Remain Anonymous Online and Protect Information- Part 1, by Contributor

Would you like to remain anonymous while online? Would you like to protect your communications and information? Well, I’m going to show you how you can accomplish this. This is intended to be a comprehensive, full paranoid guide. So use everything or just some to get the protection you deem appropriate. It might be best to read through this guide, determine everything you’ll need, and then go step by step. At the end, I’ve provided some resources for additional help, if this doesn’t provide enough in-depth guidance.

Start From Nothing, Remove Everything

Let’s start from nothing. You need a computer, preferably a laptop. I would recommend a gaming laptop from Amazon. If you want absolutely no traces, you’ll want to buy it used (such as on Craigslist) with cash or have an acquaintance buy it from Amazon. You could buy something from a local store with cash, or get a prepaid credit card and use that.

If the laptop has Windows 10 Professional, then you are good to go. However, it probably does not. So, you need to buy and install that. Again, you can buy this from Amazon, a local store, or through a private purchase. When you are installing it, ensure you select to “Remove Everything”. This just makes sure you have a fresh install without any of the extra software that is usually included.

Windows 10 Professional Required for Bitlocker to Encrypt Drive

Windows 10 Professional is required for bitlocker to encrypt the drive. Now encrypt your entire hard drive. To do this, go to the start button, settings, and manage bitlocker. Select your C drive, and turn on bitlocker. The setup will walk you through what you need to do. You’ll be setting a password.

A Quick Password Guide

It’s time for a quick password guide. The best password is a long password that you can remember without writing it down or saving anywhere. It might be something like “I really need a beer!”. A 21 character password is hard to crack. Use sentences with punctuation. Throw in some numbers, and even if someone does guess your password, it’ll still be hard. You might modify it to be “I Really N33d A B33r!”. Alternatively, you could use a password list of randomly generated characters and keep it with you at all times, but I think sentences are easier. Now go back and change your password for your laptop to something better.

A Recovery Key

Once you set your password for bitlocker, you’ll be given the option to save a recovery key. You can use this key to recover your bitlocker drive, so you’ll either want to securely dispose of it or keep it on you at all times. If you forget your password and lose your recovery key, then you will have a brick that you can start all over with. It will take some time for the drive to encrypt, but you can continue to use it while that is working.

Virtual Private Network

Now you are going to setup a VPN– virtual private network. A VPN encrypts your network traffic between you and the VPN provider. This ensures that if someone is snooping on your connection, all they get is your encrypted traffic. You must, however, trust your VPN provider, because they could be acting as the middleman. There are two that I would recommend– Private Internet Access or Proton VPN. Proton has a free option, if you are limited on resources.

How to Pay For Your VPN

Once again, you’ll be presented with a choice of how to pay for your VPN. You could use the Proton VPN free service to purchase the paid VPN service, using a one-time use email.

Secure Email Service

If you google secure email service, you can find them. In my experience they tend to have ads for porn, therefore, I’m not linking to them. Some of these are going to be “shared”, so you may already have mail in the box and someone could see whatever information is sent to that mailbox. Also, if you lose your information to your paid VPN provider, then you just donated your money. Alternatively you can create a free email with gmail or provider like Proton Mail.

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access has some walk-throughs on setting up their service. Install their client, put in the username and password they provide, and then connect to the server of your choice. If you want a faster connection, select a server that is closer to you. Another use for a VPN is it will allow you to pick where you “are” so that services that will only allow you to watch streaming from their country might allow you to use them. You will want to test your VPN.

Updated with the Latest Protections

Now you need to make sure your computer is updated with the latest protections. Go to your start button, then settings, and search for “check for updates”. Then, click the update button and let the updates get installed. This might take awhile. However, you can continue to use it. You need antivirus software. Windows 10 comes with Windows Defender, which is a good product. You can check for updates by going to settings and searching for Defender. If you want to purchase one from a different vendor, I would recommend ESET or F-Secure. These are only going to protect you so far. If you go looking for trouble (malware, backdoors, et cetera), they may or may not protect you.

Virtual Machines For Internet Activity

All of this was to setup your computer; however we’re not going to use this computer for our Internet activity. We’re going to setup virtual machines for Internet activity. A virtual machine is a software computer that runs on a host, like your computer we just setup. With a virtual machine we can reasonably ensure that it is clean after every use. And, if we need, we can download or setup a new one just to be sure.

