We’re being monitored, online. That’s nothing new though. We all know that. In a world that increasingly grows to rely upon technology, and where your individual data points can mean big money for some advertiser somewhere, it should come as no surprise that just about everything that we do online has been recorded and stored on some server somewhere.
I’ve grown quite alarmed over this the past few years, but I have never really known where to even start. I just thought “Incognito” mode on Chrome was enough to hide me from all that was happening. I was wrong. After doing quite a bit of research on the subject over the past few years, I’ve learned quite a bit that is not only beneficial but easy to use as well. Here are just a few of the many tips I’ve found that can help you to retain some level of anonymity while online. This is by no means a comprehensive list. There’s a ton of other things that you can do to protect your information online. However, this should give you a decent place to start.
Facebook has gained quite a bit of notoriety of late for the amount of data it collects from each user. Not only does Facebook know what you post, like, and send messages about while using Facebook, but it can often discover more about you based on other sites you visit.
Facebook adds trackers that will request information from other sites, even after you’ve already logged out of Facebook. These trackers will find out your geographic location, monitor which sites you visit, and what you click on while on those sites.
Facebook Disconnect is an extension that you can get for Chrome that allows you to determine just what knowledge Facebook actually gets about you.1 Obviously, the best recourse would be to just delete Facebook altogether (and I’m not far away from doing that), but for many of us Facebook is one of the key ways that we are able to keep tabs on friends and family far away.
When you search for a subject or site via a search engine (Google, Yahoo, et cetera), what you search for is recorded. Let’s say someday in the future anybody associated with an AR-15 is deemed a terrorist and to be followed. If you search for videos on AR-15s, then somebody somewhere will know.
HTTPS Everywhere to Disguise Web Page Content
HTTPS Everywhere disguises the web page content of what it is that you’re looking at. This means that theoretically nobody can see the content of the web page itself. They can still see the URL (the web address, which in itself can be pretty revealing), but they can’t actively see the content of your page. Your ISP (Internet service provider) can see every website that you visit, if you don’t use encryption.
“Https” is a type of encryption. You may have seen it at the beginning of a website URL when you click on their link. It’d look like https://www.survivalblog.com. That means that the site has been encrypted. You may see just “http” on some sites. This isn’t as secure as “https”. HTTPS Everywhere ensures that you are using a more secure means of encrypting your data than solely relying upon “http”.2
Log Out of Email Accounts
Log out of your email accounts once you’re done using them. If you don’t and you stay logged in, your Web traffic can be recorded by your email provider. This enables your email provider to gradually build a profile on who you are, what you do, and what you are interested in. What they do with the profile they create on you is really left up to them.
Tape Over Your Webcam
Put tape over your webcam. There are entire sites out there devoted to feeds of webcams that have been hacked. Sites where anybody in the world can log on and view what is happening in the world visible from hacked computers. I’ve had plenty of friends who have been notified by their firewall/antivirus that a foreign entity is trying to access their webcam.
Layers of Security
Obviously a good security service, such as McAffee, Norton, Kaspersky, or the like, can help prevent some of this, but layers of security are always a good idea. Putting non-transparent tape over your webcam is a sure-fire way to ensure that nobody is peeking at you through your computer.
Ghostery is a Chrome extension that allows you to see all of the sites that are tracking you, and it allows you to control which sites actually do. If it’s a site that you really like and want to support (ads are how a lot of sites make money), you can keep the analytics and trackers on still. I permit tracking for a few sites I really appreciate.
ScriptBlock is another Chrome extension. This one cuts down on the number of third party sites that track your web searches/activity. Let’s say you’re in the market for a new computer. If you do a lot of research online for best models and then go to a shopping site (Amazon, eBay, et cetera), those sites may literally be able to see the last sites that you visited and then use that information to create appropriate advertisements for you (computers, keyboards, cases, et cetera).
This usually happens when you click links on websites that will take you to other websites. Small amounts of script hidden in the code are what provide this information. ScriptBlock hides these scripts from the next website.2
DuckDuckGo is actually a search engine. The more news I read and hear, the less I like the big search engines. They track everything, know a lot about you already, and tend to be pretty statist minded. DuckDuckGo is a fantastic search engine that doesn’t track what you’re looking at. It hides your IP address, which is one of the key ways that it can be determined who you are and when you’re online.
Canvas Defender is yet another Chrome extension. It keeps your web searches from being tracked via canvas fingerprinting. Canvas fingerprinting is basically a quick image that is drawn within your browser invisible to you when you click on particular web pages.
This image is then converted into a unique number. It is matched to prior instances where that unique number has been found on other websites. As a result, a profile of the type of sites that you like can be gradually built up, giving a pretty good picture of who you are.
Do you want people intercepting and reading your emails? Me neither. FlowCrypt utilizes a very secure means of encryption known as PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) to encrypt the emails that you send. Just know that messages sent via FlowCrypt expire after a few days. This makes it harder for bad guys to intercept your emails, but it can be inconvenient if you need to refer back to a particular email. Thankfully though, you can choose which emails to encrypt and which ones not to with FlowCrypt.
In conclusion, thankfully it is pretty straightforward to install any of these add-ons to Chrome. They essentially install themselves. I’ve focused on Chrome with this piece, as it’s one of the most popular search engines out there. However, there are similar extensions that can be found for Firefox. You’ve undoubtedly heard about the Dark Web and Tor browsers. These most certainly help to add another layer of security to your online presence, but they tend to be a bit more difficult to access for the average user than Chrome or DuckDuckGo. They’re still great tools to use but outside of the scope of this article.
Multiple Layers of Security Online
Just like with any type of prep, layers of security is one of the best ways to ensure that you are as protected as possible. If something slips through the first layer of defense, then you have backups that will hopefully catch it. That’s why I recommend doing the same thing with your computer presence. Multiple layers of security online only serves to benefit you and can actually be done within the span of about 20 minutes.
If you really want to delve deeper into the nuts and bolts of cybersecurity in an easy to read format, I highly recommend purchasing Kevin Mitnick’s The Art of Invisibility. To date, it is the best source on cybersecurity written for the average person that I have found. It’s actually where I learned about ScriptBlock and HTTPS Everywhere. Anyway, it’s a fantastic piece, and it deserves to be on every prepper’s bookshelf.
- Mitnick K. The Art of Invisibiliity: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 76 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 76 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.