Protect Yourself from Online Threats and Communication Surveillance

Released:

July 18, 2015

Recently, a lot of online security concerns have surfaced the news and social media. As more people put technology in their pockets, we are more vulnerable from online threats. Internet-related crimes, politically-motivated online attacks, unsolicited data mining, online scams, email offers, and fake websites are some of them. How would you protect yourself?

Online Scams

This includes mere faux websites up to scams that appear to be legitimate at first or legal legal. For the first one, they entice you with deals and gather your personal, credit, and bank details – immediately, mostly without buying anything. They can use the details to use your money under your account. The latter may include online shopping without deliveries, or investments and savings without your money being returned.

  1. Know the company / website by looking up online. Look for the legitimate URL. For example, Mozilla’s website is “https://www.mozilla.org”, not http://www.mozilla.xxx..  Also, “phishing” websites, specially financial ones, have exact visual appearance of the original website and let’s you input your data and be stolen.
  2. Look for reviews so you can verify if the transaction on the website is safe.
  3. When prompted for paying (onlines stores, banks), look for “https” at left side of the address bar. “Https” means you are in secured connection so nobody can eavesdrop on you.  If you are on “http”, possibly the site is a scam.
  4. Seach for third-party authentication sites such as Verisign.  This means that the company behind the website is legitimate and permitted to do online payments usually done in online shops. Whereas, most banks have their own authentication methods, so better look at the URL as we have mentioned above

 

Corporations

Corporations and businesses mostly monitor tracking location, cookies, and personal and financial information. They want to see where you usually relax and shop, or how you spend your money. They, sometimes, get information without your consent. Afterwards, they give you intrusive suggestions and other pop-up ads that you either don’t use or you don’t want at all.

  1. Use “Ad Block”.  As the name implies, it blocks unwanted ads based on a worldwide blacklist database. It is a customizable add-on for major browsers such as Firefox or Chrome.
  2. Always clear cookies.  “Cookies” are data used by websites to remember previous user activity and other information.  It includes login details, online shopping carts, etc. Though cookies are harmless, “tracking cookies” collates your data for year’s and since it collects passwords, it is a threat.  Use you browser’s help to locate your cookies and delete them if you won’t use your computer for a long time.
  3. Use privacy settings to keep your primary information secure.  Social media sites such as Facebook have settings to keep your addresses and numbers safe.  Hiding some keeps you from identity thefts.  Some applications also access your account for marketing purposes including contacts.
  4. Have you experience logging in Google via another computer and wondered you’re your previous search keywords are there?  Some search engines, such as Google, stores all your search and addresses you have searched.  You can delete those by going to https://history.google.com/history/, go to “Remove Items” and select “the beginning of time.
  5. If you have multiple accounts connected across platform, and you are not using it for the long time, delete the account.  Remember that the application provider is still accessing your account information even when you don’t use it.
  6. Turn off your location services, so that they won’t trace you  and bug you with lots of marketing skills. Ssshhhh…

 

Government and Other Groups

Government and other groups carry economic, cultural, and political agenda.  Attacks be either obvious (such as defacing websites) or hidden (e.g. tapping, surveillance).  Obvious attack are mostly carry political propagandas.  Covert operations tend to use high-tech equipment and gathers data without warrant and is military in nature, such as use in intelligence. 

  1. Always use HTTPS, if available. Said above, HTTPS websites are secured and protects your online browsing from eavesdropping  Even the website itself cannot track your movements.  There is an add-on called “HTTPS Everywhere” that activates the secure version of the site, if it supports it.  But some sites are in secure connection by default, such as Gmail.
  2. Use VPN for added privacy and security. Clients such as OpenVPN is free and customizable, while CyberGhost is suitable for newbies.  VPN is a network of computers over the internet that can have two layer of protection. First, when you download a client and install it on your computer, you connect with a network with far-away servers with encryption. So your data is secure over the network. Secondly, if the server is in Munich, Germany, your IP address is also based in the same location, so websites will think that you are in Munich.
  3. Turn off data and wifi connection, and possibly your phone when not in use. Doing so may prevent you from being traced using internet data from your phone combines with data from the A-GPS.   Tapping is also eliminated.
  4. Encrypt, encrypt, and encrypt your files. We encrypt because we want to protect our data from others who want to access them without your consent. Encryption only decrypts with the correct “key”.  You can encrypt your smartphones, hard drives, or files.  Most smartphones have built-in device encryption (passwords), but you can download apps that may require administrative access that encrypt devices and files. For PCs, files can also be encrypted by compressing it, using Winrar or 7-Zip. It has relatively strong compression since the data are greatly scrambled. For drive encryption, you use Truecrypt for Windows and Linux that uses several algorithms making a tough defense.  Lastly, you can combine some encryption methods. For example, you can compress the file with password and encrypt the drive again with Truecrypt.  A lot of encryption software are available but make sure to do review first. And oh, did I say keep your password?
  5. Keep your (very) important information offline. Do not put it on the cloud and anywhere on the internet as thieves are on the prowl mining precious data.
  6. Watch your software.  Recently, Google Chrome has an add-on readily activated that turns on your mic and records anything that it intercepts. Other companies, such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google has partnership with National Security Agency to gather data and mass surveillance under the SIGINT Program.
  7. Use alternatives. There are a lot of freeware that offers no spyware and adware.
    1. For browsers, you can use Firefox. It’s fast, open, free, and has none of the commercial backlog that other browsers have – so it IS really secure.
    2. Duckduckgo.com is a search engine that don’t leave your track or your search history. Unlike others that back-up your keystrokes to your account and retrieve it later (or other people may retrieve it), duckduckgo.com does not store away anything from you.
    3. For operating systems, we suggest the Linux-based Ubuntu! It is lightweight, fast, free, and has no spywares and adware. It has a lot of free downloadable applications secured in packages that carries no viruses.

 

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READ MORE:

http://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2013/0612/Five-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-government-surveillance

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-12668552

http://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2013/0612/Five-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-government-surveillance/Try-Tor

http://fossbytes.com/duckduckgo-search-traffic-grows-by-600-after-nsa-leaks/

http://lifehacker.com/5940565/why-you-should-start-using-a-vpn-and-how-t...

http://www.techworm.net/2015/06/google-chrome-secretly-downloads-an-audio-listener-to-your-pc-that-can-snoop-on-you.html

http://www.extremetech.com/computing/208755-new-snowden-docs-reveal-nsa-british-government-attacked-antivirus-companies

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2015/06/why_we_encrypt.html

https://getschooled.com/dashboard/article/1404-tips-on-managing-your-onl...

http://theantimedia.org/carey-wedler-google-installs-spying-software-users-computers-without-permission/#st_refDomain=www.facebook.com&st_refQuery=

http://www.cp-union.com/article/2015/07/08/communications-surveillance-philippines-laws-and-struggle-right-privacy

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/05/19/data-pirates-caribbean-nsa...