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Big Brother Is Watching You Online: How To Avoid Being Tracked

Big Brother Is Watching You Online: How To Avoid Being Tracked

News briefs bombard television sets and computer screens around the globe, with cases of government whistleblowers, spying, cell phone hacking, private photographs leaked via iCloud, and more. Reports of the United States’ government usage of the PRISM program allegedly tracking over 1 million persons in the United States alone, has been particularly startling. Naturally, growing interest and attention has been placed on privacy and security, not only in banks and boardrooms but bedrooms and coffee shops around the world. Many want to avoid being tracked online, followed, spied on and their information automatically gathered, even if just to “check” on their Google searches, Skype calls, Facebook posts or email messages.

There are many ways to protect yourself from the prowling eyes of Big Brother and others who make a living following your every cyber move, but do keep in mind that nothing is 100% fool-proof. You have to assume that scammers, spammers, and others spend their days and nights finding ways to make your online experience vulnerable and under constant threat. That doesn’t mean you should succumb or act recklessly online, however.

Just to be extra cautious, before you even start reading this article, put a small strip of black electrical tape over your built-in computer camera. Hackers can remotely activate your webcam. Usually you’ll be able to tell it’s been turned on due to the red light, but that’s not always the case. There are techniques hackers and scammers use to avoid detection; don’t fall prey to their prying eyes.

These are 12 ways to keep your information out of the crosshairs.

1. Clean your Internet browsing history after every use.

You are most commonly tracked online by your IP address and emails. Every site you visit online tracks your time spent there and leaves what are called ‘cookies’ on your computer. ‘Cookies,’ also known as ‘HTTP cookie,’ ‘web cookie,’ or ‘browser cookies’ are best thought of like crumbs. They remain, like little crumbs after you’ve eaten a cookie, in your machine and keep track of everything you’ve done. This is what allows you to log-in to previously viewed websites without being prompted to manually enter passwords and usernames every time. It keeps you logged in, or your data will already be pre-filled out before you log on. This is also one way that companies can see what items you are viewing when shopping or what articles you are reading on a news site or what you are researching on any given day. This helps companies and organizations determine how to engage with you and which product descriptions and pop-up ads will attract you to buy or click.

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To get around this, you have to actively clean out your search history, and set your viewing patterns to private. Anything from Google Chrome, Firefox, all versions of Safari, Internet Explorer, Opera, and AOL, among others, can be cleaned out. Click each service above for specific instructions on how to delete your browsing history.

You can also download Piriform for deleting some bits of your online footprint. Ensuring you erase this data is one way to avoid being tracked online. You’ll need to keep better track of passwords, when you do this. If you are having a hard time managing your passwords, KeePassX is a password vault stored locally on your computer and encrypted.

2. Create specific passwords for each account.

Don’t rely on the Internet to keep you safe. And don’t assume that no one will attempt to hack into your accounts because you’re not that interesting or you don’t have anything worth stealing. The lazier you are online the more chance for harm against you. Avoid passwords like ‘abcdef’ or ‘12345,’ and certainly never ‘password.’ Don’t share your passwords. Stay organized while creating online accounts. Keep them stored on a USB key document or in a notebook only you have access to. Take time to make passwords that are hard to guess and devoid of information that many people might know. If you are having trouble developing a good password, try LastPass.

3. Avoid JavaScript search engines.

StartPage, Google Chrome, Firefox, Duck Duck Go, and Cyber Ghost are alternative options to traditional search engines that track your behavior and choices online. Basic search engines use JavaScript. JavaScript is like the glue that keeps the Internet together. But it’s also what’s used in ‘cookies.’ If you are trying to avoid being tracked online, JavaScript, in a sense, is your enemy. You should take precautions to protect yourself from its power.

