This is the second part of a post I shared recently regarding best practices to help us with your online privacy and security.
Be aware that when you use an email account from GMail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, etc you are compromising your privacy. These companies give you a free email account, but in exchange they have access to all your emails. They use the content of people’s email to learn more about people’s behavior and improve their advertisement tools. In addition the emails you sent are not getting encrypted, so a malicious agent can also gain access to them.
The alternative would be to use an email account from a provider like ProtonMail which not only protects and respects your privacy but offers very high security standards with end-to-end encryption. Another alternative is to register your own domain and manage your own email service, but that is more costly and time consuming.
Similar to email, different text message providers like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, do not offer the highest possible security features. For example even though WhatsApp encrypts the content of a message, it does not encrypt the sender, receiver, date, location, etc information.
The best alternative for private and secure text messaging is Signal. This is a non-profit organization that created a text messaging system that prioritizes privacy and security. It is the de-facto text messaging application for reporters dealing with sensitive information.
Apple’s Messages are also encrypted and secure, but you can only use this service if both sender and recipient own Apple devices which is very limiting.
Every time you visit a page on the web your IP address is shared with the page you are visiting. This compromises your privacy because your internet provider knows what IP address has assigned to each customer at any given time. And if the website your are visiting does not use a secure connection (https) all the traffic between you and the website could be seen by a malicious agent.
A very simple solution to protect your privacy and security while browsing the web is to use a reputable VPN service like ProtonVPN. Be careful because there are VPN services out there that will track you and sell your data to advertisement companies. The VPN connection will encrypt all the traffic end-to-end so a malicious agent would no longer be able to intercept it, and it masks your IP address so websites can no longer track you.
In addition, be mindful of who makes the browser you are using:
- Are you using Chrome, a browser from an advertisement company that loves to track everything you do? Then give yourself an F
- Or are you using Firefox, a browser from a non-profit open source community that does a good job protecting your privacy and security? Now you can give yourself a B
- Or are you using Brave, a browser built with privacy, security and advertisement blocking at its core? Brave even includes the ability to start a browsing session with Tor enabled which offers the highest level of privacy by using a technique named Onion routing. Congrats you get A+!