There are many tools available to keep you secure on your computer, phone, or other device. My aim is to show you how to use them properly, because misuse can be just as bad as nonuse! Setup can be a little tricky for some of these – don’t worry, I’ll talk you through it!
Many of these tools are free. Or perhaps their basic versions are free, but you can pay to upgrade for new features. Sometimes those new features are absolutely worth it, sometimes it just depends.
By no means is this a comprehensive list. It is a list designed to get you started. Choose one tool from each list and you will be very well protected!
Encrypting your files is the best way to keep them safe from the prying eyes of bad guys or rogue governments.
- TrueCrypt – Totally free – Easily encrypt entire hard drives or create encrypted virtual hard drives (a drive within a drive). Only one password per drive – it’s just for you. If anyone else needs access, they need your drive password, which may be OK
- Minilock – Totally free – Easily encrypt a file or folder for distribution to a few people. Each person has their own different password to decrypt the file
- PGP – About $100 – Sold by Symantec, more of a business solution to encrypt email, hard drives, virtual hard drives
- GPG – Totally free – Encrypt email
You need a password manager to securely store all of your passwords. You should have one good password for your email, one for your password manager, and almost every other password should be unique and stored in the password manager.
There are many password managers available, but these are the most popular and are known for their secure implementations.
If you’re interested, some of these companies have fascinating blogs.
Virtual Private Network
A VPN is required whenever you are using a public network. Any budding hacker can use a utility such as wireshark to eavesdrop on your network traffic not protected by TLS (https://…). Some VPNs have free trials or free low-bandwidth service. They work on desktops, laptops, phones, and tablets – anything that connects to the internet.
- Private Internet Access
- Hide My Ass
- DIY solution from Sophos – if you have an unused computer lying around you can setup a pretty secure home environment complete with VPN. And it’s free! I’ll be trying this soon.
Some people use VPNs to stay anonymous. You are not anonymous with a VPN. In fact there are theories that some VPN companies are fronts for the NSA, but who knows.
This is the laptop/desktop tool you absolutely must have but didn’t know you needed. You can virtually forget about the worries of malware if you have a sandbox installed. A sandbox is a special piece of software that cordons off a chunk of memory and runs other software programs in that walled off memory. Those programs running in the sandbox and the data they import or create cannot physically escape onto the rest of your desktop or laptop without explicit permission from you. When you close the program you close the sandbox, and when you close the sandbox all of its data (and potential malware) just vanishes!
Sandboxes are wonderful for browsers and email because that is where the malware usually comes from.
- Sandboxie – tiny program that runs only on Windows machines. 30-day free trial, annoyware after that. A bit tricky to setup, so I’ll have a review and setup guide coming soon.
- Virtualbox – Totally free – Allows you to run any OS on any desktop or laptop. Run linux on windows, run windows on Mac… Use virtualbox to do all your dangerous stuff, then -poof- it all goes away. Warning – complicated to setup. Not for the novice.
You’re not still using Internet Explorer are you? Even Microsoft gave up on it. Switch to Google Chrome or Firefox. I’ve been using Firefox for a long time now, and these are the security plugins I have installed. All of them are totally free:
- Better Privacy – prevents other forms of tracking besides standard cookies
- Ghostery – blocks all the trackers individually, so you can allow just the one or two you really need to have on. Easy setup wizard. My advice – block absolutely everything, then turn things on if you really need them to work.
I do not recommend BugMeNot for logging into websites without appyling your own credentials. There is too much that can go wrong from using other people’s logins. Use mailinator instead, or just accumulate the sites in your password manager.
- Mailinator – Totally free – this awesome service provides you with a temporary PUBLIC email inbox whenever you are compelled to sign up for yet another website. Just make up an email address, like email@example.com, when you signup. Then visit mailinator.com to check that inbox. Your email will stick around for an hour or two, then automatically be deleted. WARNING – these are PUBLIC email boxes. ANYONE can see their contents. NEVER use mailinator when you have to input personal information.
Malware is the overarching term for all bad software – viruses, ransomware, keyloggers… it all falls under malware and it’s all bad.
Before you pay for any anit-malware suites, check with your ISP. Comcast, Cox, Centurylink, Charter – nobody wants you to get malware so they typically offer anti-malware setups for free. Such a deal!
No anti-malware suite is perfect. New viruses come out every day at an astonishingly depressing rate. So I use 2 different suites. I use my ISP’s free security suite as the main one, plus I have another one that I occasionally run scans with before I do something really important like access my bank account.
- Symantec (Norton)
- Malware Bytes
The best tool I’ve found is Hack.Chat and it’s totally free. Super easy to use, nothing is ever saved. All connections are TLS (https) encrypted.
Disabling Windows 10 (and 7 and 8 and 8.1) Tracking
Windows 10 is riddled with privacy problems. The fix10.isleaked.com site walks you through each screen to install the OS into a state of minimal personal information leakage. Or you can download the totally free Spybot Anti-Beacon utility to fix them all for you.