4. Use Tor and a Linux Live Image, like Tails.

Tor is one of the best methods of protection and security. Tor is free to download and install. By using Tor, you scramble your IP address, disguising your location and personal data. Your IP address, or Internet Protocol, is a numeric access code needed to use the internet. Your computer is automatically assigned an IP address via your internet provider, like Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, among many others, and remains your online identifier. Tor is a trusted source for the likes of businesses, activists, journalists, military, law enforcement agencies, and even Edward Snowden.

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BBC is reporting, as of Monday, November 3, 2014, that Facebook is now allowing users to connect directly to the social network via Tor. This will be particularly beneficial for those in nations like North Korea, China, and Cuba, where Internet usage is heavily comprised.

A Linux Live Image, like Tails, is another useful method to avoid being tracked online. You can download the service, and burn it to a CD or USB key. It won’t allow any storing of your Internet activity, so after you shut down your computer, all your searches and other work will not be stored. If you opt for this, make sure you save your files, in pdf form, directly to the computer or on a USB key.

5. Don’t reply to suspicious emails and never accept friendship requests from people you don’t personally know.

This is one easy way Internet users slip up and invite spying and stalking, without knowing it. In recent news, police were using fake Facebook accounts to spy on users. Of course, the film Catfish is another cautionary tale of revealing too much online to people you don’t know. Take time to look through all your online accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Remove and block contacts that send you spam messages; don’t positively engage in your network or those with whom you have no connections or don’t know in real life. It’s not impolite to decline invitations that won’t work for you, especially if you don’t even know the person extending the invitation or what their intention is.

If you are an Apple user, you can forward suspicious emails purporting to be from the company, to reportphishing@apple.com. Microsoft users can visit their Security and Privacy page for more details on reporting questionable activity. Don’t shy away from the Facebook Report button, either.

6. Encrypt your email messages.

You can encrypt e-mails and files using GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG or GPG). Your files will be bullet-proof and unreadable unless one has your pass phrase and the answer to your ‘‘secret question’’. When you install GPG, you are asked to provide a pass phrase and generate private and public keys. Keep the private key and pass phrase as safe as a newborn baby. These will allow you to decrypt your messages and files. When someone wants to send you a message or file they will use your public key to encrypt it. Feel free to share your public key with all persons you want to communicate with under the radar. This is how Edward Snowden leaked information to guerrilla film maker, Laura Poitras and The Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald.

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7. Use a burner laptop and cell phone.

A ‘burner’ laptop or cellphone is a normal device. You can purchase a ‘burner’ like you normally would purchase a computer or cell phone. Choose whichever is in your price range, but the cheaper the better. For a ‘burner’ cell phone, choose a pre-paid version and pay only in cash. The ‘burner laptop’ is the only laptop you will ever use to connect to the internet. That includes streaming YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, or social networking sites. All internet access should go through this laptop, if you are intent on avoiding being tracked online. You can keep a computer for personal documents, diary entries, numbers, spread sheets or other personal files. Never save anything to the burner laptop. Once a month re-install the operating system you’ve chosen, and completely re-format the drive.

8. Use Bitcoins.

The usage of Bitcoin is still a questionable monetary system, and not in general use with the public but still gaining considerable momentum in the financial arena. Bitcoin and Pay Pal have been joining forces. Some claim, using Bitcoins allow you to avoid paying taxes, and can be purchased anonymously, so you may avoid being tracked online or by other electronic means. It’s also a threat to central governments and disrupting the traditional banking system.

9. Don’t post overly personal details anywhere online.

Avoid birth dates, middle names, maiden names, social security numbers, telephone numbers, bank numbers or personal information on family members. Don’t post photographs that you would feel uncomfortable for others to see or potentially copy and re-use. This can be difficult, but setting your accounts to private and screening all friend requests is one to protect yourself and avoid being tracked online.

10. Read all the fine print.

When setting up online accounts, you are offered a User Agreement policy to read. Don’t ignore them. Copy and paste for later in-depth reading, wait to set up an account until you have the time to read through all the rules associated with that online forum or account. Make yourself aware of the implications involved. Avoid agreeing to contracts that you feel uncomfortable with or are unsure about. Some online accounts, apps or forums take liberty to use your personal details and even your networks personal details.

