Hiding from the Biggest Spy on the Internet – Part 4

In our last three posts, we dissected the data collection program on one of the biggest Internet companies, the King of the Internet, Google.  Today we are going to provide you with a small set of options you can use to reduce and sometimes eliminate your exposure to data collection, and increase your privacy while online.  These solutions will work well not just against Google, but also against the data collection efforts of other Internet companies, as well as some of the governmental data collectors (NSA, CIA) working the Internet.  Here we go.

  • VPN – If you use a VPN (virtual private network), you are creating an encrypted “tunnel” through the Internet that will mask your IP address and prevent data collectors from getting anything useful from your browsing history and search requests.  This will also serve to make all of your online communications completely secure and private.  I happen to use VPNSecure, but there are many other VPN providers out there.  You could always check with The Best VPN, whose great article was a resource for this series.
  • TOR –  The Onion Router combines encryption with routing through multiple encrypted proxy servers, so your identity is truly anonymized.  Just download the TOR browser from the TOR Project website.  Created by the US Navy, and endorsed by journalists, human rights activists, outlawed political parties, freedom fighters, and whistle blowers everywhere. Its how the Chinese get to Google.  Why not you?
  • VPN + TOR – If you are a belt and suspenders sort of person, this is for you.  Fire up your VPN, and then open TOR inside the encrypted tunnel.  Who doesn’t like double encryption?  Be prepared for connections to be a little slower than normal.  Your speed may vary.
  • Private browsing – A less drastic alternative is to turn on Incognito Mode in your Chrome browser to prevent Chrome from saving your web site history.
  • Privacy settings – Get into your Google account and change your privacy settings and decide for yourself what data about you is and is not stored by Google.  This works in Facebook and other sites too, but you have to change them on every site, not just Google.
  • Turn location off – Do this for Google Maps and your Android phone.  Understand that GPS will no longer work for mapping apps, which is a big pain if you are used to using your phone for directions.  You can of course turn it back on when you need it, but that information will be saved.
  • Change your browser – Go to Firefox or Edge.  Firefox has a pretty good set of privacy policies that should protect you from excessive data collection.  Make sure to change your privacy settings and turn on incognito mode in Firefox to make this happen.  You can make privacy changes and use incognito mode in Edge too, but understand that Microsoft is another big data collector in competition with Google, so this may not be your best choice.
  • Change your search engine – Many security conscious people are abandoning Google and Bing (Microsoft again) in favor of DuckDuckGo.  It is recommended by the TOR Project, and is the default search engine in their browser.
  • Log out of your Google account – This is a relatively simple process, click on your picture in the upper right hand corner of Chrome and choose “Log Out.”  This will keep your search and history from being directly attributed to you, but the data will still be collected together with your IP address.
  • Delete your Google account – Very extreme, and if you have an Android phone, not really an easy option, the two things are pretty well linked together.  There are instructions for this process on CoolMuster.  I have not tried this myself, so you are at your own risk here.  Deleting your Google account on your computer is easier, just log in to your account and delete it.  It does take some doing to find the exact place to perform the deletion.  Hopefully the link will help.

So we finally arrive at the end of this topic.  Hopefully you learned a thing or two, and maybe made some changes to your online browsing habits.  Our goal here as always is to inform, and provide alternatives and solutions that anyone can use.  Take care out there and do the right thing.

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About the Author:

Cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. Serving small business owners in the St Paul, Minneapolis, and western Wisconsin area since 2001. Cybersecurity and hacking have been a passion of mine since I entered the computer and networking business in 2000. I hold several cybersecurity certifications including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Advanced Security Pratitioner (CASP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Other computer industry certifications include A+, Network+ and Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE). As Cybersecurity Analyst at The WyzCo Group, I help our clients experience high levels of security on their computers, networks, and websites. In addition to consulting on security products and services, we also conduct security audits, vulnerability assessments and full penetration tests. We also work with companies and organizations that need to certify compliance with regulations such as PCI-DSS (credit card processing), HIPAA/HITECH (medical records), and GLBA. We also provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training for clients and their employees. I am a frequent speakers at cybersecurity conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference, the (ISC)2 World Congress, and the ISSA International Conference, and many local community organizations, Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2008.

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