There are online spies who are peeping into your GPS coordinates in addition to tracking where you shop, what sites you visit and even what you say on social media groups and websites. If you are afraid that someone might hack into your personal life through online tools, here are some websites that can help you.
Signal: This provides end to end encryption and is the safest messaging service to opt for. Endorsed by privacy advocate Edward Snowden, experts swear by Signal as it’s open source unlike WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, Viber or WeChat. If you are looking for conversing with someone on phone or message them, Signal is the best mobile app to use.
Internet browsers: There are many privacy browsers offering anonymity on the web like Brave, Epic, Tor and Opera. However, we find that some of these sites break the sites, don’t play flash videos and so on. In such circumstances, it’s best to use Mozilla for desktops and Firefox Focus for mobile phones. In addition to downloading Mozilla on desktop, also install the following add-ons for added safety: uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger (or Ghostery) and HTTPS Everywhere. These will prevent tracking and advertisements on all the pages you visit. These browser extensions are better than using the Incognito Mode in Chrome browser or InPrivate mode in Internet Explorer. This is because when you are looking up for something urgently, you might forget to open the separate window for browsing privately. However, there is another issue with this. It saves you from advertisers and sites tracking you, but your IP address is not hidden from these sites, so your identity can still be revealed. Which is why, enabling the browsers mentioned above are a better bet to keep your digital footprints private. If you are journalist or a whistle blower, the best option is to route all traffic through the Tor browser. While it’s not good for regular browsing, it’s great for transferring confidential data. Just remember not to install any browser plugins when using Tor and always access secure sites that have the ‘https’ prefix. Don’t torrent using Tor and don’t open documents while using Tor. Do it after you are done with your Tor session.
VPN: Virtual Private Networks can hide your IP address but choose the VPNs carefully. Some are known to store user activity while others don’t. Just google and you will come across many VPNs whose operations were not so legal. While some sites recommend certain VPNs, we would not like to recommend any one name as things are quite fluid in this space. But having a VPN is still good, though you need to know that your activity is being routed through their network – which means, someone could be snooping on you without your knowledge and storing all your logs. Tor browser with a VPN is way better too, if you are paranoid about privacy. But know this. There is no bulletproof remedy to ensuring your privacy, but these should prevent most security violations.
You can change your search engine from Google to DuckDuckGo that doesn’t track your activity. However, for some searches Google is better, so you can mix and match. Another good way is to use two kinds of browsers. For non-critical, you can use your Gmail ID. For critical use, use another browser and ensure that you don’t login to your email ID service provider, because then it becomes easier for them to track your location, computer, and so on.
Just like VPNs, there’s the DNS (Domain Name System) providers. Quad9 is one such service. Run by IBM, if you trust their oath that they will not log your activity, you can go ahead and change your DNS configuration to the one they ask you to use. This will ensure that your desktop/laptop will not follow the logging and tracking policies of your internet service provider.
There are people-finder services that will erase all the data publicly available on the internet for a fee. One of the foremost such companies is DeleteMe. This service is protecting you by erasing all the data gathered by people-finder firms like Spokeo, White Pages and BeenVerified. You would be amazed at the amount of information they could contain: your marital status, contacts and addresses of your near and dear ones, the properties you own, the court cases you have, your Amazon and Flipkart wishlist, your place of work, the places you visited, and so on. These services are being used by private investigators, the cops and the journalists in addition to every other person who has a vested interest in you.
If you don’t want to pay agencies like DeleteMe and Reputation Defender, you could use their free tools and erase all the public data yourself – however, some data will be impossible to delete. If you want to ensure that your smartphone is not being used to locate you, and even record your phone conversations and capture your video imagery, it’s best to stick to a basic phone with no internet access. However, if you think you can just erase all your social media profiles and feel more safe, it can just be a false sense of safety. Nothing ever gets deleted. Someone somewhere, like a people-finder firm, would have already scraped that data off you. Similarly, though Aadhaar is not compulsory anymore, you can’t undelete the data you have already shared. Even if you have deleted your Aadhaar, the data might still be residing with some company that might be sharing it with anyone who has money to pay to influence elections, customer buying behaviour or worse, identity theft. Another way to ensure that your dependents don’t suffer in case of your unfortunate death is to sign up for an account with SecureLifeVault. It’s your digital vault with bank-level security for all documents your dependents need to have after you are gone. Most people don’t plan their inheritance, but it’s time you did after reading this blog post. Do your family a favour. Now.