Since the introduction and alteration of meta data laws around the world, maintaining privacy has become a very important reality for those who browse online. Contrary to popular belief, it is not simply those who are “up to no good” that need to protect and secure their online identity; it is everyone who should take precaution.
When we discovered the extremely high percentage of people on our email list still using popular free email providers such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo, we realised there are still many “awakened” people who aren’t taking online security seriously.
Aside from the fact that telecommunication providers—including licensed carriers, carriage service providers and internet service providers—are subject to data retention obligations, and evidence that agencies such as the NSA have the ability to hack into cellphone networks and monitor text messages, there are many reasons why using free email providers is not recommended. Yahoo Mail has a very poor track record at securing users private information:
“This is the third major security incident to hit Yahoo Mail in 3 months. In the first incident, announced on September 22, a record 500 million accounts were breached, then the biggest breach in history. Then on October 4, it was revealed that Yahoo had willingly abetted the NSA in conducting indiscriminate mass surveillance on all Yahoo users. Finally, on December 15th, Yahoo shattered its own record by disclosing that over 1 billion accounts had been breached.” (source)
Google asserts that, in principle, if you entrust your personal messages to a third party, you can’t expect that the third party won’t touch any of that information. In a response during a class action lawsuit accusing Google of violating wiretap law when it scans emails to serve up targeted ads, Google said:
“Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS provider in the course of delivery.” (source)
Naturally, we’d prefer our information always remains private and secure, which is why we use a number of different apps, tools, and programs from day to day. You may have wondered where to begin in learning how to protect and secure your online identity. It’s not always easy to navigate what’s out there. In this article, we outline 3 simple ways you can protect and secure your online identity right now.
We recommend you implement these three strategies to tighten up your online personal and business security.
1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Due to data retention and meta data laws, you can be 100% sure that your ISP is spying on you and recording your browsing history. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) ensures you have much more control over your online security.
A VPN allows you to amplify the internet, circumvent censorship, secure your internet connection, and browse anonymously.
Here are 5 reasons to use a VPN:
1. Stay private
Your Internet service provider can see your internet traffic, and probably logs your browsing history.
A VPN scrambles your traffic in an encrypted tunnel so not even your ISP can read it. No monitoring, no logs.
2. Defeat censorship
The websites or services you want to use may be inaccessible from your location.
Your VPN enables access to the free internet from anywhere.
3. Save money
Some online stores show you higher prices if you’re browsing from certain locations.
A VPN lets you browse from different locations to keep you safe from price discrimination.
4. Encrypt everything
Free public Wi-Fi is dangerous. It’s trivially easy for a hacker on the same network to read your personal data.
A VPN encrypts your entire internet connection to protect all your communications, even over unsecured networks.
5. Extend your coverage
You might be protected on one device, but what about your laptop, smartphone, tablet, and game consoles?
Some VPNs gives you apps for all your devices plus support for every major operating system.
When choosing a VPN provider, it’s important to ask what jurisdiction the VPN service is incorporated in and where it is operated from. Many countries, such as the USA and UK have aggressive legislation which could force VPN providers to conduct active surveillance on VPN users on behalf of government agencies.
Our VPN recommendation? Express VPN
- Express VPN is incorporated in, and operates under British Virgin Islands jurisdiction.
- 1,500+ servers in 145 VPN server locations in 94 countries
- Easy-to-use apps for all devices: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, PLUS apps for platforms that other VPN companies don’t support, like Linux and routers
- Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox
- The only provider that unblocks Netflix not just on the VPN, but also using SmartDNS on non VPN–compatible devices such as: Apple TV, PlayStation, Xbox, and smart TVs
- Zero-log, anonymous VPN service
- Best-in-class encryption
- Bypass geo-restrictions to access: Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, BBC iPlayer, iTV, Sky Go (Italy), Rai TV, Crackle, Showtime, Sling TV, FX, NBC, ABC, and more
- Hassle-free unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee
- Ability to pay with Bitcoin
- Cost: $8.32 a month (12 months)
2. Always Use Encrypted Email
As mentioned in the introduction, most popular free email providers such as Google, Yahoo, and Hotmail are bad news. We believe just like mail, email should be private, and secure against cyberattacks. We’re not the only ones who believe this.