11. Pay attention to your privacy settings and updates to privacy options.

Look through your current online privacy settings, and set them according to your comfort level. Remember that when a company alters their privacy settings and security contracts, your previous settings are often not retained. Stay up to date and edit your settings. You may even wish to set a reminder on your phone for a monthly password change and check-up. The documentary, Terms and Conditions May Apply, takes a critical look at the ever-changing User Agreement policies.

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12. For the really paranoid: abandon all tech; use only paper, pen, typewriters and in-person chats and photo-sharing, the old-fashioned way.

Don’t assume spying or malicious hacking is only an American problem. After dozens of documents were released following government whistleblowers and data on the United States monitoring German intelligence, the German government took to typewriters, instead of electronic messaging services. Brazil, the United Kingdom and a number of other nations have also revealed aggressive means of data mining of their citizens.

Caveats and Pro-Tips to all information previously mentioned:

A. The trouble with all these methods is that criminals, and what the tech community calls, ‘black hat hackers,’ can also make use of these strategies and are often many steps ahead of you. This is what makes it hard to police the internet or prevent malicious use. The Dark Net, the nefarious underbelly of the internet, unseen by the general public, can be found using Tor. It is also home to The Silk Road, which allows criminals to sell anything from children to cocaine to hired killers.

B. Using public computer terminals, like those found at your local library or university, to avoid being tracked online, is not the answer. Your internet usage is still being tracked and is attached to your library account, which may include your Social Security Number, State Driver’s License or Identification Number. Government agencies, police and other authorities can still request your public internet behaviour, should you ever be accused of or charged with a crime. The positive side to this is that a criminal can be caught, like the recent murder case of Maribel Ramos in Orange County, California. Her murderer was found using the local library computer to pin-point a burial site using Google Maps.

Stay safe!

Featured photo credit: kennymatic via flickr.com

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Published on August 6, 2020

10 Best Power Banks to Top up Your Phone at Will on the Go

10 Best Power Banks to Top up Your Phone at Will on the Go

The alert beep for low battery serves as a death call when you’re running late for work or are out on the town and need to make a call. Luckily, a super convenient alternative to your regular charger and charging wires is available in the form of power banks[1]. Easy to carry, lightweight, and affordable power banks have become the perfect companion for every mobile phone. In order to assist you in making the right choice for the purchase of power banks, we have compiled a list of the best power banks to guide you.

Why Trust Us

The importance of a well-charged phone cannot be underestimated. Keeping this in mind, our team has gone through many reviews and product descriptions present on the most reliable tech websites. From the smallest and lightest portable chargers to those that come with several years of warranty, our featured power banks will not let you down and will be worthy of your investment.

1. Anker PowerCore 10000mAh Portable Charger

    As the best power bank the market offers, Anker PowerCore has a battery of 10000 mAh, which can charge three and a half iPhone 8 or two and a half galaxy s8 charges. The power bank has PowerIQ and voltage boost technologies, which can charge your phone in no time. Large size-to-capacity makes it a convenient item to carry in your pocket.

    To ensure the protection of your device, this power bank from Anker comes with a multi-protect safety system. The box also includes a portables charger and micro USB cable. You can carry it around safely with the included travel pouch. An 18-month warranty and friendly customer service are also included to give you a perfect power bank experience.

    Pros

    • Large size-to-capacity ratio
    • High-speed, universal charging
    • Red, blue, black color options
    • One of the smallest and lightest portable chargers on the market

    Cons

    • Qualcomm quick charge is not supported
    • The battery may not work well after some time

    Get this power bank here!

    2. INIU 20000mAh Power Bank

      Made of top-quality materials, the INIU Power Bank charges your phone 1.4 times faster with UPower+ technology. It works smartly by identifying your device and simultaneously increasing the current output. What’s great is that you can charge two devices at the same time. INUI recognizes its place as the thinnest lightweight power bank on the market.