Downloads Necessary to Create Our Virtual Machines

Some downloads are necessary to create our virtual machines. You will need to download Virtual Box, a Windows virtual machine, and Tails, which is a Linux virtual machine. There are other options to Virtual Box; however, it is free and does what we need. Feel free to purchase something, if you desire extra features. Install Virtual Box; you can just hit “Next” through the menu options.

I would recommend the “MS Edge Windows 10 Stable” Windows virtual machine, but you can choose any of them. You need to make sure you download the one for Virtual Box, if that is the VM software you have decided to use. Browse to your download and then extract the contents of the file. This should be a .ovf file, which will import the virtual machine into Virtual Box. Double click the file and when prompted select Import.

Snapshots of This Virtual Machine

We need a few snapshots of this virtual machine. The first is right after it is imported. A snapshot allows us to restore the virtual machine to a specific state, like when we first imported it. We will call this the baseline. Click on the virtual machine, then in the right side of the window select “screenshots”. Then click the camera icon and name it “baseline”. If you ever mess something up, you can restore this virtual machine to this point for a fresh start.

Boot the Virtual Machine Up

Hit the start button in Virtual Box to boot the virtual machine up. It starts up with a default user and password, which you can find on the page where you downloaded it. Select Input and then Keyboard, and ctrl+alt+delete. Now select Change a Password, and change the password using the guidelines I recommend above.

We’ll continue with the procedures for remaining anonymous online and protecting your information tomorrow, in Part 2.

 

See Also:

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:

First Prize:

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  3. 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,
  4. 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),
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Second Prize:

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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.




23 Comments

  1. That is why all this stuff is so confusing to us that are “less than computer literate”…..you read one thing here and another thing there!!?? I am no way a computer geek, but talking about Windows 10 in the same breath as security did have me raising my eyebrows….I am looking forward to the remainder of this information and especially the comments. Let’s be civil and try to help each other out, in this very area, where so many of us are lacking in knowledge.

    1. EAM:
      I agree there’s a huge frustration factor in taking in and processing new information, especially when it’s mostly abstract concepts in an alien language. As a card carrying Luddite I prefer “the bolt goes here, nut tightens bolt, toy works again.” Pictograms are even better!

      It’s especially challenging when a really savvy, adept expert is talking to less experienced folks. The technically proficient aren’t always effective instructors.

      Their vast practical knowledge lets them know what’s important and what can be glossed over – except that newbies need to know everything, even the most mundane and ultimately unnecessary stuff. I missed my first real estate exam by one point- the history of British Common Law. Never used it, but it was part of the rules to play and our instructor had blown it off.

      I appreciate Contributor’s insights. It’s a long, laborious road he’s taking us down, and we gotta gird the loins to follow. Thank heaven I use Mac!

      Nothing ever happens to Mac!

      1. Windows 10 can be locked down. But it takes a lot of knowledge and some effort. I work in a PCI compliant workplace and oversee network security for both our CDE and corporate users. A good place to start is the guidebook for Windows 10 from SANS. One thing to note about these open vpns is they really arent all that secure and many if not all have been known as an additional logging points of your traffic and online behavioral monitoring. Not to mention some ISPs will drop you as a customer since most users that use these tunnels are torrenting pirates. Some even hop you through less than friendly countries to be mined without your knowledge. You will have more luck learning how to build propper inbound and outbound firewall rules to block potential malware (including Microsfts built in tracking tools) and practicing diligent opspec online. This is a generally well built guide as a starting point to prevent windows based junk from keeping hold of a system for laymen. I look forward to your next installments. And to the naysayers there are some things that you just need windows for. Mostly business, macs are probably the worst at security though apple has been slowly trying harder to patch holes, they unfortunately have a horribly inexcusable track record of completely opening the root account for all to abuse in their patching routine. Linux is too fragmented to really comment on. Some are better than others when it comes to YUM updates. Note im not a mac or linux hater, we have both in our environment. But we dont let the mac users connect to our CDE due to the security issues that continue to plague it. We do allow then to RDP to specially locked down Jump servers to do any work if needed, so there are acceptible work arounds that can be done with enough resources.

  2. I concur with the negative comments about Windows(r), no matter which version. Just Don’t go there.

    I recommend a Linux based Operating System. There are many option (Distributions) to choose from and there are plenty of support forums available.

