The Complete Guide to Improving Your Online Security and Defending Your Privacy

James Frew 31-07-2017

In our always-on society we generate a lot of data, with some estimates suggesting 28,875 GB per second. With this massive trove of data we divulge a huge amount of personal information. From our cloud-based photo collection, to what websites we visit FOR SALE: Your Browsing History -- So What Can You Do? An FCC ruling that the ISPs must obtain permission from customers before selling personal data could be reversed. Your ISP is about to set a price for your personal data. How can we fight back? Read More , it’s getting easier for malicious attackers to do the digital equivalent of rummaging through our garbage.

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Whether it’s Facebook selling your data Data Selfie: How Much Does Facebook Actually Know About You? You share a huge amount of data with Facebook, even if you don't click or post very much. This Chrome extension will give you an idea of just how much Facebook knows about you. Read More to advertisers, overreaching government surveillance Avoiding Internet Surveillance: The Complete Guide Internet surveillance continues to be a hot topic so we've produced this comprehensive resource on why it's such a big deal, who's behind it, whether you can completely avoid it, and more. Read More , or cyber criminals Cybercriminals Possess CIA Hacking Tools: What This Means for You The Central Intelligence Agency's most dangerous malware -- capable of hacking nearly all wireless consumer electronics -- could now sit in the hands of thieves and terrorists. So what does that mean for you? Read More looking to make some fast money — there are a lot of people out there who want your data. Sadly, this invasion of your privacy doesn’t benefit you at all You Are The Product, Not The Client: The Personal Data Economy Explained As Andrew Lewis once said "If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold". Think about the implications of that quote for a moment – how many free services... Read More . If you want to build up your defenses and protect yourself online, let us guide you through how to improve your security and safeguard your privacy.

Web Browsers

Web browsers act as our window into the great wonderland of the internet. Nearly everything we do online, from a quick Google search to online banking, happens through the browser. This ease of use makes it incredibly convenient for us, but also means our browser knows a lot about what we get up to online. In fact, your browser’s history may be one of the most invasive databases ever created How to Manually & Automatically Clear Your Browser History The websites you visit leave tracks on your computer. We show you how to delete your browsing history in Firefox, Chrome, Edge, and Internet Explorer. Read More .

There once was a time that your history would only be available locally on your computer. Most modern browsers now allow you to sign in to enable settings to sync to the cloud and between devices. This is especially true of Chrome, where all the information is stored in your Google account. History syncing is turned on by default when signed into Chrome, but you can head into Settings to turn it off Google Will Share Your Browsing History On March 1st [News] Read More .

The Ever-Present Threat of Tracking

Most of us are aware that our online activity is monitored and stored by the browser. What you may not know is just how much information about you is given away to every website you visit. We compared your browser to a leaky tap as it will often give away a large stream of information to any website that wants it. Websites like What Every Browser Knows About You (WEBKAY) can give you a window into this world of background data sharing.

The Complete Guide to Improving Your Online Security and Defending Your Privacy WEBKAY Screenshot


Your location, hardware and software setup, internet connection, and social media accounts are all up for grabs. Some of this data allows for the smooth operation of the internet, while other parts — like your social media accounts — are there to scrape data for advertisers provide you with personalized content. Your smartphone browser can even access your phone’s gyroscope to decide if your phone is in your hand or on the table.

A Focus on Privacy

Microsoft was one of the first to popularize Private Browsing mode after adding the feature to an Internet Explorer 8 beta. The main advantage to the Private Browsing mode is that anything you do is only stored just for that session. As soon as you close the window, all traces of it are removed from your computer. It allows you to quickly and easily browse the web without everything being stored in the history and log into multiple accounts simultaneously. It is widely considered one of the easiest ways to protect yourself when browsing on a shared computer. As it turns out though, Private Browsing isn’t always private.

