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Secure Your Internet Privacy With This Guide

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Secure Your Internet Privacy With This Guide

There’s a lot of talk these days about internet privacy and online security. With over two billion people accessing the internet on a regular basis, it’s about time you started protecting yourself! So, I figured I’d put together a little guide to some of the most popular security precautions and privacy measures available to you online. In this easy-to-follow guide I’ll show you how to make your internet life more secure, starting right now.

Two-Factor Authentication

What it is: Two-factor authentication is available with a large number of popular sites and services. In a nutshell, it’s a simple feature that prompts you for a password and then a short security code that is sent to your phone. Here’s an example: If you’re logging into your Gmail account you’d need to type in your username and password—then you’d be logged in. With two-factor authentication, you’d need to wait for Google to send you a text message with a short code, and then type that in before you could access your account on a new machine.

Here’s a guide on how to setup two-factor authentication for Facebook. Here’s one for Twitter.

Time to set up: About 15 minutes

Additional info: I know what you’re thinking: “This is way more annoying than it should be!” Truth be told, after you’ve set up your device and configured two-factor authentication with the online services you use, it takes just an extra 15-20 seconds to login and everything else works in the background.

Security rating: Two-factor authentication is incredibly secure because it requires at least two devices to get into your account (your phone and your laptop). It’s obviously still possible for someone to get into your account, but it’s less likely due to the extra security layer. Passwords follow us all over the internet and everyone can benefit from the extra security available by implementing two-factor authentication on your web accounts.

Encrypt Your Email

What it is: This is easy to do and understand. Encrypting your email is nothing more than turning your emails into gibberish code that can only be deciphered with a key. You can then send this coded email to your recipient, who can only read it if they have the same key.

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If you’re a Gmail user, Mailvelope is the best way to encrypt your emails. It’s a Chrome and Firefox extension that is quick and easy to set up.

Time to set up: About 5 minutes

Additional info: Something you should know about email encryption is that it doesn’t work unless you and your recipient both have the encryption software. That’s because when you send someone an encrypted email, they can’t read it unless they’re able to decrypt it with the key at their end.

In general, it’s not worth the hassle to encrypt your email unless you’re sending sensitive information. If you need to send someone a social security number, bank account details or credit card information, you’ll want to encrypt those emails.

Security rating: Email encryption is, for the most part, a safe and secure way to communicate. This will not keep you safe from government/NSA snooping, but it will protect you from people hacking and reading your email.

For non-web-based email encryption you should look into the Enigmail Project.

Set Up A Password Manager

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM0fzHxMASQ

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What it is: A password manager does pretty much what you’d think it would do: manage your passwords. Basically, it locks all of your website passwords behind a single master password that only you know. This is awesome because it means you only have to remember a single password.

Time to set up: 30 minutes

Additional info: There are a good number of password managers available online. Personally, I recommend LastPass, which can be a bit confusing to new users but it works well. Signing up for a password is only half that battle. You’ll then have to go back into all of your accounts and set new passwords, which can be time consuming. Also, it’s important to note that if you use multiple computers, you’ll need to install the password manager on all your systems. It would be terrible to end up locking yourself out of all of those online services and accounts you use.

Security rating: Password managers like LastPass are very secure but still require strong passwords. The good news is that you can make your account passwords as strong as you’d like without having to remember them all. If you’re willing to go through the setup, I highly recommend you start using a password manager.

Hide Your Browsing Activity

What it is: If you haven’t heard about everything going on with the NSA watching our every move online, you’re living under a rock! But it’s not just the NSA you have to worry about. Advertisers and even your ISP are watching what you do online. Hiding your browsing activity ensures that no one else can see what you’re doing online. There’s an easy to install browser extension called Disconnect that works relatively well.

Time to set up: 5 minutes

Security rating: Browser extensions are good but they don’t mask everything, so if you want true security you should consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

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Encrypt Your Online Conversation

What it is: Much like you’d want to encrypt sensitive data within emails, it’s also a good idea to encrypt your chat conversations, especially when sharing sensitive information with friends online. Thanks to an encryption feature called “Off-the-Record Messaging” you can rest assured knowing your chat conversations are secure.

Time to set up: About 1 minute.

Additional info: If you’re a Windows user you’ll want to use the chat applet called Pidgin. If you’re a Mac OSX user you’ll want to use Adium. If you’re not currently using these services you should consider starting now. Basically, these allow you to IM all your friends across all the various chat networks in one place.

“Off-the-Record Messaging” is built into Adium. Turning it on takes just a few mouse clicks.