    Yes, Windows(r) users will face a learning curve, but they will, in exchange, gain control of their Computer and Operating System.

    If you are uncomfortable with installing Linux yourself, then buy a System76 laptop with Linux pre-installed. You can buy it via a third party if you don’t want a paper trail.

    Because you are in control, you can test as many different versions of Linux as you wish. The time for a full install is relatively short (much less than an hour) and the cost is just your time.

    You may also run a Live version from DVD or USB, without installing to your hard drive, to test the “look and feel” of a particular distribution. It will be slightly slower in operation, but you can experiment without committing to full installation on the hard drive.

    A final options, which I highly recommend, is to find a Linux user who is willing to walk you through the selection process for both a computer (desktop or laptop) and for which Linux distribution you want to test.

    Welcome to the world of free software, don’t be scared.

  3. TWP:
    Maybe you and a couple of others who, obviously, know more about Cyber Security could do a in depth Essay here on Survival Blog to FULLY educate those of us who are not as versed on the subject.
    I believe that a lot of us, my self included, could benefit from such an Essay.
    Maybe something on all of Linux and how to use/install all of them?
    Maybe something on how to use/install some of these encrypted search engines, other than Google, which I no Longer Trust!
    I’am VERY interested. A lot of help would do a lot of good for a lot of us.
    Thanx.

  4. Previous comments on Windows OS are spot on, do NOT use any version of windows for you base OS. Use linux but avoid Red Hat Linux. Microsoft already got their hands on that distro. Once Linux is installed use a small live distro on a usb thumb drive to test which versions you like best. TAILS is a good option. Ensure that the distro has as few non-essential packages as possible. No web, ftp, etc servers installed.
    Do this on an older laptop that you can play with. If you mess it up, just re-install again.

    1. @J,

      That’s an unfair characterization of the relationship between Red Hat and Microsoft that slanderously puts Red Hat in a negative light. The partnership that exists only allows for joint support so Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) can be used as the OS on Microsoft’s Azure cloud farm. Both companies have agreed to jointly support the venture so that if you host your project on Azure, RHEL is one of the OSs available to you. There is nothing in the RHEL that potentially compromises your security if you run it on your own server. This is the same thing that Amazon Web Services has been doing for years. Others to sign similar support agreements with Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are Suse, Oracle, and Canonical.
      Personally, I don’t use RHEL but instead use CentOS, which is the open source version of RHEL, but that’s only because I don’t want to pay the fees associated with RHEL support and am capable of the sysadmin tasks. RHEL, CentOS, and Fedora (along with all of their derivatives) are good Linux platforms.

  5. I have two laptops. One never connects to wi-fi/internet and the other has no data on it. Not a perfect system to protect your privacy but a good start. The article has some good ideas. But unless you are signing on at Starbucks or McDonalds you can be traced right to your address. If you use apps, bank on-line, use a credit card to buy anything, use social media and any one of a hundred other common things you can be tracked by name, address, age, gender, even pictures of you and your family. Good luck hiding from on-line tracking.

    The real secret is don’t do anything to attract attention. No tweets like Roseann does, no threats to anyone, no nothing.

  6. I bought a new inexpensive laptop (HP) and had a computer shop remove windows and install Ubuntu (Linux) for me. Ubuntu does everything that windows can do without the privacy issues.
    I installed Ubuntu myself but I had trouble removing windows, so I had the shop do it for me.

  7. TAILS is the way to go with your current computer or new computer.

    Here is the link: https://tails.boum.org/index.en.html

    They have a great tutorial on the site on how to create your tails usb drive.

    If you prefer, you can also create a bootable DVD using a tails image.

    One of the drawbacks for ANY secure system is the fact that you need to keep it updated. You also have to create secure passwords, don’t run scripts (Java, etc.)

    As I said, the TAILS site has this information on it.

    While there may be a bit of a learning curve, it is well worth the effort.

    I’d offer to create a USB for you but there would be the question of security….

    TAILS is FREE. DO NOT BUY FROM A THIRD PARTY. You should learn to create your very own TAILS ensuring that OPSEC is maintained.

  8. Use Tails (or better yet, Heads) on a dedicated machine that you never turn on at home. Never carry your phone when you go to the public place where you will be working anonymously. Use public transportation to get there. Purchase a burner phone with cash at a busy store in a large City, never turn it on in your home, vehicle, or near your actual phone, and use that for any verifications.