Google’s entire business is based on selling your information to advertisers How Much Does Google Really Know About You? Google is no champion of user privacy, but you might be surprised just how much they know. Read More . So it shouldn’t be a surprise that their popular Chrome web browser is often seen as a means to that end Using Chrome: Can We Really Trust Google? Why not trust Google? The company knows what they’re doing; clearly Google is trustworthy. Or is it? Read More . Supposing that you want to switch from Chrome, the open source Firefox is an excellent choice Switching From Chrome: How to Make Firefox Feel Like Home So, you have decided that Firefox is the better browser for you. Is there anything you can do to make Firefox less of a foreign environment? Yes! Read More . Mozilla even developed an entirely privacy focused version for mobile called Firefox Focus Firefox Focus Blocks Ads and Trackers By Default Firefox Focus blocks ads and trackers by default, ensuring you can browse the web without fear of your every action being analyzed. Which is unfortunate for us. Read More . If that isn’t quite private enough for you, then there are choices that offer even greater anonymity 4 Free Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private Anonymous browsing of the web is one way to protect your online privacy. Here are the best anonymous web browsers to use. Read More . Remember though that total anonymity on the internet is almost impossible — no matter what the developers claim.


Browser Extensions

Chrome and Firefox have become the dominant browsers in part because of their ability to customize and improve the default experience with Extensions. The Chrome Web Store and Mozilla Add-Ons collection allow developers to submit extensions that you can easily download and add to your browser. Firefox even lets you take your extensions on-the-go with their smartphone apps.


The Complete Guide to Improving Your Online Security and Defending Your Privacy Chrome Web Store Screenshot

As Chrome is the world’s most used browser, it has a large collection of security extensions The Top 8+ Security & Privacy Extensions For The Chrome Browser Google’s Chrome Web Store hosts many extensions that can protect your security and privacy while using Chrome. Whether you want to block JavaScript, plug-ins, cookies and tracking scripts or force websites to encrypt your traffic,... Read More . Firefox also has a healthy range Completely Secure: 11 Must-Have Firefox Addons For Security Think about the browser you're using to view this article right now. Is it safe? Is it secure? You'd be surprised by those answers. Read More , as the open source movement is naturally disposed towards privacy and security. Extensions like Disconnect, HTTPS Everywhere, Ghostery, and Privacy Badger are even cross-platform. One advantage that extensions have over native applications is that they aren’t usually blocked by workplace management systems. This means you are able to freely install security and privacy focused extensions — letting you browse safely and privately wherever you are.


Email Providers

We think of email as a relatively recent innovation, but the seeds were first sown over 50 years ago The Odd Story of How Email Became So Damn Popular Email seems like such a primitive bit of technology. How did it ever become so popular? And how come we still use it to this day? Here's the story of how it all happened. Read More . As computers became more commonplace throughout the 1980s, email turned into an essential part of our work and personal lives. Some estimates even say that we collectively send 205 billion emails every day. With so much information being sent around the world, it’s no wonder that criminals and governments are only too eager to peer inside our global mailbox.

Recently, concerns over government surveillance have become increasingly commonplace. Encryption is your best line of defence against unwanted eavesdropping How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? Read More . By scrambling your emails, only parties with the encryption key can decrypt your messages. The end-to-end encryption (E2EE) is generally considered the most secure method. Only you and the recipient hold the encryption key, so neither the server or any third party can decrypt your messages. Unfortunately, a mix of technical and commercial reasons mean that most mainstream email providers do not offer E2EE.


The Complete Guide to Improving Your Online Security and Defending Your Privacy ProtonMail Home

Fortunately there are at least a few that do have your privacy in mind The 5 Most Secure and Encrypted Email Providers Fed up with government and third-party surveillance of your emails? Protect your messages with a secure encrypted email service. Read More , like ProtonMail. Developed by researchers at CERN, the service uses E2EE, and disables IP logging by default. Their servers are based in Switzerland under strict privacy laws, and the software is even open source. At present ProtonMail can only be accessed through their website or mobile apps. Despite its privacy-enhancing advantages, the E2EE prevents you adding ProtonMail to Outlook or other desktop clients. If finding a secure email provider sounds like too much hassle then it may be worth considering just getting rid of email altogether 4 Influential People Who Don't Use Email (And Why) It's difficult to imagine a life without email, but some people are choosing to stop using it altogether. That includes US Senators and famous filmmakers. Read More .


