Years ago in another life, I made my living as a network consultant and administrator. As a professional, I can tell you that security is mostly an illusion and privacy is nonexistent. As an admin, I had complete access to anything electronic from their phones to their laptops and messenger messages. That was 15 years ago and it has only gotten easier. Now there is software that anyone can download and pry into another’s phone and computer. Hacking has almost become a national pastime.
But, let me take a step back. I need to define what security and privacy are on the internet. For the sake of simplicity, security is the ability to keep data safe such as encrypting passwords, credit card information, your home address, privacy is the ability to keep what you are viewing, reading, and doing secure.
The approach to having a secure and private network has always been a plan of having multiple layers of protection.
Just how you lock your doors at night and turn on the alarm, layers. One might be good enough to get the thief checking for an unlocked door but not a determined one willing to break a window to get in.
Now imagine that thief having absolute privacy to do what he wanted to get into your home, he can never get caught, he has all the time in the world to get inside and the government has given him the greenlight.
This is what congress has done by opening your browsing to big business, the thief has been given the keys to your home.
How would you like if some random employee from your internet provider come to your home and pick through your personal papers, taking copies of your medical records, your insurance papers, bank statements and any other personal information they want. Because this is what this new legislation gives them access to. It is not hard to see where this is going.
Already you, can run a credit report and background check on anyone you know. How long before your medical records are available as well? All you need is a name and you can guess the rest.
The best way to protect ourselves is through the use of a VPN. I know some will say, “I don’t care, I’ve nothing to hide.” To those, I can only ask when will you draw the line at Corporatocracy‘s continued intrusion into your private life? Would it be okay for a stranger to walk into your house and paw through your personal papers? This is in fact what they have just been given access to. This means anything you google, view, buy, or browse will be sold to companies so they can control what you see and what they send you. You want to see your medical records online? Talk to your doctor? Well, now business has access to that as well. Nothing you do online will be private.
They can sell this information to other companies, your employer, your enemies and anyone who knows how and where to buy it. If that does not scare you then you are truly lost and deserve the world you are helping to create through your complacency and you have taken citizenship in the Idiocracy.
What can we do about it? We can make it harder for them. Interestingly enough, it’s a simple as taking a few precautions. Just as you would going to your car in an empty parking lot you look around and observe your surrounding. Small habits that have big payoffs.
Most websites start HTTP this is the normal unsecured address. Some browsers like Chrome automatically change this to HTTPS the “S” means secure. This means your connection to the website is encrypted or scrambled so that anyone trying to peek will get a garbage. But this is security, not privacy. Chrome is one of the most secure browsers but it is terrible in privacy as they already know everything you do.
The easiest way is to use a VPN or Virtual Private Network, these have been around for years. They allow a secure and virtual network between you and the sites you access. It’s like having your own private Internet that no one else can snoop. Nothing is 100 % secure and private but this is pretty close and it would take an effort to penetrate.
Some VPNs are free like Startpage.com, though not a true VPN it is a private search engine, ( an alternative to google) that does not track your browsing.
Hide.me, is a free proxy with a paid VPN service. A proxy is a form of VPN where you ask the proxy for something and it asks for you so that the site queried will not know who asked the question. Sort of the “asking for a friend” version of internet browsing.
Don’t go to sketchy websites. This seems like a no-brainer but so many times I’ve heard, “I didn’t do anything. I only clicked a link” well that link then installed a program that infected the network.
Use a better browser, Chrome is secure but not private. The browser Opera has been high on the list of most private browsers. But it lacks some functionality and some websites/features will not work under a private browser. One more point Opera has a new free VPN service.
Or you can go more extreme as I do. I’ve rooted my phone and installed an alternative ROM. This has several advantages, it gets rid of the bloatware that comes with phones including any corporate installed spyware, allows you to install and uninstall any program you don’t want/like/use. The cons are it takes a little skill to do this, it voids your warranty and there is very little support if something goes wrong. Not for the faint of heart, but like life, some of the best things are just that way.
Another thing that I find from the average user is that these things are complicated. You have to dig into the guts of the browser settings to get the most privacy out of them. But as a good start using a secure browser like Opera or Incognito mode in Chrome make it better than leaving your front door wide open.
One thing on paid VPN service, most cost about $70 a year or less, before you balk at the price consider how much you pay for your daily latte addiction and add that up for the month.
Lastly, I’ve included some links to articles that I found useful and to deeper discussions on the topics I’ve touched. If you’d like to see a how-to on a topic or an analysis of a topic, leave your comments below.