    Finally, don’t listen to idiots on the Internet who are going to get someone killed someday with their idiot advice about running Tails on a VM inside Windows 10 with Bitlocker.

  9. Agree with other commenters. A simply worded tutorial for us Neanderthal types would be very helpful 😉

    At present feel no need to be all that secretive. Have to admit trying to stay anonymous on the internet seems to delve into the realm of child predator.

    HOWEVER . . . . There may come a time when conservatives hunted down on the internet in the not-too-distant future. At that point it would really be nice to be up to speed on preventing those attacks.

  10. Ah, I remember what life was like in the late 70s/early 80s. Apple 2+ and Commodore Vic desktops (no such thing as a laptop). Internet was nowhere, cell phones were briefcase sized, and Saturday morning cartoons ruled. Computers were supposed to make our lives easier. HA!

    Think long and hard about this: Do you really need internet service or a smartphone in your personal life? What are you gonna do when it quits? I have internet at work, and do 95% of all my email traffic and transactional stuff there, because they have far better security than I could ever hope to afford. At home, I use my laptop to print out my recipes, work on budgets, look at pictures, and listen to music. On rare occasions when I am really bored I might get on the internet and check my email, although I do that with my smartphone most of the time when I’m not at work. But I never have urgent email traffic. I let my wife talk me into a smartphone. I would prefer a $30 flip phone with no internet, just phone and text.

    I used to be a lot heavier into the electronic media world. I weaned myself down. I could bail on the rest pretty easy, except I might miss coming here and a few other places of interest, but I’ve done it before.

    I think we could all use a big step back from the console and the I-Phones and reconsider what is really so important in our lives. Sure, these things may provide some convenience in a few aspects of our day to day routine, but in my opinion, they have become way over-used, and most of the time not necessary for our personal business. If work wants to utilize it to do business, that’s one thing, but they have the deep pockets it takes to do it right. I don’t, nor do I have the time or patience to waste trying to make it secure enough for my comfort.

    Best to wean yourself off now, at your pace, than to wait till someone else causes you to have to give it up cold turkey.

  11. Definitely agree with your opinion that you need to trust your VPN provider so choose carefully. Some of them are leaking data. Before buying I’ve read a bunch of reviews online, this article helped me a lot http://uk.pcmag.com/software/138/guide/the-best-vpn-services-of-2018 I’m using Nordvpn, if you’d decide to try it also, can share my discount code DEAL75. Overall, I would advice to choose Nord if Netflix/Hulu access is important to you.

  12. The biggest thing as some people mentioned above is to get away from Microsoft Windows immediately.
    Linux is free, stable, far more powerful than windows, has superior security, built in encryption and impervious to viruses. You can download it for free. https://linuxmint.com/
    You’ll save money by not having to buy anti virus software and new versions of windows constantly. Linux is not the resource hog that windows is, so older machines run great on it, especially if you are just browsing the Internet and sending email.
    Plus Bill Gates is just a globalist scumbag that was instrumental in the Obama adminnistration’s insidious spy apparatus.

  13. Any certified pc/network folks commenting here? I didn’t notice any mention of it but I didn’t read every post. There is no 100% secure os, pc or network. Apple claimed for years that OS 10 was more secure. It wasn’t, they just had such a small part of the market that no one bothered hacking them, same thing with Linux . Times have changed. PC security is an ongoing endeavor not a one time effort. A well supported, robust OS is the foundation and Windows is better supported than any of the others including Apple. If a particulary invasive hack is identified anywhere in the world they can release a patch in 24 hours. The key to security is avoiding foolish mistakes like opening email from senders you don’t know. The most common attack is malicious code embedded in an email, ask John Podesta. Windows 10 sandboxes email links now so even a hidden link can’t gain access to your OS. A good VPN is the next step. I don’t do virtual machines, I have an SSD port adapter in one of the front drive bays in my machine that the boot drive plugs into. I have several SSD boot drives to choose from so I can switch to and from any OS I choose with a simple reboot. That thing on TV where they seize your computer and can tell everything about you! Only if your foolish. If you don’t understand any of the terms I’ve used plug them into your favorite search engine and learn. About those certifications, mine were MCSE, CCNA, Apple, Hewlett-Packard and more too minor to mention. Never take anyone’s word for it, educate yourself.

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