      The paw indicator on the power bank illuminates its remarkable design, and it includes a flashlight inside, which can be used in emergency conditions. You can charge the power bank quickly with a micro USB or a type-C cable. Consequently, it’ll save you the hassle of finding the specific cable for a charge. INUE comes with a three-year warranty to give you peace of mind.

      Pros

      • Thin and lush design
      • Dual 3A output
      • Flashlight included
      • U Power+ technology

      Cons

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      • It doesn’t come with a pouch
      • Standby time is less than six months

      Get this power bank here!

      3. Miady 2-Pack 10000mAh Dual USB Portable Charger

        An all-in-one power bank solution for your needs, Miady includes two 10000 mAh battery packs. The power bank contains two USB output ports with an equal amount of current distribution. While one can charge 2.4 times for iPhone X, 3.6 for iPhone 8, and 2.2 for galaxy S9, you won’t be needing a socket anytime soon.

        You will be able to charge the power bank in 5 hours at 5V and 2A. Miady contains a reliable Lithium-polymer cell, and you can also carry the power bank on a plane. It can power off and on automatically if the device is disconnected for 30 seconds. This portable charger is compatible with 99 percent of smartphones and is one of the cheapest power banks available on the market.

        Pros

        • One of the best-value options compared to its rivals
        • Efficiently distributes current output
        • Vibrant color options like yellow and purple

        Cons

        • Not suitable for big devices like the iPad

        Get this power bank here!

        4. Anker PowerCore 20100mAh Portable Charger

          Anker 20100 mAh Power Core offers a huge amount of battery capacity. As one of the best power banks on the market, the 20000 mAh battery capacity can charge an iPhone 8 almost eight times or an S8 five times. In addition, the power bank can hold a charge for up to seven days, so you don’t have to plug it into the wall again and again.

          You can use the voltage boost and power IQ recharge to charge a phone efficiently and quickly. The power bank is also pocket-friendly and certified safe as it ensures protection for your smartphone or tablet and you. Its dual-device output enables you to charge up to two devices at the same time. Anker is made out of premium material to give you the best durable power bank on the market.

          Pros

          • High-speed charging
          • Huge 20000 mAh capacity
          • Enormous 4.8-ampere output
          • Certified safe

          Cons

          • It may start charging slowly after a few months of use
          • Qualcomm quick charge is not supported

          Get this power bank here!

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          5. Anker PowerCore 13000mAhPortable Charger

            Another Anker, the Anker PowerCore 13000 Portable Charger offers a huge battery capacity in a sleek design and has the ability to charge an iPhone 8 up to 5 times and an iPhone X or an S9 three times. You can also charge your phone or tablet with the two high-speed ports that are included. Anker comes is a smaller size than that of a wallet and is one of the best lightweight power banks compared to its battery size.

            Anker is 30 percent lighter than most other power banks. Power IQ and voltage boost technologies are included for fast-charge devices. Power IQ also identifies devices to calibrate the charge to your phone.  Anker has surge protection technology and short circuit prevention. You can rest assured that it will take care of you and your devices. Plus, you are covered with an eighteen-month warranty.

            Pros

            • Power IQ technology
            • Super high capacity
            • Red, black, blue, white color options

            Cons

            • No Qualcomm quick charge
            • Wall charger is not included

            Get this power bank here!

            6. GETIHU 10000mAh Portable Charger

              GETIHU offers high-quality power banks with their 11 years of experience in the market. The GEITHU portable charger has a certified Lithium-ion battery, which gets it the approval for airline travel. With the help of an LED display, one can know how much battery is left. You can quickly charge up to two devices with 4.8 Amperes at the same time.

