The internet isn't like the days where you would see an email and know right away that it is a scam. Much like the Nigerian scam emails from the 90s and early 2000s. Did you know that it is not like anymore. Now, there are huge corporations paid to steal your information so they can make profits? Google is one of them. It isn't limited to what you do on the Internet. Now, there are programs that come with crap to install like those toolbars, and all they do is log information. Information gathering has come a long way since the 90s. We are in an age, where even the most trusted corporations are out to get your information.
• If you set up your own wireless connection, make sure you use WPA2 encryption instead of WEP because WEP is weaker than WPA, and a really long password. It doesn't matter if it isn't an easy password to remember. You want to prevent people from accessing your router or network. So you could write it down on a piece of paper and hide it. You only really need to enter the password once, and your computer will remember the password by itself. That WPA2 encryption means that the data sent from your computer to the router has more encryption and is less easy to be read and hacked. Also set up a a strong password to access the router. If someone has hacked your wifi password, they can mess around on your router and do unwanted things on it. So make sure you set up a good strong password for the router as well.
• DO NOT USE OR SEND PRIVATE DATA ON PUBLIC NETWORKS!!! I will only say that once. Seriously. If you are going to access Facebook at Starbucks or something, you have to use some type of encryption. You can use an SSH tunnel (requires skill to set up), a Virtual Private Network, or even a SOCKS proxy. Also when you are on a public wifi, make sure all the sites that use private data is using the HTTPS protocol. You can look at the address bar and if it says https://website.com, you are good. There are people who steal data from public wifis. There is a Firefox extension that can do this for you. It is called Firesheep. It scans data sent over the wireless connection for cookies that hold password information to common websites. Websites like Facebook, Youtube, Myspace. etc. That means that the guy at Starbucks could steal your passwords and do unwanted things on your accounts. You should also never do banking or anything dealing with your money on public wifis. Not unless you have one of those forms of protection encrypting your connection to the bank(s).
• You can find out which VPN providers care about the anonymity of their users here. Make sure you do research on a VPN that you decide to get. Some VPN providers have sent browsing information to law enforcement officials. There are VPN programs out there. Hotspot Shield is a free software that creates a VPN for you to use for free, but comes with ads on every website you visit on the free version.
• HOSTS File: You can read about the HOSTS file here and how you can use it to block out advertising sites, data mining websites, pornographic sites, whatever you want. You can find a HUGE list of bad websites to add to your hosts file here. You do not have to add all of them, but I would recommend adding 127.0.0.1 google-analytics.com for sure. This is part of Google and what they do is capture the websites you visit, and many sites have this data miner on there. With using the HOSTS file, some websites may load faster because some of these ads that are blocked take a while to load since most of them use flash. Also, blocking off too many sites can break some websites causing them not to run properly.
• If you use a Homegroup to share files between computers on your network, make sure you have a pretty good password. You don't want to share files with an unknown computer on your network.
• Make sure that your system is updated to the latest version and that it has all the required files installed.
• If you don't have the most recent version of your operating system, at least update the system files to their current versions.
• Update old drivers as well. You can download free driver checker programs from the Internet. Make sure you get them from reputable sources. Don't be clicking on ads and downloading supposed driver checkers from there. Not unless you want a virus or something. You can find some driver checkers at Download.com or Softpedia. Most of them will make you pay to download the recent drivers to your computer. You can also check out the Driverpack Solution. Another site to check out is http://driverpacks.net/.
• If you are on Windows, install a good anti-virus program, even though they really give you a false sense of security. There are too many viruses, trojans, worms, etc. made everyday that most anti-viruses won't stop them all. Only a certain percentage of those risks are dected by anti-virus programs. That doesn't mean you shouldn't still have one. Good anti-virus programs include: Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast, Avira, Kaspersky, ESET NOD32, Bitdefender. Avoid McAfee and Norton.
• Yes, Macs do get viruses. Although they are rare. Apple covers up the fact that they can get viruses, so you do not hear of Mac viruses often.
• Install or tweak your firewall. If you are on Windows, you should think about getting a third party firewall since Windows Firewall isn't too good. I recommend getting Zonealarm.
• Easy to use Linux distros: Linux Mint, Ubuntu, and Ubuntu's derivatives (different desktop enviornments). I HIGHLY recommend using one of those distros if you only use your computer for browsing the web. They are real secure and get less viruses compared to Windows. But if you love Windows and want to try out Linux, you can install Linux with Windows using WUBI for the Ubuntu derivatives and this method for Linux Mint. You can always dual boot using partitions.
• Instead of Google Chrome, use Chromium. Chrome is built on Chromium and there is no significant difference between the two browsers but Chrome updates itself and Flash without your permission. That is a characteristic of a botnet. Chrome feels it does not need your permission to make changes to itself. Firefox is okay.
• Avoid using Internet Explorer as your main browser. It's a good browser, it just doesn't have much to offer in terms of addons and extensions to make it better or more secure.
• Use open source software if you can. That means they are free and you can modify the source code. You can trust open source over proprietary which is closed source software. Closed source software are usually bundled with crap you don't need and may even need adware and spyware to run.
• Encrypt sensitive documents and files using encryption programs like Safehouse Explorer and Truecrypt. Truecrypt can allow you to create a hidden drive and you could store files in it. Truecrypt can also encrypt a partition or drive.
• Microsoft Bitlocker built into Vista Ultimate and 7 Ultimate, also provides drive encryption and it will also encrypt flash drives.
• If you are prone to forgetting passwords, there are password “lockers” that will store your passwords. You only need to remember one password. An example of this is Keepass.
• One must have program is CCleaner for the cleaning of unwanted files from your computer. It will clean up temp files, your recycle bin, browsing histories, memory dumps, bad registry files etc.
