Privacy

Top 5 Privacy Tools You Can Use To Protect Yourself Online

in Features/Privacy
Privacy Tools

In 2020, privacy tools are more important than ever.

The status quo of digital privacy continues to deteriorate due to the increase in demand for user data, an essential part of the monetization practices of big tech firms. The rush for user data means that every single activity online is being tracked and monitored to serve you with personalized ads.

In this guide, you will find a range of privacy tools and applications that can help you to protect yourself in today’s digital world. We have split them into five groups.

Privacy Browsers

Privacy browsers offer advanced privacy options beyond just incognito or private modes provided by mainstream browsers. Here are some privacy browsers you may want to try:

Tor

The Tor protocol is an important and unique tool for people who value their privacy. Tor is an open-source onion router that has been in existence since 1990.

It was initially built by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to protect U.S. intelligence communications on the internet. It later got released to the public as the Tor project, which includes the Tor Browser and Tor Software.

Tor protects you from traffic analysis. This tracking technique is used to monitor your path on the internet to track your interest and behavior online.

You can access Tor through the Tor browser, which is a multi-purpose application that gives you a direct connection to the Tor network without third party applications.

Brave

Brave is an open-source browser with high-level ad-tracking controls. The development team behind brave is active and releases updates frequently.

Currently, Brave blocks cookies, ads, and adds https connections to all sites you visit. What’s more, Brave also includes cryptocurrency reward options, which makes it different from other privacy browsers.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

privacy applications

Arguably, the most popular way of protecting your IP is through a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs create encryption on your device that hides your IP address when you visit a web site.

This method is not always entirely secure as some VPN service providers keep logs of sites you visit as well as your IP address.

VPNs can be free or paid. Thankfully, paid VPN options are not very expensive, with lots of options to choose from.

Here are VPNs you could try out:

Encrypted Communication 

The usage of unencrypted email and instant platforms compromises your privacy. Service providers in this sector also scan messages for content that predicts user behavior and interests.

Consequently, your messages on most platforms are not entirely private and may get into the hands of bad actors. To ensure safer communication on the internet, privacy tools like Signal and ProtonMail are useful.

Signal

Signal is a mobile messaging platform known for its privacy features. Unlike most messaging applications that require you to enable secret/encrypted chat to have private conversations, Signal is encrypted by default.

The platform also introduced the cryptography tool used in most messaging platforms for disappearing messages; a feature Signal has had for a while.

Further, Signal is lightweight and has always stood its ground when pushed by pressure groups to give out user data.

ProtonMail

ProtonMail is a private email service provider that allows you to send emails in an encrypted environment.

Moreover, ProtonMail allows you to set up an account without giving away any personal information. The email platform is available on the web, iOS, and Android.

Privacy Search Engines

Privacy search engines allow you to find information on the web without tracking. If you already have a VPN, you might not need a privacy search engine. Some of these search engines provide great privacy tools for free.

Some of the best privacy search engines include:

StartPage

For a long while, StartPage was the default search engine on the Tor browser. StartPage shows search results based on the results from more than one traditional search engine.

Also, StartPage comes with a feature called Anonymous View. This allows you to visit websites you find via the search engine in a private window that blocks cookies and ads.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is the more popular among the two privacy search engines in this list. You can search for information without tracking from big names like Google and Yahoo by using DuckDuckGo.

The quality of search results is still maintained because results on DuckDuckGo are obtained based on Google’s search results. DuckDuckGo also ensures that most connections you make with websites are encrypted.

Password Managers

Finally, password managers allow you to create secure accounts across the internet. A protected account means less possibility of hacks and information leaks. This utility makes password managers good privacy tools.

A password manager stores all your important information from usernames and passwords to bank details and loyalty schemes. These applications also auto-fill forms on your behalf, provided you have already saved the information.

Here are some of the best password managers

If you want to learn more about digital privacy, check out our guide “How to Protect Your Privacy Online in 2020”.

What Is Domain Privacy And Do You Need It?

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Domain Privacy

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an organization that governs domain names, has certain requirements when registering a domain. Some personal information of the domain owner is required and made available to the public. Any Internet user can access this information for that particular domain on WHOIS records. Some of those data include name, email address, residential address, phone number, and other information. However, there is a system that can shield this information from being available to the public: domain privacy. It helps to hide the information linked to your domain name in the WHOIS database.

In this article, we discuss what domain privacy is and whether you should enable it for your website.

What is Domain Privacy?

To register a domain name, some information is required by the domain registrar to report to a public record. This public record is called a WHOIS database. It contains personal information about domain owners, which can be accessed by the public on the Internet.

If a domain owner does not want these details to be public, the domain registrar provides a privacy protection service.

Domain privacy – commonly called WHOIS privacy – is an “add on” privacy protection service offered by a domain name registrar.

The domain name registrar replaces your name, email address, phone number and other information you provided with details of a forwarding service. This process protects your data from the prying eyes of strangers.

Do You Need Domain Privacy?

what is domain privacy

As a domain owner or a person who wants to get a domain name, you might need domain privacy. Without it, some of your personal information would be available to strangers and, potentially, hackers. These people could freely pull up your details on the WHOIS database. However, making a small investment in your privacy as a website owner could help out here.

Also, there is almost no other way around masking your domain details online aside for paying for this service. In the first place, you can only register a domain with your authentic information. The domain registrar often verifies the information you provide during registration. Other options available could turn out to be a fake service or against Internet rules, which could reduce the value of your site.

