Easy Internet Privacy

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For most people,
technology is like a car — they just want to use it, they don't
want to be an engineer.

Here, I'm going
to cherry pick the easiest and most useful ways I know to communicate
and use the internet privately. My earlier article "Practical
Internet Privacy
" was pretty low-tech; this one is as close
to no-tech as possible.

Techies might
quibble, but useable low to medium strength privacy is better than
none. Also, the "security through obscurity" factor should
not be dismissed — who is going to spend hours hacking your difficult
but not impregnable email?

But I will
also add some easy but optional extra strength privacy tips where
relevant.

Anything from
your home broadband carries with it the internet equivalent of Caller
Line ID, so one privacy key is to make use of the many open, free
Wi-Fi "hotspots." Or, along with a disposable prepaid
SIM card, you can even have your own mobile Wi-Fi hotspot
(alt.).
There is some info at the end on how to use your home internet privately.

Easy Voice
Call Privacy

For
easy call privacy get an iPod Touch, the brand
new model
is just
over $200 and has a built in microphone —
optional earphones
with remote and mic

are under $20.

Then, choose
one or both of these apps:

  • With the
    free Skype app, you can call other Skype users privately and
    with "SkypeOut" credit, call regular numbers. But
    first, set up a new Skype username — preferably not from your
    home internet. Luxembourg-based Skype may or may not be able
    to piggyback a username to monitor calls, but otherwise your
    call is private.

  • The "Acrobits
    Softphone
    " app is about $10 at the iTunes store ("Bria"
    is a good app too).

With this,
you can make and receive regular phone calls, but you will also
need an internet phone account — the voice equivalent of an email
provider (try Link2Voip).
You can then make outgoing calls, but a regular "Direct Inward
Dial" (DID) phone number is usually an optional extra — or
try a free IPKall number
to start.

Instead of
an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad, you could also use a laptop and headset.
To do this, both Mac and Windows users can install the free Zoiper
Classic
"soft-phone" and/or Skype.

Or,
want something private but zero-tech for Skype only? Get an Ipevo
Skype Wi-Fi phone
,
just punch in your new Skype username and sit in a quiet corner
of any internet cafe.

Extra Strength
Privacy Tips
:

  • Create a
    new iTunes account and register the iPod Touch anonymously by
    using iTunes vouchers

  • Use generic
    personal info when signing up
  • Sign up
    to the call provider
    using a money order
  • Buy SkypeOut
    credit privately using PayByCash.com.

Easy Document
Privacy

This is really
easy, in just three or four clicks. First, you need to pre-share
a password with the recipient, and then all you need is a secure
"file archiving" program.

For Windows,
first install the free program 7-Zip.
Then just right click on a document: Move the cursor to "7-Zip,"
click "Add to Archive," choose Archive Format>Zip and
under Encryption enter your password — or just follow this easy
video tutorial
. Clicking OK will create a very secure, password
protected "zip" file.

For Windows
recipients only, choosing "7z" for the archive format
and ticking "Create SFX Archive" will create a self contained
file — so no unzip software is needed at the other end, just the
password.

Mac users can
also read and create secure zip archives by using BetterZip
or the free CleanArchiver.

Extra Strength
Privacy Tip
: Choose "AES-256" encryption type — impregnable
but less compatible.

 

Easy Email
Privacy

One way to
privately pre-share a password by email is to use the answer to
a question you both know, but others would not.

You could then
just email one of the above secure zipped documents as an attachment
— but in order to stay completely off the record, use what is called
an email "dead drop":

First create
a new free webmail account, preferably with a secure email provider
in another country. (Try Mailvault,
Hushmail, PrivacyHarbor).

Then, instead
of sending an email, you can both access the same email address
— saving drafts or editing the same draft. A new password can be
suggested at any time, for the other person on their next login
to implement. When the email/draft exchange is over, the last one
out deletes everything.

Extra Strength
Privacy Tips
:

  • Password
    protected documents can also be transferred as attachments via
    an email dead drop.
  • Some webmail
    services can list previous login details, to easily spot an intruder.

Easy Surfing
Privacy

Airports, military
bases and other public internet facilities often spy on users and/or
block websites — especially hotbeds of dissent like LewRockwell.com.

One easy way
round this is to use a website translation service like Bing Translator.
By translating both from English and to English, the target site
is fully accessible, but only the translator's web address is visited.
For example, here
is LRC
.

Easy Online
Shopping Privacy

Just create
a new Amazon account using widely available Amazon
Gift Vouchers
and personal info of your choice — only, make
sure the physical address works…. and don't look surprised when
the delivery guy asks for John Smith…

Easy Home
Internet Privacy

The idea is
simple — a bit like making a telephone call to your work switchboard
from home and having them call a third party and then patching you
through.

Your home
phone bill shows only a call to the switchboard; the third party
caller ID shows only a call coming from the switchboard; the switchboard
phone bill shows only a call to the third party. To mix it up further,
lots of others are using the switchboard at the same time.

A "VPN"
(Virtual Private Network) is a private internet switchboard — you
stay invisible because all your activity goes through this, making
you appear to be coming from the VPN location.

On an iPhone,
iPad, or iPod Touch there's no need even to install software, as
it's already built in. On a regular computer, the VPN provider's
instructions will make it easy.

You will need
to pay for a subscription. Try Perfect-Privacy
— they are tried and trusted, have servers all over the world, keep
no logs, and the service will work with the iTouch/iPhone/iPad as
well as computers. Or, try Cryptohippie
with their businesslike customer service — though for regular computers
only.

Extra Strength
Privacy Tip
: Just like getting a phone number from directory
enquiries, the internet has what is called a "Domain Name System"
(DNS). Choose a VPN service that has a solution to the "DNS
leaks" that can reveal sites you visit on Windows, Linux and
sometimes Mac computers.

Final Thoughts:

Using either
a public Wi-Fi hotspot or a VPN service means you won't leave a
trail to your door when using the internet.

Every once
in a while, to illustrate a point in answer to a privacy question,
I have taken a couple of minutes to ID an email sender. They are
usually shocked when I tell them their workplace, their home address
and their age, as well as their friends and interests. It doesn't
even require special tools, just an internet search starting with
the unique home internet number or "IP address" embedded
in their email.

So bloggers,
dissenters, whistleblowers, offshore accountholders — beware, and
get some easy internet privacy.

September
6, 2010

Paul
Green [send him mail] is
of British background and supplies computer security and privacy
services in the UK and Switzerland -while his wife home-schools
their children. Over the years he has also traded the financial
markets and worked in sound production.

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