With the recent revelations about underwater cables connecting Ireland to the global telecoms grid being tapped. I wanted to share 10 tips on how to protect your privacy online. These tips will in no way guarantee your privacy but they will make it a bit more difficult for someone to listen in.
1. Keep your Software Updated
This goes without saying. Make sure that your operating system and software (Microsoft office, adobe reader, flash, java) is up to date. If you are still using Windows XP then you are asking for trouble. Your best bet would be to upgrade to the latest versions. If you want to make sure you are up-to-date maybe now is a good time to try a fresh install. If you need help with this I would contact Lan IT or Computers Unlimited.
2. Install Anti-Virus & Basic Firewall
You really need to know what software is running on your computer. There are a lot of popular solutions out there but I like a product called ESET Cyber Security. ESET is available on Windows and Mac. After installing ESET, make sure to remove and uninstall any other antivirus tools that may have came with your computer.
3. Make Sure Your WIFI is Secure(ish)
If you are using old hardware that was provided by your Internet service provider it might be a good idea to buy a second wireless router. Once set-up, make sure to ask your Internet Service provider to turn off the WIFI on the old router.
It’s always a good idea to go make sure that you have a password set and that you change your WIFI password regularly. Make sure that you don’t use a dictionary password use something random. You can follow this password guide.
4. Use a VPN to help secure your Internet connection
Virtual Private Networks are a way that you can secure your connection over the Internet and allows you to choose what country your Internet traffic exits over. I personally use Nord VPN and HideMyAss. It’s important to remember to use your VPN while you are on public WIFI.
5. Use HTTPS Everywhere
HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypt your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure. When you go to an non secure http:// website the extension checks to see if there is a secure https:// version and then loads the secure version.
6. Block spying ads and invisible trackers
Privacy Badger a project of the EFF is a browser extension that you can install on Firefox and Chrome that stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. This can also block re-marketing tags (the adverts that follow you around the internet)
7. Use Open DNS to prevent fraud and identity theft
Open DNS is the easiest way to protect your family from fraud and identity theft. DNS is use to direct your computer to the location of where a website is hosted. When your computer makes a request to a suspicious address Open DNS will block the request putting you out of harms way.
8. Disable automatic image loading on email clients
Many email clients on desktop and mobile load images by default when you open an email. A lot of companies use images as a way to detect if an email has been opened. Some of these images may even be invisible and are called tracking pixels. Products like Sidekick by HubSpot that can send alerts when you open someone email.
9. Turn on two-factor authentication
Many of the services you use every day online now two factor authentication. This option means that when you login using your username and password, the system will ask you to enter a one-time code. This code can usually be accessed via SMS or Google Authenticator on your smartphone and changes every few seconds. If someone gains access to your login details this can help prevent them digging around your email or other accounts.
10. Ask for help and get involved.
If you want to find out more about your online privacy reach out to Digital Rights Ireland who have a forum on Boards.ie where they will point you in the right direction. You can also Donate to Digital Rights Ireland and follow or get involved in the EFF.