Online Privacy Checklist - Privacy for Beginners

Online Privacy Checklist - Privacy for Beginners

Checking even a couple of the following boxes will make a huge difference in protecting your privacy.

Checking even a couple of the following boxes will make a huge difference in protecting your privacy.

There are a lot of traces we leave behind with every login, every click, and every install. Each of our steps in the online world is being watched, recorded, and used to build our digital footprint - a complex profile that contains more information about ourselves than we might imagine.

While you may not fully stop data collection and tracking, there are privacy efforts you can take to minimize the amount of information you give to a larger extent.

Here are the most important steps to take so you protect your privacy online you can start applying today without being tech-savvy.


1. Switch to a secure browser

The first, and probably the easiest step on the way to a more private online life, is to switch to a more private web browser. There are more alternatives out there. But one that offers a decent amount of privacy while also being very convenient is Mozilla Firefox.

Mozilla Firefox is well-known for striving to get users enhanced privacy and security, trying to only collect a minimum of data they need to improve users' experience. With Firefox, you get lots of privacy and security features and the web browser is highly customizable for giving you more online privacy while also providing a great browsing experience.

There are many settings you can tweak and add-ons to install in the Firefox browser to get more online privacy while browsing.

Another great alternative is the Brave Browser.

The Brave browser is one of the most secure and private browsers even though it is fairly new on the market. It is also a chromium-based browser that has been developed by one of the original Firefox developers. It is privacy-focused, coming with a built-in ad blocker, script blocking, and HTTPS everywhere, meaning you won't need any plugins to do the job. The Brave browser doesn't store your browsing data, which means you don't have to worry your information will be sold to third parties. With the default settings, Brave blocks phishing, malware, and will disable plugins that pose a security risk. For more private browsers alternatives, check out our list in the post below:


2. Search with DuckDuckGo

We spend a lot of time our time online browsing for stuff. And most of the time, we use Google because, well, it's the most advanced search engine and the most popular. But Google is also the search engine that collects the most amount of data and tracks your every move on the internet. Fortunately, there are other alternatives designed with users' privacy in mind. One of the greatest private search engines is DuckDuckGo.

DuckDuckGo is a search engine designed for enhanced internet privacy. It doesn't save your browsing history, stops advertisers from tracking you on the sites you visit, forces sites to use encrypted connections if available, and even shows you how much a website can be trusted.


3. Use a VPN

Using a VPN service creates a barrier between your real-life identity and your online activity.

The VPN routes all your internet traffic through a remote server. You install the VPN client and choose a remote server to connect through. There are usually thousands of locations you can choose from. Let's say you're in Belgium and chose to connect to a server located in the US. When you'll access a website, the website will see the connection as coming from the US, having no idea who is really behind the request. Your online activity is also encrypted, making your private data unreadable to others. Neither your ISP (Internet Service Provider) isn't able to track your online activity while you are connected to the VPN, everything that's going on behind the VPN server being private.

Keep in mind that if you want to become anonymous online, you have to avoid login-based platforms as they will give away your identity.

You want to also be cautious when you choose a VPN provider as some services log your data and sell them to third-parties.

DrSoft provides a highly secure and anonymous VPN software so you can get back the online privacy and security you deserve. Take a look over the features we provide https://www.drsoft.com/#features to see if we're a match!


4. Minimize the use of Google services

The Google search engine is not the only one tracking you online. Google offers a wide range of services that collect a huge amount of data about users, letting you with no online privacy.

We're using many Google services such as Maps, YouTube, Drive, Calendar, and Gmail. If you're using all these services, especially if you run them with the default privacy settings, then Google knows everything about you - what apps you have installed on your device, your contacts, photos, messages, browsing history, when and where you've been all day. By tweaking the privacy settings, you can limit the amount of personal data you share with Google, but you can't completely stop it from tracking you while still using their services.

The only way to keep yourself private from Google is to minimize the number of their services you're using. I know this step might be quite hard to apply. After all, we use Google services because they are highly convenient and interconnected, which makes for an easier life.

But if you're ready to bite the bullet and be more cautious about your privacy, here are some great alternatives to Google services:


5. Switch to a private email

Another step to enhanced online privacy is to switch to a private email provider.

Email providers aren't always guaranteed to secure your privacy and there are lots of prying eyes out to get your information, from advertising companies to surveillance programs.

