If you feel paranoid about online surveillance, there are ways you can significantly shrink your cyber presence so that it’s more difficult and expensive for anyone and even big intelligent agencies to monitor your online activities.
1. End-to end Encryption
This tactic encrypts your data from the beginning point of communication to the receiving end. The tool of choice for you and your message-recipients to install is OTR (off-the-record) messaging. This start-to-finish encryption will keep snoopers in the dark.
2. Maximal Encryption
If you can’t do end-to-end, at least encrypt as many communications as possible. This can be done with EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere browser add-on for Firefox or Chrome. It maximizes amount of data that you protect by making Web sites encrypt Web pages when possible. Encrypt your USB flash drive with TrueCrypt.
3. Encrypt Hard Drive
Latest versions of Macs, Windows, Android and iOS have ways to encrypt local storage. Turn this on so that anyone who uses your computer can’t copy its contents.
4. Strong & long Passwords
Forget short, easy to remember passwords like the name of your pet. Make them very long—all passwords. A password manager will eliminate having to remember a bunch of super long passwords. Diceware.com will help you create an unforgettable, strong master password.
5. Virtual private network software
Unencrypted data is highly vulnerable to prying eyes. Use a virtual private network (VPN); this ensures that all online transactions (e.g., filling out forms, downloading, shopping) are secured through HTTPS.
Hotspot Shield VPN is free and reliable, available for Mac, PC, Android and iPhone. This service also encrypts all mobile data and protects the user’s identity. VPNs can also be used for visiting sites you don’t trust much.
6. Use Tor
Installation and use of Tor will conceal your origins from mass and corporate surveillance. Giants like the NSA do not like Tor, and there’s a reason for that; it works.
7. Two-step authentication
This involves typing in a password and then a routinely altered confirmation number to protect against attacks on cloud and Web services.
8. Never click Attachments
Your computer can be hijacked when you click on a link sent via e-mail—a link accompanied by a hyped up message that’s designed to get you emotional rather than logical. Tell your friends and family to send you information in text whenever possible. If they must send a file, double check that it’s really from them.
9. Don’t open Emails with a blank Subject Line
An e-mail with a blank subject line may be an innocent lapse in judgment from a person you know, but the blank subject line is also a possible sign of a virus attack waiting for you if you open the e-mail.
If you receive blank subject lines apparently from someone you know, send a message to the sender by creating a new message and asking if they just sent something. Require everyone you know to fill in the subject line.
10. Anti-virus, updated software
Make sure your computer has anti-virus software and that it’s always kept up-to-date.
11. Be an ally
Teach others all you know about hiding online. Even install for others tools like Tor. Ask them to sign up for Stop Watching Us to guard against mass spying. Throw a “cryptoparty.”
12. Offline data
Keep your most secret data written down in a notebook and place where nobody would think to search for it.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.