Photo by ElectronicFrontierFoundation
In the digital age privacy and security are always a major concern, especially since Eric Snowden revealed the National Security Agency’s global surveillance programs. Additionally, in a competitive environment or industry security and privacy are essential. The good news is both privacy and security can be reasonably maintained whilst enjoying the Internet.
Here are a few tips:
- Use complex and different passwords. If you use the same password for your all your work and personal accounts then your work can access your personal accounts. If your password is ‘password’ or your first name then it can easily be guessed. If you use complex and different passwords do not put them all in a document or note titled, “Passwords,” or use the word “password” in that document. A simple search for the word “password” can be used to find that document and all your passwords – a nondescript or misleading title is ideal.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) A virtual private network allows your computer, laptop or mobile devices to communicate privately when using the very public Internet. There are a lot of ways to do this, both free and paid. For $70 per year, you can use WiTopia to access a very large number of gateways around the world. Typically you want the closest gateway to you to maximize speed. If you live, however, in an area with restricted Internet access such as Australia or China, then you can just select a gateway in a country without restricted access to “unrestrict” access.
- Use encrypted cloud storage Dropbox recently added Condoleezza Rice to their board and she is a major proponent of NSA’s global surveillance programs. Dropbox claims to respect privacy, but the newest addition to the DropBox board of directors definitely does not. Try SpiderOak for more secure cloud-based storage. 2GB is free, premium subscriptions are the same price as DropBox, UI is fairly user-friendly and offers the same enjoyable features as DropBox along with ‘zero-knowledge” layered data encryption for those who only use the desktop client. SpiderOak even drafted a comforting statement for those generally concerned with cloud-based storage: “Most importantly, however, the outer level keys are never stored in plaintext on the SpiderOak server. They are encrypted with 256 bit AES, using a key created by the key derivation/strengthening algorithm PBKDF2 (using sha256), with 16384 round and 32 bytes of random data (“salt”). This approach prevents brute force and pre-computation or database attacks against the key. This means that a user who knows her password, can generate the outer level encryption key using PBKDF2 and the salt, then decipher the outer level keys, and be on the way to decrypting her data. Without knowledge of the password, however, the data is quite unreadable.”
- For personal email, find a provider that values your privacy You would not want your neighbours reading your personal mail so why do you let Google and the NSA? MyKolab offers a secure email with servers in a country that respects privacy a bit more than others for about $10 USD per month.
- Avoid thumb drives Thumb drives are a convenient way to store and transport data. Thumb drives are also a good way to access computers without internet connections. The United States and Israel designed a thumb drive-based worm and successfully disrupted a number of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges using this cyber warfare strategy. Digital freedom is not free, however, for less than a dollar per day you can set up your own secure connection, encrypted cloud storage and private email across all connected devices, and this can all be set up in a few hours.