49 ways to keep your privacy in Internet [2017]

Personal data has become a valuable asset and in many cases the users don’t know the basic security concepts in social networks where they share it ignoring the consequences.

49 ways to keep your privacy in Internet [2017]

Once the information is publicly available, it will stay in Internet for many years generating many problems.

The cause of those problems is not only the information that the user published voluntarily but also the information he/she provided to companies and the personal data those companies get by other means.

 

What can be considered personal information?

 

The personal information is not only the name, address, phone number or ID card number. Other information is also included like political affiliation, creed, gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, medical information, geographic location, place of birth, education, birthday and age.

Other private data that shouldn’t be provided is information about credit cards, bank accounts, financial situation, relationships, interests, activities, browsing history, photos, videos and messages.

 

Who wants to get this information?

 

There are many people and organizations interested in acquiring this information by any means possible :

  • Blackmailers.

  • Stalkers.

  • Bullies.

  • Identity thieves.

  • Pederasts.

  • Data brokers.

  • Marketing companies.

  • Social networks.

  • Search engines.

  • etc.

 

It should be made clear that not all the companies dedicated to any of these concepts behave abusively and some of them respect the user’s privacy rights.

Don’t be confused by the price of the product or service either. Not all free services have abusive behavior and not all paid services respect the users.

 

How do they get the information?

 

Provided by the user : In many cases the information is provided by the user who, knowingly or unknowingly, consent this abusive behavior and provides his/her private data when he/she signs up in a service. Some of these services allow the users to publish text, photos or videos that are also available to the whole world.
 

Vulnerabilities and infections : On other occasions, the information is obtained thanks to security vulnerabilities in the software or in the means of communication. Malware is also used to infect computers or cell phones for the purpose of stealing said information.
 

Security breaches : Some times companies are the victims of thieves which extract great quantities of information about employees and clients from their databases.

 

cctv camera

 

How can the owners of this information be affected?

 

Some consequences are obvious like blackmailing and harassment but there may be more subtle effects :

  • Suspiciously convenient ads.

  • Denied job applications.

  • Denied loans or mortgages.

  • Denied rental applications.

  • Denied college admission.

 

Nowadays everyone search other people’s names in Internet as precaution before doing business with that person.

If that person wasn’t careful enough and shared publicly unacceptable photos, videos or messages, then, in extreme cases, the only solution for that person to find a job would be to change his/her name.

 

General recommendations

 

  1. Don’t reveal any personal information unless it’s absolutely necessary. Remember that everything sent to the Internet can remain there for years.

  2. Use fake data in all services where it’s not necessary to use real private information : forums, games, chat rooms...

  3. Trust no one. Don’t trust those services that offer some kind of reward in exchange for your personal information, not even the email address. Don’t trust any message or website that claims to be part of a service and asks for private data.

  4. Read the privacy policy of all services and products. Avoid the ones who track their users or have a dubious respect for their privacy. Among the least respectful are the Internet search engines, social networks and Internet service providers.

  5. Use several hard to guess passwords and change them periodically. To be safe create several passwords of 6 characters or longer using small sentences that include a number or a sign. Don’t use birth dates, phone numbers or ID numbers as passwords.

  6. Never use real photos in your avatar. It’s useless to use fake data if they can recognize your face in the avatar.

  7. Use secure connections. For the same reason you shouldn’t say anything personal in postcards, you shouldn’t use any service in an insecure channel. Web browsers usually show a lock in the address box when the connection is secure.

  8. Don’t trust in public or workplace computers. Assume that all data sent and received using those computers is being monitored.

  9. Avoid public Wi-Fi access points. Even if you need a password to use those access points you must assume that it’s insecure to send private information through them.

  10. Use trusted DNS servers. Some companies allow to use their DNS servers but they log all your activities if you use them. Three examples of free DNS servers that respect the privacy of their users and don’t censor any address are :

  11. Use the safest Wi-Fi encryption available or disable it completely if you don’t use it. There are many security problems with several encryption systems used in Wi-Fi networks. The safest thing to avoid intruders in your network is to disable the Wi-Fi network and use a wired connection.

  12. Keep your operating system and applications up to date. Lots of viruses and trojans use the newly discovered vulnerabilities to infect their victims.

  13. Back up regularly. It’s very important to back up your computer system to prevent data loss in case of security or hardware problems.

  14. Install a firewall and an antivirus. Scan your computer regularly for infections and keep the virus definitions up to date.

  15. Don’t use illegal software. Cracks, patches and key generators use to be infected with malware.

  16. Deactivate the Windows network file sharing feature. If you don’t share files in your local network it’s better to turn that feature off to prevent intruders accessing your private data.