  • ProtonMail (Android, iOS, Web) — Based in Switzerland and developed by CERN researchers, ProtonMail puts privacy and security front and centre. They cemented this reputation by recently launching a free VPN.
  • TutaNota (Android, iOS, Web) — TutaNota offers a similar service to ProtonMail, except their servers are based in Germany. Their platform is open source, and offers E2EE.
  • MailFence (Web) — MailFence distinguishes itself from the competition by offering a full suite of productivity tools alongside its secure mail service. They demonstrate their commitment to privacy by donating 15 percent of their income to the EEF and EDRi.

Privacy-Conscious Search Engines

First there was Yahoo, AltaVista, and Ask Jeeves. Then along came Google and they proceeded to dominate the market. Search became synonymous with Google — so much so that their name became a verb. Google now handles upwards of 3.5 billion searches per day. In return for providing you with almost instantaneous answers to your questions, they take your data and sell it to advertisers Stop Using Google Search: Here's Why Google has unrivaled access to your browsing habits. Giving everything to Google isn't such a good idea. Here are some excellent Google alternatives that still get the job done. Read More . If you would rather Google — or Yahoo and Bing — not sell on your search data to the highest bidder, then you should consider moving to a more secure alternative.

The Complete Guide to Improving Your Online Security and Defending Your Privacy DuckDuckGo Screenshot


One of the most popular alternatives is DuckDuckGo Why This Longtime Google Fan Now Prefers DuckDuckGo Most of us don't remember life before Google search. Try DuckDuckGo. Learn its tricks. There could be nothing you miss about Google. Read More . Founded in 2008, it’s main focus is on providing you high quality search results without compromising your privacy. Their Privacy Policy is summed up on their website as “We don’t collect or share personal information”. This includes the unusual step of not even logging your IP address against your searches. Apple and Mozilla both even list DuckDuckGo as a search option in their browsers. If putting your privacy first wasn’t enough, then you’ll be happy to know that there are some things DuckDuckGo can do that Google can’t 8 Search Tricks That Work on DuckDuckGo but Not on Google Google Search is king. But DuckDuckGo has earned a loyal fan following. It has a few unusual features that even Google doesn't have. Read More .


  • DuckDuckGo — DuckDuckGo strikes the perfect balance between privacy and search quality. Ease of use is clearly important to them, and the developers incorporate a lot of additional features and search tools.
  • StartPage — StartPage cared about your privacy before it was cool — they have been operational since 1998. It is a meta-search engine, combining site from multiple sources to bring you a well-rounded set of results.
  • SearX — A more recent addition to the privacy-focused market, SearX is another meta-search engine similar to StartPage. The source code is available on GitHub if you fancy hosting your own instance.

Virtual Private Networks

A Virtual Private Network The Short MakeUseOf Guide to VPN Terminology The need for a secure internet connection has never been more vital. A VPN is a great way to stop unwanted snooping in your internet traffic. We're here to cut through the VPN jargon. Read More (VPN) creates a connection between your computer and a remote server. When connected, whenever you request information all your ISP can see is a connection to the VPN server. As well as protecting your data from ISPs, you will appear to be located at the IP address of the VPN server. You may have heard the myth that only those with something to hide need a VPN 5 Common VPN Myths and Why You Shouldn't Believe Them Planning to use a VPN? Not sure where to start, or confused about what they do? Let's take a look at the top five myths about VPNs and why they're simply not true. Read More . However, VPNs have a lot of uses 11 Reasons Why You Need a VPN and What It Is Virtual private networks can protect your privacy. We explain what exactly they do and why you should use a VPN. Read More — not least allowing you to unblock geo-restricted content Which VPNs Still Work With Netflix? Netflix is cracking down on VPNs, but there are a few that still work. Here are the best VPNs to use with Netflix. Read More – and are one of the most effective ways to protect your privacy and security online.

