How to protect Internet privacy?

How to protect Internet privacy? To answer that we will examine the common threats to your privacy while accessing the Internet and then give measures to protect against each threat to your Internet privacy.

We have not covered all threats to your privacy - just the common ones. It is a bad, bad world and the only really secure way to deliver super sensitive information is to speak in person and make sure you are not overheard. We are not kidding.

Threats to Internet Privacy at the host computer or phone

If you are accessing the Internet from your computer then you have the following threats to contend with

  • Spyware: Keylogger and Screen capture programs Have anti spy ware programs installed and running and make sure your computer is always physically secure. The physical security aspect is important to prevent hardware key loggers being installed on the machine

  • Infection by viruses and other malware Run an anti virus security software. For more security, always boot up to a fresh, known copy of the Operating System in a virtual machine. For even more security boot up the host computer with a known, clean OS every time.

  • Unauthorized access to your browsing records After you have logged out from the computer, an unauthorized person may access your browsing history, cookies and any data stored in files. To guard against this
    • Keep all your data encrypted using a program like Truecrypt
    • Clean your browsing history. A simple deletion might not be enough.
    • To be super secure - boot up using a OS which does not store any data on default hard disk. That way when you turn off power all data stored on hard disk is gone. Store long term data on an encrypted USB stick that you mount separately

Although mentioned only in the passing here physical security of your computer is a big component in "How to protect Internet privacy".

Threat to privacy while your data is in transit

Here are the threats to your privacy while your data is in transit
  • Data in the clear being read Do not send sensitive data in the clear. Make sure that any sensitive data is encrypted and sent using the https protocol. The following two attacks can be used against the encryption used in https

  • Man in the Middle Attack This is a sophisticated attack and there are very few defenses against it. Thankfully so far it is rare. Make sure your router is secure.

  • Fake security certificates Ensure that you are using Firefox, or Chrome which actively guard against it. If you are paranoid use a service like Perspectives project.

Your IP address is logged

Almost all sites will log the IP address from which you access their site. Using this IP address they can easily locate your approximate location, and if your Internet service provider cooperates they can get your exact address.

Using an anonymizing proxy helps with this issues. Do NOT think of it as a cloak to commit any illegal activity. This will protect against normal privacy stealers but will not protect against law enforcement

Another way around it is to access the Internet from a public computer or a Wifi hot spot. Make sure you follow our guidelines on Internet cafe security.

Threat to Internet Privacy: Your data is compromised at the website you have accessed

This has happened to the biggest and most reputable web sites from Social Security Administration to Google. The only way around it is to limit the data you provide to the site.

If you are using software as a service over the web, make sure that your data is stored encrypted on the remote site. If possible you and only you should have the encryption key. If that is not possible, do not use web services for your most sensitive data.

As we can see encryption is an important element in "How to protect internet privacy"

Sniffing by remote site

The site that you visit can activate ActiveX, Java and Javascript components on your browser and can gather more or less local data. ActiveX components are the most dangerous in this regard.

Disable Java, Javascript and ActiveX unless you really need them for the site functionality. Noscript addon for Firefox is very useful in this respect.

This concludes our article on "How to protect Internet privacy ?" Return from How to Protect Internet Privacy? to Security and Privacy Software