Tag Archives: online privacy

17 Top Tips for Protecting Your Privacy

Happy Data Privacy Day! Celebrated Jan. 28 every year, people are coming together across the globe to talk about the importance of privacy. Take a look at the conversation that’s been happening today on Twitter via the hashtag #DPD14 (or Facebook).

On Jan. 16 we asked our users – some of the best privacy experts in the world – to share their top privacy tips. We were overwhelmed by the response. Hundreds of tips poured in, and many of which them overlapped from multiple users.

We sifted through them & picked some of the top tips for protecting your privacy:

  1. Use Disconnect if not using Tor. – Daryl
  2. Use local full disk encryption everywhere, be it FileVault on the Mac, LUKS on Linux or Truecrypt/BitLocker on Windows. Especially true for Laptops. – Gordon
  3.  If you don’t like to give your email address to each service or message board you sign in, you can use services like 10minutemail.com or mailinator.com which give you a temporary and disposable email address.  -C (You can also use Gmail’s youraddress+tag@gmail.com to track companies that sell your information, and don’t do any more business with them! – Gabriel)
  4. Use different passwords for different accounts and keep them in a password manager (LastPass, KeePass). For example, I use the cross-platform Password Gorilla (same encrypted database on a shared drive read by both Linux and Windows). Of course, backup  the password database file on SpiderOak. – Dusk
  5. Make full use of your password manager, have it generate long, random, unique passwords for all sites. Make sure the password protecting your password manager is very long. As in over 20 uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols.http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/password_strength.png has a good example of how to achieve such requirements in a sane manner (but DO NOT use the phrase “correct horse battery staple” as I’m sure that’s in a hacker’s common password list). Linux users check out the command `apg` and it’s “-a0″ mode to get pronounceable (for english speakers) random words. – Todd
  6. Never type important login information on a public computer. It may have a kernel-mode keylogger installed and you have no way to reliably check for its presence. If you can’t avoid doing it, remember to logout and when you get back home change the password you used. – D
  7. Beware of free wi-fi hotspots, remember to verify that the wi-fi network name is from a legitimate service. Avoid unsecured wi-fi networks. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), when possible, which helps you to route your activity through a separate private network, more secure, while you’re on a public one. – B **Note: see our two recent posts: VPN, privacy and anonymity, and Guest Post: Can you trust a VPN to protect your privacy?
  8. Never disable your security software when playing games. Search for a “game mode” in your security software; you won’t be interrupted in the middle of a game, but you’ll be protected. – B
  9. Never leave your devices unsupervised. When you leave them, lock them and make sure the password you have set is strong. – Christian
  10. Third-party cookies suck. Turn them off in Chrome under Settings > Privacy > Content Settings > Block third party cookies and site data.
    On Firefox that is Preferences > Privacy > History > Use custom settings for history > Accept Third Party Cookies > Never (or from visited if you want to let sites you’ve been to save cookies on other sites. Tell sites you don’t want them to track you on Chrome: Settings > Privacy > Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic; Firefox: Preferences > Privacy > Tracking > Tell sites I do not want to be tracked. – Conor
  11. Use DNSCrypt and the DNS Servers at OpenDNS to secure your DNS traffic from eavesdropping. Use HTTPS Everywhere from the EFF to ensure your traffic with major websites is encrypted where possible.- John
  12. Use SSH keys & disable password authentication. Use GPG to encrypt emails. And use RedPhone app to encrypt phone calls. – Toby
  13. Adblock Plus is awesome and allows you to block Social Media Buttons and has special privacy filters to help keep your footprints clean! – C
  14. Stay informed. Treat security news as important. For example, Ars Technica has a dedicated security column http://arstechnica.com/security. Be aware of alternatives to the software (including webapps) you use and how easy it might be to migrate if neccesssary. See http://prism-break.org/en/ for a privacy/security focus. See http://alternativeto.net for general options (where I found out about SpiderOak!). This is also relevant if you run a website, see http://indiewebcamp.com for tips on avoiding silos. - David
  15. Treat the answers to security questions like passwords. If “Buddy” is a bad password (and it is), then using “Buddy” as the answer to a website’s security question of “What is the name of your first pet?” is also insecure. Use strong passwords AND strong answers to security questions. Courtesy of Facebook and other Internet sources, it is often easy to find the maiden name of someone’s mother. Never use your mother’s real maiden name as the answer to “What is your mother’s maiden name?” – A
  16. Use a Google Voice number that forwards to your cell phone for Craigslist anything. - Avaah
  17. If you’re not paying for the service, your privacy could be the payment. – T

