Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Stay Safe and Private

 With everything going on in the world, I have been very busy between work and life. I wanted to make a quick post about some things you can do to keep yourself digitally safe during these uncertain times. So let's begin.

If you have an Android phone, there are some steps you can take to mask yourself a bit. While it's not perfect, you can hide yourself and your data a little better. The first big thing that popped into my brain was keyboard. Chances are that your keyboard is sending everything you type and your habits typing somewhere for the sake of analysis to make typing easier. However, do you really want everything you type sitting on a server that you do not know that well? I would rather not because I know the things I look up and some things are better off going to the grave. I found a keyboard that does enough to keep me happy and keep my privacy. AnySoftKeyboard is a good privacy focused keyboard. It can be challenging at times, but privacy is worth taking some extra time to spell check yourself. Another glaring hole for security is text messages. They are oh so convenient, however convenience should not take away from privacy and security. Signal has our backs here. It can do many other things, however text messaging is primarily what I use it for. You can also conveniently link it to your computer. Quite a cool app. More often than not another key function we use on a day to day basis is web browsers. Web browsers are nice, but they can harvest so much data you would not even think about. In this area there are multiple options. The cool thing about browsers focused on privacy is they usually block ads, so it's a great thing to have. I use DuckDuckGo, but Brave is also a good option. Privacy, Ad blocking, and there's alternatives to choose from, this is a great thing to see. Finally for the phone, if you are worried about Google tracking everything you download and install you can try other "play store" variations. I have been trying out APKPure. Aside from a lot of ads, there isn't anything I have found "wrong" with it. Keep in mind, there entirety of the Google Play Store is basically an ad platform, so it is what it is.a

Now we are going to start rolling into some crossover of what to use for any device you have. One of the greatest points of protection you can consider is a VPN. If you don't know what a VPN is, it stands for Virtual Private Network and allows you to connect to a different network remotely for accessing local resources in another network or region. The majority of them offer encrypted tunnels, meaning your traffic is going to be very difficult for people in between to see what you're doing. Even more so, by using a major VPN along side everyone else, the traffic to and from the VPN is going to be difficult to determine who it is for or from. There are MANY options like ExpressVPN, Nord VPN, Surf Shark, Private Internet Access and so on. For the sake of honesty, I use ExpressVPN. They are fast, outside of most legal jurisdictions you might worry about, have not had any data breaches to my knowledge, the price is reasonable, and I have not had a problem with them yet. I encourage you to do your own research and find what you think is best. Remember to install an equivalent app for your phone, computer, and any other device you can put it on.

Next thing to cover is Tor. Tor can be used while on a lot of VPNs, has an app for your phone, runs on the computer and so on. The main idea with Tor, in my opinion, is security through obscurity. Basically, it bounces the connection around like mad making it hard to trace. The concern you should have is here it is bouncing through. So I would not recommend using any passwords over the Tor network.

Email is another must have today. There are many secure email options now. The one I have been using is Proton Mail. There's an app to use it on your phone as well. Not much else to say other than do some research and find the best option for you.

Options for computer security include web browsers like Brave, or the modified version from Gab called Dissenter. I would mention others, but it is a long list that seems to grow every day. Regardless, I highly recommend if you have the option to use an addon called uBlock Origin. uBlock Origin is hands down the best ad block I have ever used with great performance. It works better than Ad Block Plus and feels far faster. So if you're an ABP fan, I would consider trying upgrading and see how it fits for you. Ads are notorious for tracking, so blocking them is a must for privacy and security. Not to mention most of the tracking is done for targeted advertising so just make it even harder for them to deliver there messages. Make them work for it.

That all being said, remember to use a firewall on any device possible, whenever possible. Do not connect to open wireless access or the wireless access of any store, hotel, or other. Be smart, question everything, and do your own research before you hit a download button or run a program, click a link, so on and so forth.

Other things I will hopefully have time to look into in the future will be a more secure camera app, file sync/storage, and so on. There is a lot to look into.

Now the big speech. This isn't about being paranoid. This isn't about hiding. This is about being aware of our own safety and security. This is about being aware of the information we allow others access to. For far too long we have sacrificed an understanding of what information there is being bought and sold about us purely for convenience sake. I am guilty of this myself. I hope you will join me in trying to become aware of all of this and taking the steps necessary to protect yourself in today's world. Not everyone has your best interest in mind and the only person you should trust absolutely is yourself. Please stay safe.

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