While free products are viewed with well deserved scepticism, there are a few free VPNs which don’t compromise your privacy 8 Totally Free VPN Services to Protect Your Privacy Free unlimited data VPNs don't exist unless they're scams. Here are the best actually free VPNs around that you can try safely. Read More . Handing all of your data to a third party can seem risky, so you need to be certain if you can trust your VPN provider 5 Signs You Can Trust Your VPN Client Using a VPN helps protect your traffic from snooping and your information from theft. But how can you be sure that your VPN is protecting you? Here are five signs your VPN is trustworthy. Read More . Despite all the benefits, it’s important not to fall into the trap of believing your VPN is entirely private 5 Ways Your VPN Is Not as Private as You Think It Is Your VPN is not as secure or private as you think it is. We explain why you and your browsing history might not be anonymous after all. Read More . Our regularly updated guide to the best VPN services The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More should give you somewhere to start.


Password Managers

Are you among the 17 percent of people who use “123456” as their password 7 Password Mistakes That Will Likely Get You Hacked The worst passwords of 2015 have been released, and they're quite worrying. But they show that it's absolutely critical to strengthen your weak passwords, with just a few simple tweaks. Read More ? Passwords like this are terrible — but they are short, easily remembered, and convenient. An increasingly popular way to improve your security, without having to remember complex passwords, is to use a password manager How Password Managers Keep Your Passwords Safe Passwords that are hard to crack are also hard to remember. Want to be safe? You need a password manager. Here's how they work and how they keep you safe. Read More . At their most simplistic, password managers create a more secure version of your browser’s password storage. Most will extend this to a suite of management tools, including generating random and secure passwords. The benefit becomes apparent when you visit your favorite website and the password manager auto-fills your login details.

The Complete Guide to Improving Your Online Security and Defending Your Privacy Password Sticky Shutterstock

Aside from storing and generating passwords, most managers have a feature that lets you audit your passwords Master Your Passwords For Good With Lastpass' Security Challenge We spend so much time online, with so many accounts, that remembering passwords can be really tough. Concerned about the risks? Find out how to use LastPass' Security Challenge to improve your security hygiene. Read More . You can quickly see which sites have weak, duplicate, or old passwords, and even change them with a single click. Despite the name, you can use your password manager like a secure digital vault 7 Clever Password Manager Superpowers You Have to Start Using Password managers carry a lot of great features, but did you know about these? Here are seven aspects of a password manager you should take advantage of. Read More . Securely storing important information like credit card numbers and bank account details can be handy.

You could even store Wi-Fi credentials for conveniently logging onto different networks. Sharing your passwords is usually an incredibly insecure experience. Not so with a password manager. Simply enter the recipient’s email address and you can securely share your password How to Safely Share Passwords With Friends and Family You should never share your passwords. But you do, don't you? That's why we're going to show you how to share your passwords while keeping your accounts as secure as possible. Read More without even having to reveal it.

Words like “eggs” and “one basket” may be drifting to the front of your mind. Many password managers will have security features like two factor authentication, and preventing logins from unknown locations — but you have to make sure you use them Are You Making These 6 Password Manager Security Mistakes? Password managers can only be as secure as you want them to be, and if you're making any of these six basic mistakes, you're going to end up compromising your online security. Read More . It’s true that password managers aren’t perfect 4 Reasons Password Managers Aren’t Enough to Keep Your Passwords Safe Password managers are valuable in the ongoing battle against hackers, but they don't offer sufficient protection on their own. These four reasons show why password managers aren't enough to keep your passwords safe. Read More — yet they do offer extra protection over your browser’s password storage, and save you leaving sticky notes with your password stuck to your screen.