• Tor is an anonymizing program that will make you anonymous while browsing the Internet. It will NOT encrypt any traffic so it is not recommended for anything involving serious private data like banking. You can read a little bit more about Tor here.
• Peerblock is a program that blocks bad connections from connecting to your computer. It is used mainly when downloading torrents.
• There are two portable VPN programs that you can buy which will have your VPN settings and use them between computers. Portable VPN Portable VPN
• You can use these programs for setting up SSH Tunnels. Putty Myentunnel Tunnelier
• You can use Teamviewer to remotely login to other computers or you can use this to create a VPN between two computers. Available for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. You can even remotely login to a computer using a mobile phone.
• Two programs that get around Internet firewalls, censorship, and makes you anonymous are Ultrasurf and Freegate. Freegate is not available in the US.
• Extreme Password Generator Pro can create difficult to crack passwords if you can't think of any. It has different options for you to use.
• Wipefile is a program that can wipe files and folders and they can not be recovered. This is a must have if you deal with sensitive information and you need to delete them.
• DBAN is a bootable disk image that you can burn and with DBAN you can wipe out your hard drive when you want to sell your computer, or you have a lot of sensitive information that you need to get rid of.
• Revo Uninstaller is an amazing program used to uninstall files from Windows, and it scans for any stray files and registry edits that did not get removed during the uninstall process.
• System Explorer Process Explorer Process Hacker
• Autoruns is a program for Windows, that will search the computer for programs, files and services that run at the startup of the computer. You can use this program to disable the automatic run of malicious programs and services.
• Virtual Box and VMware Player are two amazing programs where you can install an operating system into! You can run Windows 7 and install Windows XP into one of those two programs and you can use some applications that may not run on Windows 7 and you can run them in a virtual machine. You can use virtual machines to install suspicious apps that you do not want on the host machine. You can run other operating systems like Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OSX and Solaris. Changes inside the virtual machine will not affect the host system.
• Sandboxie is a program where you can install apps in an isolated space that will not make permanent changes to the operating system. You can install an internet browser and you can be rest assured that you will not get anymore infections to your computer. It is like running a program in a literal sandbox and it will not make changes outside the sandbox.
• VMWare Thinapp is exactly like Sandboxie for the professional crowd. You can even make programs portable by using this program.
• Dropbox is a cloud web file hosting service that you can use to backup some of your files for school or work. One thing to consider is not to upload sensitive data because they have looked at files before.
• Gnupg.org You can send encrypted emails with software found here. It is a little complicated to set up.
• There is no reason that we should keep using Facebook. They do not care about our privacy because they sell our private data to third parties. They also give data to law enforcement agencies. Google does the same. Just check out Gmail and look at the ads. They will always be relevant to what our emails are about because they data mine as well. There are alternatives out there like: DIASPORA. It is still in its Alpha phase, but it should be good enough to use as an alternative to Facebook.
• Disconnect all apps from Facebook. If you have apps on Facebook they will post to your wall the articles you read from news sites, the songs you are listening to on Pandora and Spotify, what games you are playing, etc.
• Portableapps.com is a good site that has applications that you can put on your flash drive. All of the settings are saved to the flash drive and not the computer itself. They are all optimized to do this. Some apps include Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird, VLC among others. You do not need to be admin to install these to the flash drive.
• Portablefreeware.com is like portableapps.com but without the optimization. They do have a lot of apps to choose from and details as to it leaves traces on the computers you use them on.
• Google search engine alternatives: DuckDuckGo, Ixquick, Yahoo, Altavista, Excite, Lycos, Hotbot. Google Maps alternatives: openstreetmap.org maps.nokia.com
• Encrypted email hosts: lavabit.com gmx.com hushmail.com (hushmail has sent information to law enforcement officials )
• I2P2.de I2P is a layer of anonymity for many of the programs you use. It isn't perfect but it will make things harder for hackers and third parties
• FreeNet Project You can share, browse and publish files only accessible through freenet.
• Paypal Alternatives: http://www.ehow.com/way_5481191_alternatives-paypal.html http://www.screw-paypal.com/alternatives/top_pick.html
• Prepaid cards: http://www.theprivacyguy.com/anonymous-credit-debit-cards/
Other things to know
• Use flash drives and external hard drives to store files that you don't want on your computer. These can be sensitive files in case your laptop gets lost or stolen.
• Install a fresh OS when you buy a new or used computer. I say this because sometimes computers come pre-installed with a bunch of crap that normal people have no use for. That includes manufacturer bloatware. They can also contain keyloggers or other mailicious applications. You can start fresh and install all of your favorite apps on a new operating system install.
• TRENDNET camera IP vulnerability. TRENDnet cameras have vulnerabilities that allow hackers to view what is being streamed by the cameras. If you have one of those cameras, update the firmware from here. Seriously, I have seen some of the feeds, and on two instances I saw bedrooms and one had a crib where a family kept their baby. It was some scary stuff.
• Be careful when you use your smart phones. They have GPS and other stuff that can track down your locations and keep records of them for long period of time. Some phones even have a keylogger called Carrier IQ as seen here.
Worrying about your privacy on the Internet DOES NOT MAKE YOU A TERRORIST. You are smart enough to know that there are bad people who want to do bad things with your information. That is a hypocritical statement by the Fraudulent Bureau of Idiots. They really care about their privacy otherwise anyone will seize their sensitive documents. http://publicintelligence.net/do-you-like-online-privacy-you-may-be-a-terrorist/ Having privacy means you own your information and not a third party. I don't get how people brush this off and not necessary. You wouldn't want people going through your mail nor to go through your house without your permission. That also means that whatever is in your house can be written down and sold to someone else without you knowing and you do not see a dime about it.