Maintaining anonymity and privacy goes beyond locking the bathroom door. For individuals, it encompasses personal autonomy, political liberty, and safeguarding oneself in the digital realm.
In an enterprise setting, employee privacy plays a vital role in mitigating the risk of social engineering attacks and potential blackmail. The more information an attacker uncovers about key personnel within an organization, the more precise and effective their attacks become.
Consequently, incorporating privacy education into security awareness programs is crucial. Here we discuss together practices for online data security and protection against online tracking.
Tips for Maintaining Internet Anonymity
#1 Use an encrypted browser
Google has gained notoriety for extensively collecting data. Instead of opting for Chrome or any other browser offered by a major tech company, consider using Tor. Tor is a secure browser that triple encrypts your IP address and web activity. However, it’s important to note that Tor does not encrypt your usage of other web applications, which is why a VPN is recommended. Now, you may be wondering, what exactly is a VPN?
#2 Install a VPN
A “virtual private network” (VPN) encrypts all web traffic from browsers and other web apps, unlike Tor. VPNs not only hide your IP address but also conceal your browsing and YouTube history, ensuring that your internet service provider (ISP) has no access to your online activity. The best part is that setting up a VPN takes just a few minutes.
With a good VPN, you can even spoof a Snapchat location or unblock a geo-restricted Netflix library. One of the services with a powerful system for bypassing regional restrictions and protecting anonymity is VeePN.
#3 Choose Incognito mode
Almost anyone can take advantage of one of the most basic privacy options available. The private browsing mode is featured in the top four popular browsers – Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari. You can find this option in their respective settings menus.
By activating private browsing, your computer won’t store cookies or internet history. Its usefulness is quite limited and primarily effective for concealing your browsing history from family members or significant others. However, keep in mind that private browsing does not securely hide your identity or browsing activities beyond your local machine, as your IP address can still be tracked.
#4 Use temporary mail
DEAs are temporary and anonymous email addresses that allow users to easily create new addresses as needed and then discard them after use. They prove especially handy in avoiding spam when filling out online forms that require an email address. To safeguard your online identity and keep your real email address away from spammers, DEAs serve as an excellent solution.
While popular providers include Guerrilla Mail and Mailinator, numerous alternatives exist. However, it’s important to note that most DEAs are not particularly secure. Therefore, it is not advisable to use these services for sending sensitive information. Instead, leverage them solely to protect your personal information in situations where disclosure is unavoidable.
#5 Use zero-knowledge services
Google, Office 365, and DropBox, along with other PRISM providers, as revealed by the Snowden documents, are capable of reading your emails and files. These companies collaborated with mass surveillance programs, implying that the Washington authorities can access your data as well. Privacy is virtually non-existent when using these services.
One option to mitigate this is encrypting your emails and files before using Gmail or uploading them to DropBox. If privacy is a priority and you know, consider using PGP encryption. Alternatively, you can choose service providers that offer zero-knowledge file storage.
#6 Prefer HTTPS sites
To ensure the security of personal information, such as your name, bank account, credit card, or social security number, when passing it online, make sure to verify the website’s security. Check the browser’s address bar and ensure that the URL starts with “HTTPS” rather than “HTTP.”
#7 Don’t use voice assistants
Voice assistants provide convenient home automation in smart homes. However, their notorious lack of privacy is well-known. For instance, Amazon employees have openly admitted to listening to Alexa recordings, and there was an undisclosed microphone hidden in the Google Assistant-compatible Nest Secure security system.
The safest option is to avoid using voice assistants and instead manually control IoT devices such as smart lights, smart garages, smart locks, and others through your app.
Cookies are little bits of code that are automatically downloaded from a website and stored on your system. Cookies allow websites to quickly and easily remember if you’ve been there before – if you have, the website may then alter certain variables based on the information that has been stored in the cookie to give you a more personalized and potentially useful experience.
However, some cookies can be very intrusive, logging information such as how long you’ve been visiting a particular website, how many clicks you’ve made, and what content you seem to prefer reading. It doesn’t hurt, then, to occasionally wipe your system of any cookies.
Admittedly this won’t do a huge amount to protect your anonymity, but it will make it harder for websites to learn and understand your viewing habits. You can delete cookies from within your browser, but to make sure you nuke the lot, you can use an app like CCleaner, which is free and powerful.
Protecting anonymity becomes more difficult every year. Companies work hard enough to keep tabs on all of us and make big profits. Many of them use information about us to personalize advertising, others to analyze our habits, and others to sell to other companies. We now have tools to protect our anonymity, but it doesn’t come naturally.