A little while ago I wrote a post on the dangers of public WiFi, and received a number of requests for tools that can be used to protect your privacy, both when mobile and while at home. This post will detail some of the tools that I use in order to use the web in privacy.
First things first is to use secure protocols. The most common of which is HTTPS. The S at the end of HTTPS indicates that the protocol is secure, and this in turn shows up in your browser. If you are browsing to any website on a public Wifi, I’d recommend that you check that the padlock is present.
HTTPS is not the only protocol your computer uses, things like e-mail clients and third party apps can use other methods of communication. It is important that these communications are set to secure protocols. For e-mail, many service providers will be able to assist you in enabling these (if your service provider is not able to provide you with secure means of connecting, I would reconsider your provider).
For example, if you have your email hosted with Hetzner, they provide a complete guide for enabling secure e-mail on their platform. For other applications, check out the settings pages to see what is available.
Tools and Add-ons
For folks who carry laptops with them through airports, coffee shops and so on, there are numerous tools and add-ons you can install to protect your privacy while browsing. Three tools that I use are listed below.
HTTPS Everywhere is a tool available from the EFF (not the political party in South Africa, rather the Electronic Frontier Foundation). The EFF is a non-profit organisation for online privacy and freedom of speech.
HTTPS Everywhere ensures that you are using HTTPS for all sites you visit by either forcing your browser to use the protocol, or blocking the browsing to an insecure site.
Part of your online privacy arsenal should be that of a password manager, which in turn allows you to have a different password for every service you use. This way, if a particular site or credential is breached, you only risk someone gaining access to one site. If you use the same password on multiple sites, it is easy for a hacker to gain access to much more of your information and identity.
1Password manages your passwords for you, and while there is a bit of a learning curve (and a small cost associated), in the end you only need to remember a single password for your repository – 1Password remembers (and generates) the rest. It even includes an integration into haveibeenpwned.com in order to check whether any of your passwords may have been breached during a hack or leak.
1Password works seamlessly across Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.
Privacy Badger is another tool available from the EFF. Privacy Badger installs into your browser (Opera, Firefox, Chrome or Firefox for Android) and learns to block advertising and third-party trackers that may be monitoring your online activity. You can read more about Privacy Badger here.
A Note on VPNs
Lastly, there are numerous VPN tools out there for connecting via a secure tunnel. Effectively, these services created an encrypted pipeline that all your internet traffic is routed through – creating an encrypted barrier on any public WiFi.
If you are working in corporate, chances are you’ll have a VPN to the company already – ask your IT department to configure this for you. If you are not from a corporate background, there are still tools available (at a cost).
While there are numerous cost effective (read: cheap) VPN providers out there, they are not all created equal. Many of these providers have been found to be tracking the users without consent, or worse retaining data that passes through them. Do your homework when investing in one of these services, given online reviews I would recommend NordVPN or the newly released WebRoot WiFi Security.
If you have any further concerns about your or your employees’ online privacy, reach out for a coffee. I’d be glad to meet up and help you up your online privacy game!