Many of you may have read in the news about the US government’s tracking of your internet and phone activities. Some of you may use the common refrain, “I don’t do anything illegal, why should I care?” I am interested in security and privacy. My business has revolved around this from building fences to installing locks and modifying current locks and doors to increase security, and by way of increasing security, increase privacy.
My interest in secuirty and privacy extends to computers, and I am going to share a few tips on how to increase your security and privacy on your computer in the next few paragraphs.
Obviously you want to install a password on your computer, and probably want to install a password on your screensaver as well. This makes it impossible for somebody to easily get your data if they break into your house and your computer is running. To further improve this security aspect, have your computer housed in a desk that locks shut, and buy a computer case that has a locking door. Also put a password in your BIOS. And when you leave, lock your doors and windows.
To further improve your security, consider encrypting your home directory. All of the major operating systems offer this feature. This means that if somebody takes your hard drive home with them after a break-in, they can’t recover any data that was in your home directory without attempting to crack your password (you did pick a password with letters, numbers, and symbols in it, right?)
Use a different password for every website that has your personal information. For forums or websites where you don’t care if somebody steals your password, use the same password but use a fake name. Keep all of your passwords stored in a password keeper program like keepass. Save your passwords in firefox but put an administrator password on your passwords that is difficult.
Put a password on your router and make sure it is wpa or wpa2 and has letters, numbers, and symbols. There are rainbow tables for l33tsp3@k so don’t trust that. Make sure that you install a scriptblocker like noscript and disable third party cookies.
Now that everything is encrypted and password protected, you may want to consider installing a proxy if you are concerned about google et al. knowing where you are browsing to. Installing tor is a great way to anonymize what you are reading. Install tor and then install foxyproxy in firefox and then run the tor wizard. Then browse away. One caveat: if you use tor, the NSA will automatically be barking up your tree. The NSA probably also runs a few tor exit nodes as well out of interest in what people are using anonymous proxies in the USA for.
Don’t use smartphones. They record everything you do and everywhere you go. If you want to be private, use a dumbphone at the very least, and preferably use a landline only. Who knows, all the warnings about testicular cancer and brain cancer from cellphone use may turn out to be true and then you would be ahead of the game. If you do buy a smartphone, register a new email address with it that you don’t trust, and use cash when you buy a phone plan that is month to month, like simplemobile. If you want to be really really private, buy the burner app and buy a new phone number to give out.
Don’t use social media like facebook and tumblr. These are made to track you. There is a reason you don’t pay for them: you are the product. Your information is sold to advertisers to fund the expensive bandwidth and maintenance of these websites. My rinkydink website hardly anybody visits costs a fair amount a month, so I hate to know what facebook pays per month for bandwidth.
If you follow all of this advice, the NSA will most likely be very interested in your behaviour. If a lot of us follow this advice, the NSA will have difficulty tracking us. They may remedy this situation by increasing their budget from congress but free software programmers will no doubt up the ante by releasing new and better tools for maintaining your privacy and security. Good luck with maintaining these hard-to-find and disappearing facets of a free country.