Simple steps to better privacy and security online
What better way to celebrate Cyber November than with a digital upgrade? There are amazing services available, created by companies that truly value your privacy and security. Here are some of my favorites.
Use a password manager
Stop trying to remember a bunch of passwords or, worse, using the same password for all your accounts.
With a password manager, you can generate long, random passwords for every app and/or website you use, access your login and account info from anywhere with browser extensions and mobile apps, and even securely share passwords with others. Your password vault is encrypted and only accessible to you.
My suggestion: LastPass
Turn on two-factor authentication
As an added layer of security for your most important online accounts (like email, banking, and *especially *your password manager), turn on two-factor authentication (2FA).
Basically, you install an authenticator app that generates a random 6-digit code every minute for each of your online accounts. Once you enable 2FA for your online account, when you login, you'll not only be asked for a password (something you know), but you'll also be asked for the random code from your authenticator app (something you have).
In order for someone to login to your account, they would need your password (access to your password manager) and your phone.
My suggestion: LastPass Authenticator
Google isn't exactly known for privacy. Its entire business model is built upon exploiting personal information for profit by selling your information to advertisers who buy targeted ads.
Thankfully, switching search providers is as easy as visiting a different website. Give Bing or DuckDuckGo a try. You'll still find what you're looking for and you'll be amazed at what you find when you pop the Google "filter bubble". Once you find a search engine you like, set it as your browser default.
My suggestion: DuckDuckGo (Yes, seriously. Try it out!)
Ditch Chrome for Firefox
Instead of using Google's browser, Chrome, trust your browsing history to a company that puts privacy and security first: Mozilla.
Browsing is lightning fast, you can securely sync your bookmarks and settings across devices, updates are automatically installed, and you'll get built-in privacy and security features, like Enhanced Tracking Protection.
My suggestion: Firefox
Install a few browser extensions
While Firefox continues to close the gap with built-in privacy and security features, there are still a few must-have extensions.
LastPass: What good is a password manager if you can't auto-fill login fields? With the browser extension, logging into websites is a breeze, even with randomly generated, secure passwords.
HTTPS Everywhere: Ensure that every connection to websites is secure.
Ghostery: Block pesky ads, protect yourself from cross-site tracking, and significantly speed up web browsing. It's Firefox's Enhanced Tracking Protection on steroids.
Multi-Account Containers: Separate parts of your online life into color-coded tabs that preserve privacy. As an example, you can setup a Google container that you can use to login to your Google account and access Google services, which isolates your browsing and prevents Google from tracking you across other sites that use Google Analytics, AdSense, Fonts, etc. Or login to two different accounts on the same site. Separate work and personal browsing. The possibilities are endless!
Browse securely on mobile
My browser of choice on mobile is Firefox Focus. Fast, private, and secure. Ads and trackers are automatically blocked, and each browsing session is temporary, wiped clean as soon as you exit or click delete.
I find that almost all mobile web browsing is temporary in nature. A quick search, click a link someone sent you, etc. Firefox Focus is perfect for these ephemeral sessions.
On the rare occasion that I need a full-fledged browser on mobile, there's always Firefox, but usually those types of browsing sessions are handled by apps anyway.
My suggestion: Firefox Focus
Send files securely
Instead of attaching sensitive files to an email, use Firefox Send to quickly and securely share a file. Files are encrypted and automatically expire after 1 download or 24 hours. Just upload the file and get a secure link. It's that simple.
My suggestion: Firefox Send
Install the Signal app on your phone for free, simple, secure messaging. On Android, Signal works seamlessly with SMS messaging. You can use Signal to send/receive texts with anyone. For those who also have Signal, messages are automatically end-to-end encrypted. For all others, messages are sent as usual via SMS.
As you convince your family and friends to switch to Signal, your messaging becomes more secure, yet the experience remains exactly the same. When a friend installs Signal, your conversation history remains, but all future messages are automatically encrypted.
This one's a no-brainer!
My suggestion: Signal
ProtonMail is a secure alternative to Gmail. It's just as easy to use, but with privacy and security built-in. Emails are never accessible in plain text, even to ProtonMail employees. And, just like with Signal, when you email other ProtonMail users, your emails are end-to-end encrypted.
There is a free option and until Friday, you can get 50% off a Plus plan for Cyber Monday.
My suggestion: ProtonMail
Ok, we're getting a little technical, but ProtonVPN, brought to you by the creators of ProtonMail (as you probably guessed), makes private, secure web browsing incredibly easy.
Essentially, a VPN is a secure tunnel between your computer/device and the internet. You can read more about the benefits of using a VPN on ProtonVPN's site, but probably the most important application is to secure your connection to apps and websites when using public WiFi.
Connect to open WiFi at your favorite cafe, turn on ProtonVPN, and browse confidently.
There's a free plan and discounts if you bundle ProtonMail and ProtonVPN.
My suggestion: ProtonVPN
Here's one that probably never crossed your mind. Almost every internet request starts with a DNS query. DNS is the internet's directory; it's what converts a domain, like cloudflare.com, to an IP address, like 220.127.116.11, which is where the website or service is located on the web.
By default, your DNS lookups are sent to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), which means your ISP knows every website you ever visit and many sell your browsing habits and history to advertisers. It also means your web surfing is unnecessarily slow because ISPs are not the best equipped to host DNS servers.
Switch your DNS server to 18.104.22.168, a public DNS service provided by Cloudflare. Visit 22.214.171.124 for installation instructions for both your devices and your home router. A simple switch for faster, more private internet browsing.
My suggestion: Cloudflare DNS
Maintaining privacy and security online doesn't have to be daunting. Amazing companies and individuals are bringing complex security solutions into the mainstream. Many are free with paid upgrades. When you find services that work for you, I encourage you to upgrade to a paid plan and/or donate. Let's pay for great products that value privacy instead of being the product that's sold to advertisers.