Operating Systems

Windows has always been something of a privacy minefield. The release of Windows 10 brought with it some invasive data collection practices and only made the situation worse. While Microsoft has gone some way to calm these fears Don't Let Windows 10 Spy on You: Manage Your Privacy! Windows 10 is watching you. Microsoft's latest operating system is undoubtedly harvesting more of your personal information than ever before. We'll show you how to get a better grip on your privacy. Read More , it’s clear that Windows is not the most privacy-conscious OS Privacy and Windows 10: Your Guide to Windows Telemetry With the advent of the Windows 10 Creator's Update, Microsoft seems to have decided to be more transparent about their data gathering activities. Find out how much is gathered, and what you can do. Read More . Fortunately, you do have options. Out of the major tech companies, Apple is one of the most vigorous in defending your right to privacy. They even famously battled the FBI in court when they requested Apple break iPhone encryption. This commitment to privacy makes macOS a compelling mainstream alternative to Windows. It is worth noting though that while macOS is generally seen as very secure, it isn’t bulletproof What Security Threats Face Mac Users In 2016? Deserved or not, Mac OS X has a reputation for being more secure than Windows. But is that reputation still deserved? What security threats exist for the Apple platform, and how are they affecting users? Read More .

The Complete Guide to Improving Your Online Security and Defending Your Privacy OS Types Shutterstock

As we’ve seen before, open-source software is often more privacy friendly as anyone can view the code behind it What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] "Open source" is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. You may know that certain things are open source, like Linux and Android, but do you know what it entails? What is open... Read More . The same is true with open source operating systems, the most popular of which is Linux. If you haven’t heard of Linux before, you may have unknowingly seen it in shows like the excellent Mr Robot. Linux’s market share currently sits around 2 percent, however, that accounts for approximately 40 million devices worldwide. Linux isn’t just one operating system but a collection of free distributions (“distros”) that use similar underlying code. If you decide to make the move to Linux then you have a wide range of choice Getting Started With Linux and Ubuntu You're interested in switching to Linux... but where do you start? Is your PC compatible? Will your favorite apps work? Here's everything you need to know to get started with Linux. Read More . Distros like Qubes are even specialized toward security Qubes OS 3.2: The Most Secure Linux Operating System Qubes OS is a functional and intuitive security-oriented Linux operating system, and is used by Edward Snowden. Does its onus on security, superb compartmentalization, freedom, and integrated privacy features make it right for you? Read More . A vibrant and committed community means that Linux also has some outstanding tools to aid your security 5 Security Tools You Should Have on Linux From the start, Linux is quite secure, especially when compared to other operating systems such as macOS or Windows. Even so, it's good to build on that, starting with these tools. Read More .


Going Mobile

With so much information easily accessible on our mobile devices, it’s critical that we take steps to protect them too. iOS is generally considered the most secure mobile OS What Is The Most Secure Mobile Operating System? Battling for the title of Most Secure Mobile OS, we have: Android, BlackBerry, Ubuntu, Windows Phone, and iOS. Which operating system is the best at holding its own against online attacks? Read More thanks to Apple’s walled garden approach. Despite its more open nature Is Android Really Open Source? And Does It Even Matter? Here we explore whether or not Android is really open source. After all, it is based on Linux! Read More , Google’s Android OS is also relatively secure. You just have to be willing to keep close watch on which apps you install Do Not Install These 10 Popular Android Apps These Android apps are extremely popular, but they also compromise your security and privacy. If you have them installed, you'll want to uninstall them after reading this. Read More and what permissions they ask for What Are Android Permissions and Why Should You Care? Do you ever install Android apps without a second thought? Here's all you need to know on Android app permissions, how they've changed, and how it affects you. Read More . Google is reigning in Android’s fragmentation problem, but getting timely security updates Why Hasn't My Android Phone Updated Yet? The Android update process is long and complicated; let's examine it to find out exactly why your Android phone takes so long to update. Read More can still be an issue on some handsets.

The Complete Guide to Improving Your Online Security and Defending Your Privacy Android iOS Shutterstock

Your choice of OS is part of the mobile security puzzle — the apps you choose to use are the other. Despite the protections Apple and Google put in place, there is still a risk of viruses and malware on your mobile devices. If you are worried about the risk of infections, then you might be well served using an antivirus app on your smartphone Do You Need Antivirus Apps on Android? What About iPhone? Does Android need antivirus apps? What about your iPhone? Here's why smartphone security apps are important. Read More .