Bonus: Probably the most important privacy technique I use today: Follow this blog. Not only does it give you updates on SpiderOak, but they occasionally recommend other software and companies like they did here: A List of Privacy-Focused Companies, Tools & Technologies. - Bryan

A huge thanks to all of you for your support, time and kind words you gave when writing in!

Want more tips? Check out all the tips submitted via blog comments over the past few weeks.

Is your data secure? Enjoy 28% off our completely private backup, sync and share. Discount runs until the end of January.

Are you a privacy pro?  Answer these 10 questions and to see how good you are at protecting your online privacy: MyPrivacyIQ.com (created by SpiderOak + StaySafeOnline.org)

Learn more about Data Privacy Day.

We will share more of your tips in the coming weeks. Do you have anything to add? 

Privacy is something to be shared. Please pass it on!

Guest Post: Can you trust a VPN to protect your privacy?

Privacy by policy vs. privacy by design: At SpiderOak we always preach privacy by design, we don’t *choose* to not see your data, we just *can’t*.

Sadly, a lot of online services cannot take on that philosophy, simply because of how the internet works right now. This is the case of VPN. VPNs are a great service, but depending on what you want or need, they might have some drawbacks, as we commented on our VPN, privacy and anonymity post.

If after understanding the contents of that post, you still want to use VPN, you will want to use one that is run by someone or some company that is trustworthy, because they will *choose* to protect your privacy. We believe IVPN is a really good example of how this kind of services should be run, so without further ado, we continue this post with a few words from Nick from IVPN.  - Tomas

———–

This article was written by IVPN’s Nick Pearson. IVPN is a privacy-orientated VPN platform, an Electronic Frontier Foundation member, dedicated to protecting online privacy.

For many years commercial Virtual Private Network companies have promised customers freedom from online surveillance and data retention practices. But with the government seemingly waging war on online privacy, is it really possible for a VPN company to protect its users – and how do you know which VPNs actually take online privacy seriously?

 How secure is a VPN?

 Firstly, any individual who has a critical need to avoid surveillance, such as political dissidents or anyone whose life may be at risk, should not rely on a single privacy tool to protect them – whether it’s a VPN, a free tool like The Onion Router, or I2P. In such scenarios, advanced set-ups, involving compartmentalization and isolation via a combination of virtual machines, VPNs and Tor, would be required (you can check out IVPN’s guide to advanced privacy solutions here). It’s also worth noting that even highly sophisticated set-ups probably won’t protect you from targeted surveillance by global-scale intelligence agencies, which can marshal a level of resources and expertise far beyond any individual or company.

 However, generally speaking, most potential VPN customers simply want to avoid data retention at the ISP level and circumvent internet censorship. In this case a VPN service would be sufficient. But only if the company running the VPN actually takes privacy seriously in the first place.

 Privacy policies

 For instance, most VPN companies shield users from data retention by allowing them to circumvent their ISPs ability to log their IP address and connections to other websites. By using a VPN your ISP can only see that your connected to the VPN’s servers and not the website that you’re browsing. But for this system to work, the user has to trust the VPN company not to log IP addresses and connections itself.