    Pidgin users will want to follow this easy guide to setup enable encrypted chatting.

    Security rating: To actually have an encrypted chat conversation the person your chatting with will also need Adium or Pidgin installed, but that’s not terribly difficult to have someone do. In general, off-the-record chatting is super secure and is very difficult to crack.

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    Encrypt And Secure Your Backups

    What it is: These days we’re storing a lot of information in the cloud, and if you’rie using services like Dropbox, ZipCloud, or CrashPlan, you’ll want to make sure that your personal data is private and secure.

    Time to set up: About 15 minutes.

    Additional info: Encryption for these services is relatively easy to set up. If you’re using CrashPlan this can be done automatically for you. If you’re using a service like Dropbox you should use a service like SafeMonk, which encrypts your files before you upload them. If you’re like me and don’t have a ton of data that you need to encrypt (I have some medical, financial, and insurance files) you can use TrueCrypt. The downside to TrueCrypt is that once you’ve encrypted your files, you’re not able to access them from other computers.

    Security rating: In general, you’ll be very secure with these forms of backup security, but you could also switch from unsecured cloud hosting services, like Dropbox, to companies like Tresorit and SpiderOak. If you’re storing a lot of sensitive information in the cloud you may want to consider switching to one of these more secure services.

    Conclusion

    Spend a few extra hours protecting yourself online. After the initial legwork, your information will be substantially more secure. It’s well worth the effort, so invest the time and protect yourself before it’s too late.

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    Last Updated on November 25, 2021

    How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

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    How to Make Private Browsing on Safari Truly Private

    There comes a time when we may be searching online and don’t want the browser to remember our footsteps. The reasons don’t always have to be what we obviously think of as the main reason; for example, sometimes, you may not want Safari to remember your passwords or prompt you to enter your password when surfing the web.

    Whatever the reason, we may think that we are totally in the clear with Private Browsing on Safari and the other browsers on a Mac. However, a quick Terminal command can bring up every website you’ve visited. How do you do this? Also, how do you clear your tracks for good? We will provide both answers and more today.

      What Does Private Browsing Do?

      When activated, Private Browsing on Safari prevents your browsing history from being kept in the history tab of the application. Along with this, it doesn’t autofill information that you have saved in the browser. In this mode, you essentially become incognito and any references of previous use is essentially hidden when you are in private mode.

      For example: if you are on Facebook or filling out a form and some information or your login is already filled in in the spaces provided, this is called autofill. It’s activated by simply clicking Safari next to the Apple symbol in the menubar and selecting Private Browsing, then clicking “OK” to the prompt.

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      The reasons behind private mode differ for each individual. While we won’t go into all of those reasons, one thing that is  important to remember is that private browsing doesn’t forget the websites you visit. As we will see later on, Macs keep a second copy of the websites you visit in either mode. If you are in frantic mode looking for a solution to this, look no further.

      The Terminal Archive

      While Safari does a good job of keeping your search history out of prying eyes in the history tab, there is a less-than-obvious way to view a full list of visited websites on Mac. This is done in Terminal; the command-line emulator that allows you to make changes to your Mac.

      Terminal is located in the Utilities folder on your Mac. Once activated, simply add the command:

      dscacheutil -cachedump -entries Host

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      Once you hit “enter”, a list of the visited sites appear. Showing only the domains, the sites appear in a format of:

      Key: h_name :(website domain)ipv4 :1

      However, there’s no need to fear—there is a way you can clear this information from Terminal with a command that’s just as simple.

      Clearing Your Tracks

      Just as simply as you were able to enter the command to view the websites, you can clear the cache that Terminal showed you with the comamnd:

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      dscacheutil -flushcache

      As the command denotes, this literally “flushes” the domains from Terminal. This does not prevent the record from continuing to be recorded for future sites, however, so if that’s an issue for you, repeat this process regularly.

      Other Browsers and Private Browsing

      Other browsers have this form of privacy mode for their service. They promise many of the same things as Safari, but they do not have the same Terminal issue due to how this command only presents websites visited on Safari (the browser Macs come shipped with).

      If you use Firefox, you’ll notice that its private mode is also known as Private Browsing. Chrome calls private mode Incognito, while Internet Explorer refers to it as InPrivate Browsing. Opera is the newest to the scene, denoting it as Private Tab. Safari is the oldest well-known browser with this feature.

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      As you can see, despite Private Browsing not being 100% private, Terminal allows for your browser to be. In what ways has Terminal helped your life or allowed you to become more productive? Let us know in the comments below.

      Featured photo credit: Benjamin Dada via unsplash.com

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