Data privacy, both online and offline, is a personal responsibility that everyone needs to take seriously in our hyper-connected age. We live in an age where everything we do leaves a digital trail: every website we visit, every photo we take and upload to the cloud, and our location data. Even when we don’t hand over this information, we’re leaving behind a unique footprint of metadata that can be just as revealing. With that in mind, below are 10 privacy tools you need in 2022.
1. Phone Security Tool
There are plenty of phone security tools out there, including reverse phone lookup tools that will allow you to see who is calling when you don’t recognize a number. A tremendous number of phishing attempts take place through phone numbers and knowing the telephone number of someone who is contacting you can go a long way towards verifying their identity.
It is important to take special care when giving out any information over the phone. Phishing is a very common way of acquiring sensitive details, and you should always exercise caution when somebody contacts you mysteriously.
Even if somebody contacts you out of the blue claiming to be someone they are not, checking their number against an independent reverse lookup tool can go a long way towards verifying their identity. If the phone number comes up as unknown, it’s best to be skeptical about that person.
2. Reliable VPN
You need a good VPN. Not a proxy to a VPN, not a free VPN. You need a good, commercial VPN service. A good VPN needs to have:
- Multiple countries available – to ensure access from everywhere – see further below on how to find out if you’re able to use one country as your entry point
- No logs * reasonably priced (10 to 20 USD/EUR per month, depending on your location)
- Open source client software with a killswitch and DNS leak protection.
Take care to avoid VPNs using the following protocols: PPTP for encryption and GRE or L2TP as the encapsulation protocol. PPTP is known to be broken and should never be used, and GRE or L2TP/IPsec are not considered safe against knowledgeable adversaries.
3. Tor Browser
Tor browser is used to circumvent censorship of different kinds, anonymize your surfing traffic and hide your location. It is available for download on https://www.torproject.org.
How Tor browser works: Tor client software routes internet traffic through a worldwide volunteer network of servers hiding user information through encryption and decryption along the way. This prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location. Tor browser is available for Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux operating systems.
A word of caution: always use HTTPS versions of websites (the S at the end of HTTP) when possible to avoid having others see which websites you are reading [i.e. https://duckduckgo.com/ rather than http://duckduckgo.com/].
When using Tor, use bridges if you can, since these are run by volunteers and believed to be more stable and secure [to learn how to find out if you’re able to use a certain country as an entry point, see the section on VPNs].
4. HTTPS Everywhere
HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.
HTTPS Everywhere is produced as a collaboration between The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It is available for download on https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere.
GNUPG ( aka GPG ) is free software for secure communication and data storage. It can be used to encrypt data and to create digital signatures.
GPG is a command-line tool that can also be used from within some mail clients and file browsers. The software does not use a web service, so there is no server to get hacked or go
down – it’s your own copy of GPG.
6. Two-factor Authentication
This is a security standard that adds an extra layer of protection to your sensitive online accounts, requiring that you not only have access to your login password but also to the second item of authentication. This could be a code received on your mobile phone for each login attempt or more easily-accessible recovery codes.
A lot of the services you currently use likely have two-factor authentication as the default at this point, but some might still require you to turn it on or select your preferred method.
7. Password manager
A password manager is a software program, web application, or hardware device that helps you create and manage your website logins and other sensitive details.
There are a lot of password managers out there, but if you’re a beginner, a good choice might be the popular LastPass service which is free for personal use. This allows you to save different passwords for each of your accounts, generate complex passwords for you, and then remembers them all so that you don’t have to.
A good add-on for a password manager is a password randomizer. These are useful if you need to be able to access an account on an insecure computer but don’t want to leave your passwords written down. Using them, you can specify how long the password is visible during each session (e.g. 5 hours), and it will automatically switch between all of them for you until you close that program or power off your device. Password randomizers are available for all major platforms.
8. Antivirus Software
Most new computers come with built-in antivirus. If you use Windows 10, for instance, Windows Defender is already included and turned on by default.
If you don’t like your pre-installed software, it is worth considering a free antivirus solution – for instance, Kaspersky and Avast both offer good free versions. If you’re running macOS, the built-in antivirus can be upgraded to Sophos AV for free. Make sure that you are always updating your antivirus when updates are available, as these can protect against new threats.
9. Disk encryption
Disk encryption is a way of protecting the data stored on your computer in case it gets lost or stolen. This could be either through theft or loss, but also when sending hard disks for repairs. Most operating systems now come with disk encryption tools built-in. On Windows, for example, this is BitLocker Drive Encryption.
An ad blocker is a browser extension or software program that blocks all ads displayed in your web browser, no matter whether these are trackers or actual commercial advertisements.
This means you will not have to worry about being tracked by third parties visiting the websites you’re reading. Without tracking cookies embedded into the websites you browse, advertisers would be in trouble in figuring out what ads to display to you.
This is probably one of the most important extensions/plugins you can install in your browser. It’s also worth mentioning that an ad blocker might save some battery life on your computer or phone since it makes intensive use of your hardware resources when loading advertisements.
The Internet is full of free ad blockers for all platforms, but uBlock Origin is a good starting point for most users.
Privacy and data protection should be a priority for everyone in the digital era. Data breaches are becoming more and more frequent, making it even more of an issue. We hope that the tools listed here will help you secure your privacy online.
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