  17. Delete the data before selling or throwing away your computer. It’s highly recommended to use an application that permanently deletes files to prevent their recovery. Formatting the hard drive is insufficient because most of the files can be recovered.

  18. Never use a device found near the entrance of your workplace or home. In some cases those devices include malware to steal information from the competitors or to wreak havoc in their computer network.

  19. Don’t use an administrator account in Windows. Whenever possible, it’s safer to use another account with less privileges. Don’t deactivate the User Account Control either.

  20. Don’t install applications that identify or locate the user. Some applications identify the users thanks to the serial number of the device, CPU or motherboard. Other applications calculate the geographical location using the GPS, Wi-Fi or cell phone signals.

  21. Turn the Bluetooth off. If you don’t use any bluetooth device it’s safer to deactivate it to prevent intrusions.

  22. Don’t store private information in your cell phone.

 

computer security

 

Email recommendations

 

  1. Create several email accounts with fake information. With this list of free email providers you can easily create email accounts with service providers that respect their user’s privacy. It’s highly recommended to use fake information when you create the new email accounts and then use those accounts when you sign up to non important services. You should never use work email accounts for private purposes. In some cases you may even use throw-away email addresses from 10minutemail.com.

  2. Don’t reply to spam messages. Under no circumstances you should reply to spam/junk messages, download the images included in those messages, click on their links or open the attached files.

  3. Don’t trust any message that apparently comes from a trusted company and asks for private information. You should pay attention to the true source of the message and be careful with the attached files.

  4. Send encrypted messages. If you encrypt the text of your messages it’ll be much harder to extract private information. One possible solution is to use GnuPG

  5. Recognize fraudulent messages. Some of the most common scams are the ones that involve business offers, pharmaceutical products, lotteries...

 

Web browser recommendations

 

  1. Delete cookies, browsing history and the cache regularly to make it harder to identify the user.

  2. Don’t trust the private browsing mode. The private browsing mode or incognito mode only prevents the web browser from storing browsing data like cookies, cache or browsing history during that session, but all the information provided to websites or intercepted by a middle man during that session will remain in Internet.

  3. Enable the "Do Not Track" option. This option only informs that the user don’t wish to be tracked and some services ignore this completely but other websites respect the user’s wishes.

  4. Disable sending the “Referer” header. That information allows the web server to know what was the last web page you visited and that information can be used with commercial purposes.

  5. Disable the geographical location functions. If those functions are available it’s safer to disable them, although the web servers can obtain the same information from the user’s IP address.

  6. Don’t login into a website using social network credentials. If you log in using those accounts you let them track your activities. It’s much safer to register into those websites using different fake email accounts.

  7. Always sign out when you have finished using a web page. The “Like”, “+1” or “share” buttons from social networks can be used to track the users.

  8. Minimize the distinctiveness of your web browser. Recently some companies are using many more web browser parameters to identify each user like the installed fonts, the user agent string, installed plug-ins, screen resolution… It’s recommended to leave those parameters as default to make it much more difficult to track the users.

  9. Disable Flash in the web browser and enable it only when necessary. The flash extension also stores cookies that identify the users.

  10. Don’t use private information as answers to security questions. Use fake information for the answers.

  11. Use trusted proxies. Even though proxies can be used in some cases to browse the Internet anonymously or to bypass browsing limitations, in some cases they log all the information sent and received through them.

  12. Use trusted virtual private networks (VPN). As with proxies, VPNs can be a valid solution to browse anonymously but in some cases they are used to log all the data that the users send or receive through them.

  13. Avoid websites with illegal contents. They usually have malware to infect the users.

 

social networks

 

Social media recommendations

 

  1. If possible, don’t use social media. The main source of revenue for most social networks are the ads. They use all the information they can get about their users to show personalized ads.

  2. Limit the amount of personal information given when signing up or sending messages, photos and videos. You should only send sensible information to family members and real life friends.

  3. Reject friend requests from strangers to prevent showing them all the private information available to family members and close friends.

  4. Check what information is shared by other people about yourself. Even if you control all the information you publish, other people may be sharing inappropriate photos and videos about you.

  5. Keep your boss and co-workers out of your friends group. For the same reason you shouldn’t accept friend request from strangers, you shouldn’t let your boss or co-workers see personal messages, photos or videos. Internet is full of anecdotes about people forgetting their boss reads every message they publish.

  6. Delete all the tags from photos and videos. Those tags are used by the social networks to track their users.

  7. Don’t add geographical location information to anything you post. That information is used to track the users and it could be dangerous. Burglars could use it when you’re away on vacation.

  8. Close unused social network accounts. Delete all the contents you posted and don’t risk leaving old personal information.

  9. Disable the option to be found in searches.

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