Some email services have access to the content of your emails (Gmail for example) and can use this content to gather data so they serve you with personalized ads. Using email services that don't provide proper privacy can also influence your online security. Hackers can get hold of your emails and use the personal information they gather to deploy phishing attacks against you.

A great private email alternative is ProtonMail.

ProtonMail is one of the most secure email services out there. All the messages are automatically end-to-end encrypted which takes out the risk of your emails to be intercepted. Not even ProtonMail has the ability to decrypt your emails, making it impossible for them to share your data with third-parties. The encrypted emails are stored on Swiss servers, the provider being under Switzerland jurisdiction, meaning your user data is protected by rigid data privacy laws. It also gives you the ability to create an anonymous email as they don't require any identifiable information. The only downside of ProtonMail is it doesn't encrypt the subject lines.


6. Chat through secure messaging apps

Using popular messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger means allowing Facebook to further collect data about your activity and about who you're getting in contact with. And let's not forget that WhatsApp, even if it's a secure app that provides end-to-end encryption by default, is still owned by Facebook.

If you want privacy while chatting, you must switch to a private messaging app. One of the best options on the market is Signal.

Signal is, at this date, probably the most secure messaging app out there. Their end-to-end encryption is known to keep users' messages and calls private and secure because they can not be accessed by anyone.

The Signal messaging app is supported on Android, iOS, and Windows devices and it provides all the features a user might need for its communications such as text and voice messages, voice and video calls, chats, file and media sharing, and even disappearing messages. And it is completely free. The only thing you need to register is a cellular mobile number. One of the biggest advantages of this messaging app is that it's open-source. This means that anyone has access to check it for security flaws even though no flaw has been fount to this day. Additionally, the app is clean and simple, without being stuffed by ads, web tracking, and other unnecessary features.

Other great alternatives are Telegram, Silence, and Wire. You can learn more about them from the article below:


7. Use a password manager

This step has more to do with security than with privacy, but it's one of the boxes that any internet user should check off the list.

The most common ways people keep track of their passwords is to either use the same password everywhere or to let Chrome remember their passwords so they don't have to type them every time.

Do I need to mention that using the same password for multiple accounts is the WORST idea? I hope not. Also, saving passwords in Chrome is risky. If a hacker manages to get access to your computer by infecting it with malware, he will be able to connect to your accounts without even needing the password because the sign-in fields will fill in automatically. Not a relaxing thought.

Not to mention, if you're going to follow this privacy checklist, it means you'll ditch using Google Chrome and turn to more private alternatives.

It's time for password managers to come to the rescue!

A password manager not only stores all your passwords but it does it in a secure way. Most password managers also have the feature of creating randomized, strong passwords for you, which will make your life so much easier. For convenience, you can get the feature of adding a browser extension so you won't be required to type in your password every time you're accessing an account.

Some great password managers are LastPass, Avira, and Myki. To learn more about password managers and how to export the passwords saved in your Google account, follow our guide:


8. iOS over Android devices

I know this step might not be as easy as installing a new web browser, but it had to be added to the list as iOS is known to be more private than Android, especially if you turn off the location, analytics, and advertising.

Researches from Symantec show, after analyzing both Android and iOS versions of the apps, that some Android apps request more permission than their iOS variation. For example, seven Android apps required access to SMS messages while their iOS version didn't. This makes you wonder. Why the same app can run on iOS without this permission but can't do it on Android devices? Other interesting findings were that 89% of Android apps request risky permission, while the number is only 39% on iOS devices. Also, 45% of Android apps request tracking location comparing to 25% for iOS. Now, it doesn't mean purchasing an iPhone will guarantee your privacy, but it is a step forward in the right direction, especially with Android being owned by Google.

You can read more about the differences between Android and iOS, in the article below. We talked more about the security aspects of the two.


Conclusion

Having a more private online life is not an easy task. For privacy, you have to give up some of the popular and convenient apps and services you're probably using such as Google and Facebook. There's no other way around it.

In this post, we went over the privacy checklist you should follow if you want to become more private:

  • Switch to a secure browser
  • Search with DuckDuckGo
  • Use a VPN
  • Minimize the use of Google services
  • Switch to a private email
  • Chat through secure messaging apps
  • Use a password manager
  • iOS over Android devices

Checking even a couple of these boxes will make a huge difference in terms of privacy.

If you're not yet ready to give up your beloved services, you can at least apply some tweaks, install some plugins to your browser, and use apps designed for privacy.

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