The Online Privacy & Anonymity Guide

Privacy Laws Makes All The Difference

If you are worried about your online privacy and want to control what governments, businesses and intelligence agencies know about you, then you need to learn a little about privacy laws. Privacy is a real hot potato and lot of it probably has to do with the events surrounding Edward Snowden in recent years, the so called Snowden effect. Because of this the use of VPN’s has become hugely popular. VPN’s enable secure connections to the internet while protecting and preventing tracking of online activities.

A software security and privacy provider can promise all the privacy and security in the world, but if someone has free access to all of your data, it defeats the purpose. When choosing which software to use for protecting your data, it is important to consider the country the company is based out of.

Why The Location Is Important

What you need to know is that your traffic still has to pass the VPN provider servers where your data may or may not be logged and stored. A VPN provider worth using will have a strict no logging policy. But, the fact that your traffic passes through the VPN servers can be a potential risk because they could be subpoenaed or court ordered to start logging. This applies to all security and privacy software you may be using and it’s why privacy laws are so important. 

Intelligence Alliances

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United states, Denmark, France, Holland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain are part the ”14 eyes” alliance. These are the 14 countries that have agreed to collect, analyse and share intelligence between each other. I recommend staying away from these countries when choosing privacy software if you are serious about your privacy.

Does This Make VPNs Useless?

Absolutely not, but it depends on your threat level situation and what your demands for anonymity are. For most people, privacy laws are not a big concern and if you’re using VPN’s to reap the usual benefits of maintaining online privacy such as bettering your privacy level, accessing streaming sites and P2P torrenting, they do a perfect job. High value targets such as whistleblowers, politicians, celebrities, big business owners and anyone interested in anonymity on the other hand, have to consider the privacy laws of the country where the software providers are located to maintain good anonymity.

What Are The Best Countries When It Comes To Privacy?

Switzerland, Malaysia, Iceland, Romania, Netherlands and Norway are examples of countries that protect data privacy rights. It’s important to always remember that in case of national security matters and serious crime most companies & countries may be enforced by law to provide logs.

What Is The Solution To This Problem?

The answer is encryption. By the use of encryption we can greatly increase the security of our data. This is the only reliable way to secure data to date. Encryption is singlehandedly the most important security measure to protect all critical infrastructures in society. 

The most important lesson to take with you from this guide is that if you are interested in online privacy, security, safety and anonymity, you must know and use encryption.

Encryption is the method of which plain text is turned into what is called cipher text, a message that is scrambled into unintelligibility according to a particular algorithm – a series of well-defined steps that can be followed procedurally. The message can then securely be transported over the internet, picked up by the receiving end where it can be decrypted and reversed back into plain text.

To learn more about encryption check this introductory guide on encryption.

Lets move on,

How Are You Actually Tracked Online?

IP address & MAC address

The most obvious type of tracking is of your IP address. The very nature of how the internet works forces you to reveal your IP every time you make a connection online. Your MAC address is also revealed. This is the unique hardcoded ID number that exist on every single network card in the world, so it really points to your computer. This is why it can be a good idea to buy your computer using cryptocurrency to prevent anyone from knowing that you own that computer, which could be traced back to you through money trail.

Third party website tracking

Every time your browser connects to a website you are not only connected to that single website, as you might think. You are also connected every page that has a link on that website. It can be things such as ads or a facebook ”like” button and they all track you. So, if you ever see a facebook ”like” button link on a page you know that facebook knows that you have visited that site, even if you don’t click it.

HTTP Referer

Every time you click a link on a webpage the browser tells that website where you are directed from. So, if you are on google.com and click a link or ad that takes you to facebook.com, facebook knows that you came from google. All of this is logged and therefor your browsing patterns can be mapped.

Cookies

Whenever you visit a website a little piece of information is stored in your browser called a cookie. Cookies make your browsing experience better because it enables the website to remember things about you and who you are so that you don’t have to log in every time the page is refreshed for example. Third party cookies are possible as well, so when you visit a website, your browser can store cookies from websites that you haven’t even visited. Of course, these small pieces of information are logged and tracked.

Browser fingerprinting

Your browser tells a website a lot of information about your computer to optimise your browsing experience. Things such as available fonts, screen resolution, operating system, location, browser type and plugins that you’re using. This information is of course logged.

Software

Any software that you use are likely to keep logs and report back to its developer, primarily to enable them to find improvements. Even security software such as anti-virus may be tracking you. This is why it is important to use software designed for anonymity and privacy that prevents these types of leaks.

Operating system

The operating system it self is tracking you (unless you are using privacy operating systems such as Trails). Windows and OSX are definitely tracking you by default, even though you can improve privacy manually.

Information Can Be Used To Profile You

Every single piece of information gathered about you and your devices can be put together to create a profile on you. Your browsing habits are very likely to tell someone a lot about what you are interested in, what you do, believe in, relationship status, location, friends & family, colleges and so on. This goes to show the importance of trying to minimise personal identifiable information that your internet browsing normally exposes.

How To Achieve A Very High Level Of Anonymity Online

Cryptocurrency

The first step is to buy your computer anonymously using cryptocurrency. Buy the computer only when connected to the internet through a VPN tunnel and TOR network. This will prevent a money trail leading back to you. This is important because the unique MAC address in your network card will point directly to you.

Physical separation

It’s important to always use two computers. One computer will be used for all your private stuff, such as facebooking and what have you. The other computer is what you are going to use for all your anonymous stuff. It’s extremely important that you don’t cross contaminate.

Tails

Tails is a live-operating system that can be put on a USB drive and booted from there. It’s specifically designed to provide privacy and anonymity. Tails uses Tor as its default browser and forces all internet traffic to go through the Tor network. Tails is configured to not use the computers hard disk and only uses the RAM memory for storage which is automatically emptied every time the computer shuts down. It also includes a lot of great encryption tools such as HTTPS Everywhere which forces secure encrypted browser communication. Always boot tails when engaging in anonymous activities.

Change MAC address

Changing the MAC address is called ”MAC address spoofing” and it allows for one more layer of anonymity. The operating system Tails has this option enabled by default and should always be used when accessing the internet.

VPN

Always connect to the internet using a VPN tunnel. Make sure to use a VPN service located in a country with strong privacy laws. 

TOR

Tor is an anonymising browser that routes all traffic through layers of encryption and servers around the world, which conceals the identity and location of the user. Tails is pre configured for Tor usage. Always connect to the internet using Tor.

DuckDuckGo Search engine

DuckDuckGo is the standard search engine for the Tor browser and is designed with privacy and anonymity in mind. It doesn’t allow for any tracking, no logging of PII’s and it doesn’t give IP addresses away.

Encrypt hard drive

Always encrypt your hard drive. Tails include VeraCrypt that you can use to encrypt your entire hard drive as well as individual files, folders and text. Mac user can use the built in FileVault encryption software and Windows users can use BitLocker.

Pro Tip

Canary Tokens

This is a nifty but powerful little software that allows you to place traps on your computer that automatically alerts you. You can, for example, create a text file that you name ”passwords” and fill with fake information, then you run that file through Canary Tokens which will trig it. Now, whenever anyone is trying to access that file, you will be alerted. Use your imagination and give the files intriguing names. 

Spread the files on your hard drive and don’t be afraid to place them where your most sensitive files are. The point is to find out if someone unauthorised have access to them so that to can take the actions needed from there.

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