With the understanding of what domain privacy is, buying this service will depend on what you want. Nonetheless, this service is optional but could be beneficial to you.

The Service Could Offer the Following Benefits:

  1. Prevention of Domain hijacking
  2. Prevention of direct contact from unwanted marketers, hackers, and spammers
  3. Protection of your email from unwelcome messages sent
  4. Protection against identity theft
  5. Prevents the possibility of the sale of your personal data

Having domain privacy is not mandatory since it’s not an issue for large business owners that can make their contacts available to their clients.

However, small businesses or individuals can easily encounter identity theft issues, spammers, and unwelcome marketers. So, they would probably benefit from opting for more privacy.

How to Use ‘Pretty Good Privacy’ (PGP) Encryption to Communicate Privately Online

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pretty good privacy

Communicating securely and privately online has never been more important than today where personal data is being harvested by governments and corporations to the detriment of the individual. Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption is a technology that makes it possible to send and receive information securely and privately online.

PGP is a free and open encryption technology available to the public for encrypting, decrypting, signing, and verifying files and messages. So far, the technology has proven difficult to crack.

Below, you will find a simple guide to Pretty Good Privacy, including how it works, setting it up in a few minutes, and how to send your first encrypted message.

How Does PGP Encryption Work?

PGP Encryption

PGP helps to safeguard data on email systems, computers, hard drives, removable media, files, and even cloud-based applications.

This digital data encryption software was developed by Phil Zimmermann, a cryptographer and director at Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) from 1997-2000.

A simplified process of how PGP works for sending an encrypted email:

  • Create a message as a sender
  • Encrypt your message using the public key of the recipient
  • Send your encrypted message through whichever email server
  • The recipient or receiver decrypts your encrypted message with a private key, which then enables them to read the message.

Now, the process outlined above is a general overview. The PGP software comes in several variations: OpenPGP, PGP, and GPG.

PGP: Pretty Good Privacy, the initial proprietary protocol, was released in 1991. It comes at a fee since Symantec Corp. acquired PGP Corp., the company who held the rights to the PGP code.

Symantec developed a variety of encryption products based on the PGP code including Symantec Information Centric Encryption, Endpoint Encryption, Symantec Desktop Email Encryption, File Share Encryption, and Gateway Email Encryption

OpenPGP: An open-source version which has become a universally-accepted PGP standard was developed in 1997.

GPG: GNU Privacy Guard (GPG) is an independent implementation of the OpenPGP standards. That means you can use it to send and receive encrypted messages from people using other OpenPGP applications.

However, what is standard in each of this encryption standard is the use of public and private keys. Though, the algorithm used to implement encryptions depends on the solution.

What is a Private And a Public Key?

PGP key

A private key allows you to decrypt the messages sent to you. Private keys can also be used to generate file signatures. File signatures are used to authenticate identity and prove that a message is complete. A private key must never be shared with anyone.

A public key enables you to encrypt a message. Your public key can be made public so that others can send messages to your address.

How Do You Set Up PGP?

One of the most recommended PGP encryption software is Gpg4win. Gpg4win is the official distributor of GPG for Windows operating systems.

For MacOS, you can get GPGTools. It is a paid package that has an email plugin for Apple Mail, a service to use GPG in almost any application, a key manager and an engine to use GPG with the command line. Other options include Canary Mail, Mutt, and Enigmail.

To use PGP on Linux, you can opt for Seahorse, Kleopatra, Mutt or Enigmail.

PGP

To provide an example of how to send a private message using PGP, we will use Gpg4win to explain the process of creating public and private key pairs and sending an encrypted email.

Step 1: Download Gpg4win. Then double click the executable package and begin the installation. The installation procedure is similar to other software.

Step 2: During installation, you would be asked to choose the components you want to install. Using the default options is recommended here.

Step 3: After installing GPG4win, you need to launch Kleopatra, one of the components you installed in Step 2. It is the graphical front-end for the software. You can find the Kleopatra program inside the GPG4win installation file.

Step 4: Inside Kleopatra, click on ‘New Key Pair’ to create your public and private keys. A box would show for you to enter your name and email address.

Step 5: Click “Next” after inputting the required data in Step 4; you would be taken to another window to review the information for the key pairs (public and private keys). Press the ‘Create Key’ button after review. After that, you would be prompted to create a strong passphrase that would allow you to access your messages. Ensure you keep the passphrase safe.

Once you forget the passphrase, it cannot be recovered. That means encrypted data and emails will be inaccessible.

Step 6: The application would give you the opportunity to backup your public key, send it by email or upload it to a directory email service.

Step 7: To encrypt your first message: click on ‘Clipboard’, then ‘Encrypt in Kleopatra’. An empty box would pop up where you can paste your message and also add recipients.

You would need to add the public key of the recipient of your message. You could either check for the person’s public key on a key server by going to ‘File’ then ‘Lookup Certificates on Server’ or ask the recipient to send you their public key, which you could then import into Kleopatra.

Step 8: Once you have added a recipient, click ‘Next’, and the encryption process will take place. Copy and paste your message to a word processor after encryption; you would only see a bunch of gibberish. You can then send this encrypted message through any email server to the recipient.

pretty good privacy

Only the owner of that public key can decrypt your message with their own private key. The receiver would follow almost the same process for encryption to decrypt the message.

That is how you can send a secure, private message to anyone across the globe using PGP encryption!

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