Google Play has an incredibly diverse collection of apps that suit every need and interest. Among the 2.8 million apps, there are some that abuse their privileged position Do Not Install These 10 Popular Android Apps These Android apps are extremely popular, but they also compromise your security and privacy. If you have them installed, you'll want to uninstall them after reading this. Read More on your phone. As Apple vets every submission before it reaches the App Store, your chances of downloading rogue apps are more remote. Instead, you should focus on managing your app permissions and disabling tracking Boost Your iOS Privacy with These Settings and Tweaks We all know that governments and corporations collect information from your phone. But are you voluntarily giving away far more data than you realize? Let's look at how to fix that. Read More . Android’s permissions are not as intuitive Boost Your iOS Privacy with These Settings and Tweaks We all know that governments and corporations collect information from your phone. But are you voluntarily giving away far more data than you realize? Let's look at how to fix that. Read More , but they are potentially more invasive. Android’s inherent openness does mean that there are more options for protecting your privacy and security 8 Great Android Apps That Protect Your Privacy and Security If you want to keep your Android device safe and secure, we recommend these apps. Read More .


  • Find My Phone (Android, iOS) — Apple and Google offer built-in phone tracking features on their respective mobile platforms. Both services are free and let you track your device’s location and remotely wipe your data.
  • DuckDuckGo (Android, iOS) — Although DuckDuckGo has a mobile website, they also provide mobile apps that combine their privacy-focused search engine and web browser.
  • Avast Antivirus & Security (Android, iOS) — Avast has long been a recommended choice for free antivirus software on Windows. Their smartphone apps make their antivirus protection mobile, as well as offering a range of features like a call blocker, and applocker.

Secure Messaging

Cell phones changed our relationship to communication with the introduction of SMS. We began to rely on text-based chats to exchange often confidential information. The introduction of smartphones and messaging apps increased the popularity of text chats. However, sharing private information through an app requires you to trust the developer, and to be confident that no one is listening in. Since we know that the government eavesdrops on our communications, E2EE is the best solution to secure your private messages. The Snowden leaks also exposed the PRISM program What Is PRISM? Everything You Need to Know The National Security Agency in the US has access to whatever data you're storing with US service providers like Google Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook. They're also likely monitoring most of the traffic flowing across the... Read More which forcibly compelled tech companies to hand your data to the government.

If you want a truly private conversation, then you need to choose a messaging app that not only offers E2EE but also values your privacy. In a fairly surprising turn of events, the Facebook-owned WhatsApp has become one of the leaders in secure, E2EE messaging How To Enable WhatsApp's Security Encryption The so-called end-to-end encryption protocol promises that "only you and the person you're communicating with can read what is sent." No one, not even WhatsApp, has access to your content. Read More . The Snowden leaks kickstarted a movement for encrypted apps, including the likes of Signal, Telegram, and Wickr 4 Slick WhatsApp Alternatives that Guard Your Privacy Facebook bought WhatsApp. Now that we're over the shock of that news, are you worried about your data privacy? Read More . They all offer very similar features, so your choice of platform will likely come down to which your friends are willing to use.


Cloud Storage

Although we praised cloud storage for its ability to easily backup your files, it can just as easily compromise your privacy and security. Unfortunately, there are inherent risks when you put data on the internet. Even if it evades interception, you run the risk that your cloud storage provider may be hacked Are You One of 69 Million Hacked Dropbox Users? It has been confirmed that 68 million Dropbox accounts were hacked in August 2012. Was yours one of them? What should you do about it? And why did the hack take FOUR YEARS to come... Read More . We already know that Google mines all your data, but others may also be willing to erode your privacy. As Evernote demonstrated Keep Your Notes Private: 5 Encrypted Alternatives to Evernote Evernote doesn't encrypt and secure your notes by default. If you're looking for an encrypted notes app, try these alternatives. Read More , cloud providers can change their Privacy Policy with little warning and leave you exposed to their invasive practices.

Just as with email, none of the mainstream providers offer E2EE to make their service more secure. This is often because it adds an additional step or inconvenience which may limit the mass-appeal of their offering. If you want to fortify the defences on your cloud storage then you should consider using a provider like Tresorit. All data is E2E encrypted, they offer desktop and mobile apps, and integrate with Windows Explorer. Storing your data online will always come with some risk. However, by dropping E2EE into the mix, you add more hurdles in the way for any malicious attacker hoping to access your data.