A group of scientists, engineers, and developers in Switzerland brought to life their shared vision of protecting civil liberties online. The result? ProtonMail, an easy to use secure email service with built-in end-to-end encryption and state of the art security features.
Protonmail is a gmail-like email system which uses end-to-end encryption, making it impossible for outside parties to monitor.
“We encrypt the data on the browser before it comes to the server…By the time the data comes to the server it’s already encrypted, so if someone comes to us and says we’d like to read the emails of this person, all we can say is we have the encrypted data but we’re sorry we don’t have the encryption key and we can’t give you the encryption key.” (source)
ProtonMail cannot be compelled to perform mass surveillance on their users, nor be compelled to act on behalf of US intelligence. They also utilise end-to-end encryption which means they do not have the capability to read user emails in the first place, so they cannot hand over user email data even if they wanted to. ProtonMail’s servers are housed in Switzerland and remain under the protection of Swiss privacy laws for extra protection (they don’t seize servers or tape conversations—unlike other countries).
Why we love ProtonMail?
End-to-End Encryption – Messages are encrypted at all times
Messages are stored on ProtonMail servers in encrypted format. They are also transmitted in encrypted format between their servers and user devices. Messages between ProtonMail users are also transmitted in encrypted form within their secure server network. Because data is encrypted at all steps, the risk of message interception is largely eliminated.
Zero Access to User Data – Your encrypted data is not accessible to us
ProtonMail’s zero access architecture means that your data is encrypted in a way that makes it inaccessible to them. Data is encrypted on the client side using an encryption key that they do not have access to. This means they don’t have the technical ability to decrypt your messages, and as a result, they are unable to hand your data over to third parties. With ProtonMail, privacy isn’t just a promise, it is mathematically ensured. For this reason, they are also unable to do data recovery. If you forget your password, they cannot recover your data.
Open Source Cryptography – Time-tested and trusted encryption algorithms
We use only secure implementations of AES, RSA, along with OpenPGP. Furthermore, all of the cryptographic libraries we use are open source. By using open source libraries, we can guarantee that the encryption algorithms we are using do not have clandestinely built in back doors. ProtonMail’s open source software has been thoroughly vetted by security experts from around the world to ensure the highest levels of protection.
3. Use An Encrypted Private Messenger App
Text messages are highly popular these days, but we have no control over who reads them. Privacy is possible, and the Signal app makes it easy.
Signal is a free and open source software application for Android, iOS, and Desktop that employs end-to-end encryption, allowing users to send end-to-end encrypted group, text, picture, and video messages, and have encrypted phone conversations between Signal users. Although Signal uses telephone numbers as contacts, encrypted calls and messages actually use your data connection; therefore both parties to the conversation must have Internet access on their mobile devices.
Using Signal, you can communicate instantly while avoiding SMS/MMS fees, create groups so that you can chat in real time with all your friends at once, and share media all with complete privacy. The server never has access to any of your communication and never stores any of your data.
Features of Signal
- Say Anything – Signal uses an advanced end to end encryption protocol that provides privacy for every message every time.
- Open Source – Signal is Free and Open Source, enabling anyone to verify its security by auditing the code. Signal is the only private messenger that uses open source peer-reviewed cryptographic protocols to keep your messages safe.
- Be Yourself – Signal uses your existing phone number and address book. There are no separate logins, usernames, passwords, or PINs to manage or lose.
- Group Chat – Signal allows you to create encrypted groups so you can have private conversations with all your friends at once. Not only are the messages encrypted, but the Signal server never has access to any group metadata such as the membership list, group title, or group icon.
- Fast – The Signal protocol is designed to operate in the most constrained environment possible. Using Signal, messages are instantly delivered to friends.
- Speak Freely – Make crystal-clear voice and video calls to people who live across town, or across the ocean, with no long-distance charges.
It’s not hard to secure your online identity
Yes, it will take a little bit of your time, and you may have to get used to a few different settings and apps. But it’s well worth your trouble. Protecting yourself online is something to take seriously. Download a VPN, setup your encrypted email, and get your Signal private messenger app today.