News Round Up – Smart Ways to Cover Your Tracks Online
Some people think that people who care about their digital footprint are a wee bit too paranoid. Well, most of the data that is collected by search engines, email services and cookies is not useful to small time snoopers but a little of what is useful to small time snoopers can result in untold damage. The small percentage that small time snoopers are taking advantage of results in spam, blackmailing or identity theft.
These small bite of information that we leave on the internet can cause huge loses, especially if they are confidential information about company dealings. Businesses need to maintain a competitive advantage, and that takes some privacy and confidentiality, especially now that almost all communication happens online.
Below we look at a few methods which can help clear some of our internet foot prints. There is no way to stay completely anonymous-except staying completely offline, and you don’t want that- but there are methods which can deter the bad guys from attacking you.
Manage you cookies
Cookies are small trackers that are stored in your browser by websites you visit with the aim of collecting data on how you surf their site. The cookies send information to the site on what you like to view among others s that the site is able to understand your preference. Now this is good, but the danger is that there is no telling what they also do with the info the collect.
You can delete cookies manually by going to your browser and selecting delete cookies. You can also use a Firefox extension called Close’n Forget which automatically deletes cookies from your browser once you close a tab.
The third way through which you can manage cookies is through the use of another Firefox extension called Better Privacy which deletes strong cookies-like Flash player cookies. There also exists a Firefox extension called Ghostery which notifies you of incoming cookies and gives you the option to delete them.
Use The Onion Router
The Onion Router(TOR) is a network of machines which bounces you traffic from one computer to another many times before it finally gets your data from a website to you or vice versa. The concept behind TOR is all about hiding you IP address.
When you make a request to visit a certain site for example, TOR encrypts the request say X times and sends it through X number of servers, with each server peeling off a layer of encryption such that the last server on the path suits the request like it is its own. The result of the request goes along the same path with each server decrypting until your PC receives the result.
TOR is hard to decrypt for the average snoop but a snoop with resources can track a request back to your PC.
Use SSL encrypted connection
When you have an SSL connection, the data to and from your PC in encrypted so that any snooping party will find it hard to crack the communication. Sophisticated hackers can crack your communication but the hacker at the coffee bar snooping on people on public WiFi will not be able to read what you are sending and receiving. The other problem is that SSL only protects data as it is being transferred. Whatever the websites you visit do with your data is beyond SSL’s control.
Encrypted messaging is a technique where your messages are encrypted with a format that only the recipient can decode. This method requires that you and the recipient have compatible encryption software in addition to both of you agreeing on a specific code. This method is quite tasking and is only recommended for extremely sensitive emails and messages.
Best Way – Virtual Private Network
VPN is a network that allows users to use any of their servers as a proxy so that they can hide their real IP address. But that is not the only use; VPN also encrypts the user’s traffic in any of the methods that the user chooses. VPN is a paid service which not only provides you with a way to cover your digital footprint but also open up geo-blocked websites.
There are many as you can imagine, VPN providers out there but only a few like HideMyAss take their business very seriously. A good VPN provider should be affordable and easy to use, in addition to providing you with the best possible security and anonymity online.
There are other methods that you might consider like Translucent databases and Stenography but you will find that these methods are quite complicated and unsuitable for an individual user. They are too technical and they have not been very well developed as of yet.
Using one or any combination of the methods above will help you reduce your digital footprint. Again, you will not be 100% anonymous but you will deter average criminals. If you choose to only use one of the methods above, our best advice would be to go with VPN from a good provider. That way you will have a relatively solid method at an affordable price.