The Complete Guide to Improving Your Online Security and Defending Your Privacy NAS Shutterstock

If you decide that cloud storage isn’t for you, then a home-brewed solution might be more appropriate. You can use Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices to locally backup all your data. As NAS devices typically allow you to connect multiple hard drives, you can backup your data to multiple drives for improved redundancy. Using software like Seafile or Nextcloud it’s possible to create your own self-hosted cloud server The 3 Best Self-Hosted Dropbox Alternatives, Tested and Compared Looking for a Dropbox alternative that doesn't impose any restrictions? Here are the best self-hosted Dropbox alternatives. Read More for ultimate peace of mind.


Encryption Tools

Traditionally, when you want to send a message but you don’t want the contents read you would write in code. The recipient would then use a set of rules to securely decode the message. As the cost of high performance computing has decreased in line with Moore’s Law, it has become easier to perform complex mathematical calculations in a relatively short amount of time. This has led to the rise of encryption as a secure method of scrambling data How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? Read More .

Unauthorized access to your data is a growing risk. By encrypting your data before it reaches someone else’s hands, you prevent them from being able to access your confidential information Not Just For Paranoids: 4 Reasons To Encrypt Your Digital Life Encryption isn’t only for paranoid conspiracy theorists, nor is it just for tech geeks. Encryption is something every computer user can benefit from. Tech websites write about how you can encrypt your digital life, but... Read More . Depending on your needs, there are tools that will encrypt single files, all the way to entire hard drives TrueCrypt Is Dead: 4 Disk Encryption Alternatives For Windows TrueCrypt is no more, but fortunately there are other useful encryption programs. While they may not be exact replacements, they should suit your needs. Read More . Single file encryption is not a taxing task, but entire hard disk encryption can make it inconvenient to access your data. Before undertaking full disk encryption, make sure you’ve considered the entire risk to reward ratio.


Defenders of Data

Protecting your data against the constant onslaught of attacks can feel like an uphill battle. However, there are companies and software out there that do genuinely care about your privacy and security. If you value your privacy then going open source where possible is probably the best decision you can make. Escaping the clutches of Microsoft and Apple makes the transition to Linux worthwhile too.

Striking a balance between convenience and security can be tough. For most people convenience outweighs security concerns, and so they choose the mainstream options from Google and the like. However, the effort is worth it to protect yourself from the increasingly common hacks, leaks, and surveillance.

Are you worried about your privacy? Which tools will you try first? Do you think we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below!

Related topics: Encryption, Longform Guide, Online Privacy, Password Manager, Smartphone Security, VPN.

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  1. Begue
    August 1, 2017 at 9:06 am

    The best combination is TOT + Ivacy VPN + LastPass.

    • James Frew
      August 1, 2017 at 9:14 am

      I'm assuming you mean TOR? Do you run those in combination because you want privacy via the VPN and the anonymity of Tor?

      • Begue
        August 1, 2017 at 9:16 am

        Yes, I meant TOR, it was a typo. I don't use TOR alone as there are many controversies about it. It is better to use it with a VPN.

        • James Frew
          August 1, 2017 at 9:18 am

          Which seems a fair reason as there has been a lot of suspicion levelled at Tor. I'd be curious to know why -- given your stance on privacy -- you chose to use LastPass over open source alternatives?

  2. Gazoo
    July 31, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Operating Systems

    You note macOS as the first recommendation. This is followed by hard core Linux distros. Apple's lack of transparency makes me very uncomfortable. Recently they killed off VPNs in China within their ecosystem in order to placate the wishes of another government. Who knows what else the famous "No Comment" company is doing.

    I might have started off with general Linux distros (Ubuntu, Fedora, etc) followed by the hard core distro suggestions and maybe... just maybe... one of the secretive or data-collection options available to the general public.

