It is clear that the vast majority of people are using the Internet and their digital tools and devices without really knowing the full consequences. In a piece I wrote over the Summer entitled Internet Privacy, I categorized the different profiles with regard to their internet usage and concerns about privacy (see below).
Whichever profile might fit you, the other hard reality is that we all need to keep on top of and/or improve our knowledge of the privacy issues and the options that are available to us.
Setting up Internet Privacy
If you are someone who is concerned about your privacy, have you ever wondered how can you search safely online and browse privately? Do you have any idea how much your Internet privacy is worth? And, more practically speaking, what services should you use and what budget you would need? These are the questions that I wanted to address in this post. Pretty much everyone is aware that our data is being used and shared. Certainly, if you opened an account on Ashley Madison, you are more than painfully aware. But, we tend to fall into different camps as to what we are prepared to do about it. To be sure, no matter the protective services and devices one uses, nothing can totally protect us from our own stupidity, errors in judgment or a porous inner circle. We can be giving away our data without thinking about it while shopping (i.e. with a loyalty or club card) or when logging onto a wifi network.
Using the Internet with Security and Privacy
For those people who would be interested in having a presence online and being able to operate normally without having to give away one’s data, what is the solution? This post simply attempts to identify a bouquet of services that would provide as good a level of privacy and security as can be bought. In the end of the day, it should be noted that the truth is that total protection is not possible. For the majority of the services on offer, the key is understanding the business model: advertising or subscription. Nothing is free.
The services for a more secure surf
The below is not a comprehensive list of services… I have had a number of friends and experts validate the list, but no one seems to have a complete knowledge; hence the interest around this post. Also, it would be relevant to bear in your mind that there may also be some redundancies where some services overlap. One thing to recognize upfront is that the functionality of many of these sites, including TOR, is not what one has come to expect…
As you can see, I have broken the services down into four categories: General Services, Communications, Storage and Payment.
- Browser - TOR aka The Onion Router (FREE)
- Search - DuckDuckGo (FREE)
- Internet Service Provider (ISP) – Some have to be more secure than others…. but this will depend on where you are
- Tracker Blocker - DoNotTrackMe ($5/month)
- Password Manager - OnePassword $50 per year
- Virtual Private Network (VPN) - NordVPN $8/mo (although I’ve been told that it is better to spend at least $15/month in order to get a serious service…)
- Email - Hushmail ($50/year) or Gnu Privacy Guard (seems to be running FREE)
- Cyber Security - Glasswall Solutions which works on top of the email, but this is an enterprise solution
- Social Network - Ello (free for now… if it survives)
- Secret Messenger - Wickr (not priced yet, but coming soon I believe)
- Mobile Phone: The best solution seems to be, Blackphone 2 with SilentOS, which was released just this week at the price of $799. Caution: I have not tested this phone at all.
- Cloud Storage - Spideroak ($12/month for 1TB)
- Encryption service for files: Wuala c €3/mo for 20GB
- Payment Services - Bitcoin (cost depends on a number of variables) along with an eco-system of bitcoin wallets and payment platforms.
It is worth noting that, depending on your worldview and your opinion of the GAFA gang, the services of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp (Facebook), iMessage (Apple) and Snapchat have end-to-end encryption. Google encrypts its mail, but only on its server. You can try a service such as Vitru, which provides end-to-end encryption on top of Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft Outlook.
The Price of Internet Privacy
To be sure, this is a list in a point of time. I might have added LastPass for password management, but they got hacked over the Summer. The better known — and more popular — these services become, the more prone they will be to hackers . And some will surely change business models and deviate from a path of total security, or just disappear themselves. With the above list of services, it seems that one would need a monthly minimum budget of just $40 (this is on a personal level). Is your privacy and confidentiality worth $480 per year? Of course, you would have to forsake a lot of services, devices and sites in order to keep your eco-system tight and secure. Another consideration: by putting in place and using such services, you can also raise eyebrows and, possibly, put yourself on a list that raises more suspicion than had you had continued to use the regular channels.
Any thoughts, questions and concerns?