 7 Read More , partition, or external hard-drive, but that is obviously a bit more advanced. You can also create a “hidden volume”, which is essentially a volume within a volume.

When you have made the volume, open it up using the interface shown above. It will then “mount” on one of your hard-drives as a folder. Just slip in what you want to hide, then unmount it again.

When TrueCrypt was around, child pornographers were using it to hide their dirty little secrets, and the FBI had serious problems cracking into the volumes. So much so that the perverts were taken to court to be ordered by a judge to hand over the password or go to jail for contempt of court. I can only assume that VeraCrypt has the same encryption strength.

One of the encryption standards you can choose when making your volume is AES, which seemingly is what the US Government uses to protect their documents up to Top Secret level. So that tells you something.

Spybot – Search & Destroy

spybot

I end with a rather anti-climatic choice, but it is a solid app which has never let me down once (unlike MalwareBytes – don’t get me started on that lot). Spybot Search and Destroy (God I love that name!) is an app which searches the deepest reaches of your computer to find any nasty intruders which shouldn’t be there.

There are three versions available – the Free Edition, the Home Edition, and the Pro Edition. The last two are paid plans. The free version gives you outstanding anti-malware and anti-spyware tracking, but not in real-time. You have to manually press the button to get it going, so you have to make a point of remembering to update the app on a regular basis, and run it.

The Home edition for $13.99 gives you everything from the free version, as well as an anti-virus scanner. The Pro version for $25.99 gives you all that, and also a “Boot CD Creator” and an iPhone app scanner. Both paid plans give you real-time monitoring, multiple daily updates, and task scheduling.

And Spybot is a really good piece of software. It nuked several nasty critters from my system that MalwareBytes missed. That earned it my undying love and devotion.

So What Security Defenses Do You Have Installed?

What do you use to keep the baddies away? Let us know in the comments what security software apps help you sleep better at night, knowing the drawbridge is firmly up.

Image Credits:knight keeping watch by Algol via Shutterstock

  1. Luis Olarte
    December 4, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    I am glad that someone still tells everyone that they need some type of protection.
    And yes most of this I am still using, I start with ninite.com and download what I need in a one stop.
    I start with Avira, Spy-bot 2, Malwarebytes, Opera and enable SSL3, and I get the rest of my applications.
    Them I install the private firewall, sandboxie, puran utilities, gizmo manager, Malwarebytes reg & file assain also chameleon, veracryp, vidalia bundle, disconnect & Ad blocker, tixati, multibootusb.
    that is my base config for windows when it is not on a VR in Linux.
    On my USB I use Tails OS, UE 4.6 & 4.3, Gparted, Elive, and some media files.
    Thanks for the post, I am glad that someone today cares.

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 4, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Wow! That's a lot of stuff. Is there also the self-destruct option, if something miraculously manages to come through?! ;-))

      • Luis Olarte
        December 4, 2015 at 5:34 pm

        Well!! That is the point.
        If windows was not made like a Swiss cheese.
        I have to plug the holes some how right.
        On Linux all I have to do is just add a few lines of code a firewall with some rules and it is secured.
        I do the same for Free NAS, and it is secured also.
        Can we ever say windows is at all secured, specially in today's windows.
        It's all of the junk or just disconnect the PC from the net, and just isolate it from the world.

  2. Andrew Martin
    December 4, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I use Spywareblaster and Superantispyware also Malwarebytes
    All three programs have their free versions which I use.
    Superantispyware has a portable version too.

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 4, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation. I'll try it out! :-)

  3. john
    December 4, 2015 at 12:53 am

    German chancellor Angela Merkel's phone was tapped because she's a very important lady with lots of secret stuff. The only reason anyone will hack us geeks is to get our credit card or online banking details. The hackers have more than enough pron of their own without stealing yours. All this hyper paranoia is nuts. You aren't important enough for anyone to bother hacking you.
    Don't forget for every one of us tech savvy types who read MuO there's another hundred thousand numpties out there using 123 passwords who will be hacked for their bank details long before they get round to you.

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 4, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      and it's that attitude that allows the NSA to listen to peoples phone calls. "I'm not important, so I won't bother with security!". Meanwhile you're being monitored by some spook in a cubicle, listening for keywords that you might be a terrorist. Say the wrong words in an innocent context too many times, and suddenly you are on the No-Fly List.

      It's entirely your right to decline security precautions if you want, but please don't imply that the people that DO use precautions are paranoid. As the saying goes, "sometimes they really ARE out to get you"

  4. GR
    December 3, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Its very interesting and usable information; thanks for that; but i always had this question in my mind that all these security softwares can be compromised if people from inside got malware intentions.
    But still i believe we have to trust some 1. Great information

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 4, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Not entirely sure what you mean. Do you mean if someone inside the security software companies planted malware in their products?

      Well....I suppose that is entirely possible. But lots of people work on these things, and I am betting a lot of money that any malware would be rapidly discovered by someone.

  5. Shawn Wayne
    November 30, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks for mentioning Spybot Search and Destroy, I almost forgot about that! I've been using it for probably 10 years now, and it was just the best back in the day, except I haven't used it now in the last couple of years since I primarily use Malwarebytes since it seems to do the job just fine. I'll have to remember to install Spybot next when I need it. Such a great app.

  6. Latin Scholar
    November 27, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Vera is the plural of the Latin word verus which means 'true'.

    • Kelsey Tidwell
      November 28, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      All I could think of was Vera from the old show "Alice". Then you dragged me back to my high school Latin...verily you have verified in a veracious way.

      That's a verity.

    • Mark O'Neill
      December 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      There's a British soap opera called "Coronation Street", and for ages, there was a character called Vera Duckworth. Everytime I see VeraCrypt, that woman's face and really irritating whiny voice pops into my mind!!! ;-))

  7. Steve YATES
    November 27, 2015 at 5:57 am

    What do you have against MalwareBytes ? Running that in Safe Mode normally reveals most nasties

    • Mark O'Neill
      November 27, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      In the past few months, it has missed some stuff, which Spybot has found immediately. Maybe it's a blip, who knows?

      • Kelsey Tidwell
        November 28, 2015 at 10:37 pm

        Wow I had a blip in the OTHER direction...MB found things that Spybot didn't. I've used Spybot for wow 10 years or so, and it wasn't an easy decision to switch to MB, but MalwareBytes had really gotten me out of a tough jam that Spybot didn't catch.

        Maybe I'll run both. :\

  8. AlltheBest
    November 27, 2015 at 3:37 am

    One of the better articles on this website in past few days. Keep up the good work.

    • Mark O'Neill
      November 27, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      Oh no, we have loads of good stuff every day! My stuff is better though. ;-))

  9. bob
    November 26, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    TrueCrypt good to use

    • Mark O'Neill
      November 27, 2015 at 1:52 pm

      If you mean that it's still usable, then yes it is. But if there are possible security vulnerabilities due to the project being abandoned, then I would rather play it safe and use Vera.

      • Rama
        November 27, 2015 at 6:09 pm

        You might not realize that you need to be aware of which version of TrueCrypt to use. 7.1a is the one to use. Others encryption solutions that I am aware of, are already accessible by authorized third parties.

        • Mark O'Neill
          December 4, 2015 at 12:44 pm

          Thanks for that. Actually I am seriously considering moving away from my beloved TrueCrypt now, and reluctantly moving to VeraCrypt. Bye TC, we had some good times.

          I know Vera is True's little sister, but still.....doesn't feel the same.

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