    I do understand your reasoning... there is a balance between privacy/security and availability. As a non-Apple user, Apple does strike me as doing a better job than their peers in terms of security, updates, app reviews, etc... Still... General Linux Distros (many of whom have little problems running on common hardware) should probably lead the list in terms of privacy, usability, ease of entry.

    • James Frew
      August 1, 2017 at 9:10 am

      I agree that Apple is not necessarily a bastion of user privacy and security. However, as you point out, they are one of the best major tech companies at standing up for the rights of their users. This means that macOS -- and Apple's other products -- is an easily available way to tighten up your privacy and security. As Linux is open source it is clearly the best choice for privacy and transparency. I highlighted a particular disto that is solely focused on protecting privacy, but I also hope that it comes across that the Linux platform is an improvement over other mainstream operating systems.

      • dragonmouth
        October 30, 2017 at 8:34 pm

        "they (Apple) are one of the best major tech companies at standing up for the rights of their users"
        Is it that they are "standing up for the rights of their users" or are they making sure that only they (Apple) can data mine their users? Just as in the animal world the males are not protecting the females from other males, they are just making sure they have them for themselves. :-)

        • James Frew
          October 30, 2017 at 11:46 pm

          You may well be right. However, I think in the short term at least their stance is beneficial to users in a world where privacy is being rapidly eroded.

  3. Gazoo
    July 31, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Virtual Private Networks

    As a Private Internet Access user on Linux, I just looked at ExpressVPN. Do not like the manual nature of the setup. I'm comfortable using the command line but when I have problems with my WiFi, I can easily manage PIA's VPN from the taskbar. This includes selecting country, connecting/disconnecting, settings, etc... I also have it to start automatically on boot. Their Android solution also includes ad-blocking.

    Maybe ExpressVPN has an easier/quicker way of managing their wares but they do not highlight it on their Linux page. I do not see any additional non-VPN features like ad-blocking for Android (which is very useful for non-rooted devices). Even installing a DEB package on Linux was done via the command line in their "how-to". Not sure whether Linux is that well supported or if the company is looking for better ways to improve their product in this constant battle for privacy and security.

    Note: Maybe the Windows/macOS solutions are better, more effective. Did not look at those.

    • James Frew
      August 1, 2017 at 9:06 am

      There are many services available in the marketplace and some focus on certain areas of development more than others. PIA has a more polished user experience than some of the others. As I mentioned in the comments to this article about TunnelBear (// the companies have to prioritize work, and as Linux accounts for only 2% of the market its easy to see why other platforms may be granted more development work.

  4. Gazoo
    July 31, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Email Providers

    There are also levels of security to consider. Some may need protection from nation-states. Others, like me, just want to lessen the tracking, surveillance done by *private* citizens behind the shield of doing business. Too often, it's either ALL or Nothing when it comes to security. Looking at security this way opens the door to other viable email providers.

    I've looked at ProtonMail and TutaNota (awkward name to provide to the uninitiated) and decided that they didn't offer some of the services and flexibility I needed. For example, I don't think you can do ProtonMail using IMAP - some other things too.

    Considering Fastmail (not affiliated but on the verge of switching to them after some research) because (1) access over different protocols (2) subdomain aliasing (which I really like and is a great shield for everyday use) (3) no snooping/sharing (4) use of multiple domains (5) app passwords (love this feature too)

    Probably some other features I've overlooked but Fastmail is my pick, so far, for email written for power-users. Sort of like what Opera Browser was years ago.

    • James Frew
      August 1, 2017 at 9:03 am

      I understand your point that services like ProtonMail and TutaNota aren't quite as seamlessly conveniant as other major providers. Having looked at Fastmail it looks like a good provider but I'm unclear why you believe it offers enhanced security. From what I can gather it uses standard practices like HTTPS and SMTP, but nothing more to prevent eavesdropping. Additionally because the data isn't E2EE it can be accessed by their employees (as stated in their Privacy Policy) and passed on to law enforcement.

    • A M
      December 15, 2018 at 1:20 pm

      Protonmail have imap support but you should have premium service so can use the bridge app that is for this use case.