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13 August, 2013

9 tips to guard your online security and privacy

Get control over your online privacy.
These nine tips will help you manage your Internet privacy and improve your online security.

As a journalism consultant I often train reporters who routinely work in environments where their communications are monitored. This list includes some, but not all, of the practical protections that investigative reporters need to be able to do their work.

Most people just want to know how their data is collected and be given the option to opt-out or opt-in for this activity. So let's begin there.

1. Use the Chrome Web browser  . . . and these extensions
. . . and install these extensions to begin to gain control over your privacy again. Chrome is my current favorite for modifying with extension. I am also monitoring custom builds of of other browsers that promise greater privacy protection from the start.

2. Referer Control
Don't let Web sites know where you came from

After installing the extension you will have to adjust the settings and rules. For the strongest protection, just set the tool to BLOCK all. 

Use encryption everywhere
Visiting the unencrypted versions of Web sites puts you and your data at risk.

3. HTTPS Everywhere
Install this extension to force a secure (HTTPS) connection everywhere it is possible.

See and gain control over ad trackers and scripts - particularly social media sites.

4. Ghostery
This extension shows you the invisible Web: When you visit a site, the information about Ad beacons, trackers and questionable scripts will be revealed to you. 

Get granular control over every Web site you visit.

5. Scriptsafe
Install this plug if you want to block or allow certain Web sites to have your data. You also gain granular control over exactly which of their tracking servers and scripts you will allow.

Be aware, that this app really works and block javascripts from sites until you allow or trust them to run. This is a real privacy tool and some patience will be needed to get the most out of it.

6. Use TOR 
When journalists are living and communicating with sources in repressive regimes, they really have to be secure and untraceable. Experts are recommending that journalists use TOR and then a VPN to keep their location and data anonymous and secure.

Use TOR browser and TOR network

You have to install a customized secure browser on your computer and follow the guidelines to avoid detection. It is limited and only useful for certain types of online activity.

7. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
A VPN lets you log into the Internet from different locations around the world. For example you could be in California, but actually be arriving to the Web from a  server in Sweden. The VPN hosts have servers in may locations worldwide. 

Of course, you can use a VPN without TOR to gain control over where you access the Internet. A VPN is handy if you need to bypass censors or visit Web sites blocked by the state. e.g. Use a VPS if you want to use Skype while staying in the UAE.

The only way a VPN provider can guarantee its users’ complete anonymity is if it keeps no records of their activities which they may later be required to hand over to the authorities or copyright infringement enforcers. 

Here is a list of the best VPN service providers.

Ad blockers and clutter elimination
The Ad-blocker™ extensions might seem like a logical choice when searching, but recent reports indicate that companies like Google actually pay Ad-Blocker to bypass their safeguards. 

So what do I use?

I use the Stylish extension and install ad-free styles of Web sites that use intrusive advertising techniques.

8. Stylish Extension

Custom styles

Finally here is a G-mail ad blocker extension for those of you who are creeped out by seeing hyper-personalized ads appearing in your private e-mail box.