 The sad fact is many VPN companies – and indeed some of the most popular VPNs on the market – do in fact log and store customers’ data. Some VPNs will even retain this data longer than many ISPs. Perhaps even worse is that some VPNs are not upfront about their data retention practices and do not state in their privacy policies exactly what data they store and for how long (some VPNs don’t even have privacy policies).

 A VPN company should wipe its data logs regularly, ideally within hours of them being created, so that any requests for the data cannot be met. However, even if a VPN doesn’t store data, users’ privacy can still be compromised. Any company could be subpeoned by local authorities and forced into recording data on particular user. There are precedents for this, such as the Lulzsec fiasco, which saw a US-based VPN forced into logging data by the FBI. It’s therefore good to know what jurisdiction your VPN operates within, so you can get an idea of how local authorities behave toward them. This is a grey area, as there are no countries (that we’re aware of) that will protect a VPN’s right to not log data. All you can do is try to avoid those countries whose authorities have a track record in zealous online surveillance.

 What questions do you need to ask?

 So if you’re thinking of signing-up to a VPN service what questions should you ask in order to determine whether or not they take privacy seriously. Here’s a few suggestions.

 Do they have a privacy policy? This sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to discover some VPNs don’t even have a privacy policy, let alone one that’s up to scratch. If they don’t bother telling you their approach to privacy, steer clear.

 How long do they retain logs? The vast majority of VPNs will log data for network troubleshooting purposes. However, there’s no reason to store data longer than a few days, unless the company is eager to comply with requests from authorities or from other third parties such as copyright holders. Ideally, a VPN should be wiping logs within hours. If the VPN doesn’t say how long it retains data then ask them directly. A good place to start is this list of VPNs that don’t log data.

 What country is the VPN registered in? Knowing what country the VPN is registered in will let you research the country’s laws pertaining to online privacy. As mentioned above, there are no countries that offer complete sanctuary for VPNs who don’t want to log data, but some are better than others.

 What other personal data will the company retain? It’s important to know whether a VPN can link your account to a real identity. Does the VPN require an address, or credit card information? Can you use a more anonymous form of payment such as Bitcoin?

 What will the VPN do if laws change? With governments around the world cracking down on online freedoms, it’s quite possible that VPNs could come under scrutiny. It’s therefore important that a VPN company notify its customers of any change in local laws, which may affect its ability to protect user privacy.

State of Online Privacy Survey Results & Discounted GBs

The results are in!

We’d like to send a big thanks to the 7,883 respondents of our 2013 State of Privacy survey. We were thrilled to get such a great response.

Participants spoke loud and clear. The National Security Agency’s spying program has made users feel less secure. They consider the government the biggest threat to their online privacy. Corporations such as Google, Facebook and Apple came in second.

Nearly 90% said companies should prioritize privacy in their offerings. We agree!

To read the full report of our findings, click here.

To promote more privacy, share and take advantage of this unique offer that runs for the next four days only.

25GBs for $30
- or -
50GBs for $60

Use the code privacyfirst before October.

Typically, the smallest amount of storage you can buy with SpiderOak is 100GB for $100 a year but we recognize not everyone needs or wants that much space. This is why for the end of September, we’re happy to offer 25 or 50 GBs at a discounted rate.

SpiderOak Users:

Login to your account online. Once you’re in, go into your ‘Account‘ tab at the top, and then click ‘Buy More Space,’ and then choose ‘Upgrade My Plan.’ Plug in the promo code privacyfirst, and choose which plan you want under Yearly Billing. There you go!

New User to-be:

Quickly 1) sign up here, 2) download and install the client, then 3) click  ‘Buy More Space’ in the client itself, or via the web portal (which will then take you to a new screen, where you need to choose ‘Upgrade My Plan.‘) Simply use the promo code privacyfirst and choose which plan you want under Yearly Billing.

Be sure to let your friends know about this deal so they can put privacy first too.

Also, survey winners of the iPad, iPod Touch, 100GBs and 50GBs accounts are currently being notified. Let us know if you have any questions!

Thank you again to everyone who participated and validated the importance of privacy.