8 steps to secure online privacy | 2021
I foresee serious problems with civil liberties and privacy under the Trump presidency. I highly recommend that you take steps to protect yourself – steps I will outline shortly.
We now live in conditions that would make the great autocrats of the past drool with envy. The government’s ability to monitor us has never been greater. As this ability advances, politicians and bureaucrats modify their understanding of privacy and constitutional freedoms in ways that allow them to use them.
The only thing preventing them from defining these things out of existence entirely is the residual respect for constitutionalism espoused by those in key positions. As I argued last week, the evidence for that respect is already very weak in the next Trump administration.
For this reason, love it or hate it, you must be prepared …
Privacy is your responsibility
No matter who is responsible, the government Always He finds a way to justify new methods of violating our privacy.
For example, the Department of Justice’s legal rationale for monitoring emails and phone calls is based on the old postal letter. When regular mail was property, the courts ruled that any information on the outside of the letter—the addressee, addressee, and place of sending—was in the public domain, and therefore available to government investigators. That’s why the Post Office scans and records every piece of mail in the United States..every day.
This logic now applies to metadata for every call you make and every email you send. And soon it can be applied to your web browsing history as well. I simply don’t trust key Trump appointees to resist this logic. So here’s what I recommend:
- Get Signal and/or WhatsApp for Mobile Messages: Signal is a sophisticated Swiss messaging app that completely encrypts all your text messages. It requires both parties to use it, so it’s not ideal for everything. However, Moxie Marlinspike, founder of Open Whisper Systems, developer of Signal, says there has been a massive expansion of its user base since the election. So you are likely to find more Signalers in your contact list over time. WhatsApp is an alternative that encrypts your messages and VoIP calls. It’s not as secure as Signal because it is owned by Facebook, whose approach to court orders is uncertain, but for normal purposes it will prevent real-time monitoring of your communications.
- Encrypt your computer’s hard drive: Full disk encryption makes the contents of your computer completely incomprehensible to anyone without the password. For example, if you are stopped by Homeland Security when you return to the US, your laptop can be searched before you formally enter the US, but if it is encrypted, there is no law that says you must reveal the password. If you activate it. This is fine for most purposes.
- Get a password manager: Using secure apps and utilities like the ones above means having passwords — lots of them. Do not write it on the palm of your hand. Get a password manager that stores them (encrypted of course) in one place and creates and even changes passwords for you. Personally, I use Dashlane. Other good password managers are 1Password and KeePass. I don’t recommend LastPass, which is another popular one, because it allowed itself to be hacked last year. This is not good enough.
- Use two-factor authentication: Most email clients, cloud storage tools, banking applications, social media, and other sensitive applications these days offer two-factor authentication (TFA). TFA requires that every time you log in, you go through a secondary security layer: a code to enter when logging in that is sent to your phone via text message. Some provide such codes via email, but do not use them. If hackers gain access to your email, they can gain access to your accounts by sending them TFA codes.
- Use HTTPS Everywhere: My friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have developed a browser plug-in for Firefox and Chrome that forces the websites you visit to use the most secure connection protocol. If encryption is available on the site you are visiting, your connection to the site will be encrypted, and you will be protected from various forms of monitoring and hacking during that session.
- Don’t rely on your browser’s “incognito mode” to do things you weren’t supposed to: Browsers like Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge allow you to start a browsing session that doesn’t record anything you did during that session. Any websites visited, cookies downloaded, or other connection statistics will be completely erased upon termination of the session. Thus “private” browsing modes protect you from searches on your computer. But unless you’re connected to an encrypted site (via HTTPS Everywhere, for example), anyone running the site can collect all of your browsing data anyway as it’s logged by the site’s server.
- Use DuckDuckGo for sensitive searches: If you’re not convinced that Google’s “do no evil” mantra is more than a marketing ploy, use DuckDuckGo, an alternative search engine that doesn’t record your searches or anything else about you. It produces great results, so you won’t lose much by using it instead of Google.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN): A VPN is the best all-round protection you can get on the internet, because it encrypts everything you do, including your identity and location. VPNs can be used on both your computers and phones. This matters, because as Eva Galperin, global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says, “Logging on airport Wi-Fi without using a VPN is the unprotected sex of the Internet.” As a bonus, you can also use a VPN to spoof your location and access region-locked streaming content, such as Amazon Prime, when you’re abroad. The only downside is that it slows down your connection a bit. VPNs are provided by specialized hosting companies that charge around $5 per month for the service.
These technologies make some or all of your electronic communications and data immediately invisible to anyone. They use levels of encryption that could take hundreds of years to crack a bank of supercomputers.
When it comes to protecting your privacy, now is the time…because Then Too late.