Protecting Yourself From Weaponized Data Mining
We at DoLPress have been able to provide several options to increase your privacy and online security, but nothing like this article we recently encountered on another website. It is a very long piece but we will feel it contains information so important that we will not only encourage you to read it, we are going to hammer you with links to it throughout our overview.
For our part, we'll reprint quick excerpts (complete with nag-links) of the "Ten To-Dos," but also want to include this very significant insight:
From David Montgomery's piece:
"The following guide is 10 basic steps which involve using free software. It’s followed by a list of essential security practices. The guide is intended to be a 'minimum effective dose' of security against hackers, fraudsters and mass surveillance. It may seem like a lot, but if anything I went light because I don’t want people to get overwhelmed and do nothing. This is an incremental process. If one of these steps is too difficult or intimidating, don’t bail on everything else. Every step substantially decreases your risk exposure.
STEP 1 – CLEAN AND PREP your computer by detecting and removing viruses and spyware. This can be done easily with a number of free software products.
STEP 2 – REPLACE YOUR BROWSER WITH FIREFOX. Firefox doesn’t track you and sell you as a product. The developers of Firefox are highly vocal about being anti-surveillance. Firefox is open source, meaning any programmer can audit the code to see what it’s doing. And Firefox has add-ons - listed in the article - that are necessary to thwart tracking and surveillance. (Chrome has add-ons too, though many of them contain malicious code.) Bottom line is the Firefox people aren’t in the surveillance business.
STEP 3 – USE A SURVEILLANCE-FREE SEARCH ENGINE. Google tracks and records your search terms along with when you entered them as part of its profiling analysis. Yahoo and Bing do the same thing. By analyzing every search you make, a shocking amount can be learned about you. You can get the same search results without being tracked and profiled by using other available browsers.
STEP 4 – END THE PASSWORD NIGHTMARE. Using a repeated password or a simple password is as bad as using no password. Use a six-word passPHRASE, not password, and a password managing app to avoid forgetting your various choices.
STEP 5 – ENCRYPT YOUR COMPUTER. If you currently use a password to log onto your computer, that does not protect the information on your computer. Your drive needs to be encrypted, or your data is exposed to anybody with access to your computer. If your computer is ever stolen or seized at an airport, you’ll be out a computer but encryption means you won’t have to worry about being blackmailed, defrauded, stalked, or having your life otherwise hacked to bits. There are free and open source options listed in the article and it's not that difficult to do.
STEP 6 – SECURE YOUR MOBILE DEVICES. Just as with your computer, your phone could be stolen, seized, or removed from your presence by law enforcement or airport security. The article lists a number of methods and apps for this purpose.
STEP 7 – USE SECURE CLOUD STORAGE. If you’re going to upload files to cloud storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or OneDrive, use a service that encrypts your files before they are uploaded. No matter what Dropbox claims about security (and they’ve been caught contradicting themselves), you don’t want to trust any company with your personal files.
STEP 8 – SHUN SURVEILLANCE-BASED SOCIAL MEDIA. Every American technology mega-corp has backdoors. Snowden made it clear: Tech giants are surveillance proxies for the government. To put it plainly, Facebook and other “free” social media services are mass surveillance roach motels.
STEP 9 – ENCRYPT YOUR EMAIL, CHAT, AND TEXTS. The same issues make Skype untrustworthy despite its claims of secure encryption. Microsoft scans your Skype messages, and there have been backdoors in Skype and other Microsoft products for years. The bottom line is no matter how exciting and promising the security claims, any closed source software, especially if offered by a U.S. based company with U.S. backers who fund military contractors, is fundamentally unable to provide reliable security assurances. Replace your communications software with encrypted alternatives. Email, chat, texts, and phone calls. (Yes, even SIM card manufacturers have been hacked.) Free options for each are listed in the article.
STEP 10: USE A QUALITY OFFSHORE VPN. You have an ISP who provides you with internet access. The problem is that ISPs monitor and record your activity online. Net neutrality will only intensify the monitoring as ISPs are turned into government regulated utilities. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, offers to encrypt your Internet traffic. What you want is a reputable VPN that uses strong encryption and a “no log” policy. You also want the VPN to be based outside the U.S. Otherwise the company can be legally gagged and crushed like Lavabit. A suitable list is available at the article.
We know we were heavy-handed with article links but, again, this is one of the more comprehensive and plainly-written guides we've seen lately. We hope you'll take the opportunity to read it in its entirety, and to familiarize yourself with the additional essential security practices included at the end.
Our thanks to Mr. Montgomery for the compilation and his continued work in this area.