              High-speed charging is accompanied by a smart IC to auto fit your smartphones. It can work with both big and small Android devices. GEITHU can easily fit inside your bag as it is slim and portable. Choose to take it with you with the travel pouch and feel comfortable taking it everywhere as it has a three-year warranty.

              Pros

              • LED display with the battery percentage
              • The 4.8-ampere charges two devices simultaneously

              Cons

              • The LED display may not show the correct amount of charge left

              Get this power bank here!

              7. Anker PowerCore 26800mAh Portable Charger

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                Anker PowerCore offers a massive battery, which makes it one of the best power banks on the market. The 26800mAh worth of charge can charge phones more than six times. It has three USB outputs so that you can charge three devices at the same time. Power IQ and voltage boost make the high-speed charging available for all three devices.

                You can charge the whole power bank in 6 hours. The two micro-USB inputs double the recharging speeds. It is light and durable, which makes it the best companion for your travel needs. The multi-protect safety system protects you and your devices. Friendly customer services and an 18-month warranty are there to provide you with the peace of mind you need when you get the Anker PowerCore.

                Pros

                • Triple device charging
                • Dual-input power bank charging
                • Superior safety
                • A week’s worth of power

                Cons

                • Performance may decrease over time
                • A bit heavy due to the big battery

                Get this power bank here!

                8. RAVPower 16750mAh Power Bank

                  RAVPower offers a vast battery of up to 16750mAh in size. It can charge your iPhone 11 two and a half times, S10 for 3.3 times, or an iPad for a full charge. With a current output of 4.5 amperes, it can charge up to two smartphones at the same time. You can quickly charge the power bank with a two-ampere charger in about 9 to 10 hours.

                  The flashlight is included in the power bank for emergency use. RAV is also tested against high temperature. Its iSmart technology tests your device for the optimal current value needed. Premium batteries comprised of lithium-ion can charge a device more than 500 times.

                  Pros

                  • Impressive 16750mAh battery
                  • iSmart technology

                     Cons

                  • It does not hold a charge well over time

                  Get this power bank here!

                  9. RAVPower 15000mAh Power Bank

                     

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                    RAV power bank features a controlling IC and iSmart technology. These come together to offer a fast charge for your smartphone or tablet. You can take your iPhone 11 from 0 to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. iSmart 2.0 can adjust according to your charging device and offers the necessary current. It’s possible to charge up to three devices at the same time with three outputs.

                    The portable charger can be charged within 4.7 hours with the ultra-fast charging, thus saving you 40 percent recharging time. RAV can fit comfortably in your pocket or your hand. An LED digital display shows you exactly how much charge is left inside. High-end lithium-ion batteries, along with protection technology, give you peace of mind wherever you take this power bank.

                    Pros

                    • 30W total tri-output and fast recharge
                    • Led digital display

                    Cons

                    • Weighs a bit more than most power banks

                    Get this power bank here!

                    10. LANLUK 25800mAh Power Bank

                      The LANLUK 25800 mAh portable power bank can charge your phone 5 to 7 times, and it is perfect for any type of work that you are heading out for. You can charge up to two devices simultaneously with the help of two outputs.

                      The high-quality lithium A+ polymer battery is used to give you peace of mind as the power bank protects itself from overheating and overcharging. The portable charger is compatible with nearly all the phones and tablets. 18-month customer service is available to give you even more peace of mind. It is an all-in-one power bank solution for your needs.

                      Pros

                      • High capacity battery
                      • Highly compatible

                      Cons

                      • Not permissible on planes

                      Get this power bank here!

                      Bottom Line

                      Choosing the best power bank is a bit hard task as there are many types of power banks available in the market. The one that you’d like to choose must depend on your needs. If you will go out for a long hike or a long trip with no power socket input, then the one with a bigger battery will be useful. However, if you need a solution to charge your phone while in the office, then something with a lightweight and durable design will be a better choice for you.

                      Choose one of the best power banks from above and never worry about your device dying again.

                      Featured photo credit: Steve Johnson via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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