How to reduce my 'online footprint'?

donline

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Apr 20, 2016
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Hi folks,

Do you have any specific tips on reducing how much of personal data is spread using a Win10 PC and its general usage (web browsing, email etc)?

I know this a bit of wide-ranging question, but I'd like to know if there are great add-ons etc for blocking cookies, web history, blocking advertisers, blocking gooogle, and just generally protecting personal privacy and security when online and using a computer...

Thanks everyone, D
 

SirSub42

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Aug 31, 2013
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Torguard is nice, if you Google around, they have a 50% off coupon if you buy 3 months at a time. But a VPN is really only going to prevent websites from gaining your actual IP address. This is useful for avoiding those notifications from your ISP about downloading copyrighted material.

If your only goal is to avoid your ISP, then a VPN is fine. But if you are trying to alter your digital footprint from advertisers, here are the add-ons I currently use for my Firefox.
- uBlock Origin
- EFF Privacy Badger
- Cookies Autodelete
- Blend In

Ghostery is an extra option.

The real key to protecting your on-line privacy and security is more of a lifestyle. Any defences you set up, eventually something is going to sneak by, be it a suspicious pop-up or a seemingly legitimate email. Recognizing that as a potential threat is key. Also take a look into your browser options under the privacy and security tabs. Make sure you have tracking protection always turned on and look for the "Deceptive Content and Dangerous Software Protection" options.
 

donline

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Thanks ThatVietGuy

VPN sounds like a good start (though perhaps a VPN company that is not based in the USA!).
 

R_1

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Nord is good too. Not in the US - Panama I think.
I prefer PIA myself though. ease of use and speed, speaking only for myself and my usage, PIA has been superior.
others swear by Nord.
 

SirSub42

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Aug 31, 2013
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Torguard is nice, if you Google around, they have a 50% off coupon if you buy 3 months at a time. But a VPN is really only going to prevent websites from gaining your actual IP address. This is useful for avoiding those notifications from your ISP about downloading copyrighted material.

If your only goal is to avoid your ISP, then a VPN is fine. But if you are trying to alter your digital footprint from advertisers, here are the add-ons I currently use for my Firefox.
- uBlock Origin
- EFF Privacy Badger
- Cookies Autodelete
- Blend In

Ghostery is an extra option.

The real key to protecting your on-line privacy and security is more of a lifestyle. Any defences you set up, eventually something is going to sneak by, be it a suspicious pop-up or a seemingly legitimate email. Recognizing that as a potential threat is key. Also take a look into your browser options under the privacy and security tabs. Make sure you have tracking protection always turned on and look for the "Deceptive Content and Dangerous Software Protection" options.
 

donline

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Apr 20, 2016
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Thanks SirSub42

Yes, I'm going for overall privacy and personal data protection, especially from advertisers and the gooogle empire.

What do you think about NoScript and HTTPSEverywhere add-ons also??

I've tweaked my browser (Firefox) settings as you mentioned. I set 'remember internet history' to 'never', but how can you get Private Browsing by default every time you use Firefox? From what I understand Private Browsing is the best option/setting in Firefox for privacy.

Are there any other tools/add-ons you can recommend?

Thanks D

 

SirSub42

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Private browsing just deletes all your temporary files for that session when you exit, which you achieved through that setting to never keep history. I have Bleachbit set to run every time I boot up my PC. HTTPSeverywhere is great, another plugin by the EFF community. I had problems with it a while back for certain adult sites, the videos were not able to connect.

Script blockers such as NoScript and uMatrix are excellent for security, NoScript is even included in the TorBrowserBundle. But it makes your average websurfing a pain in the butt. Trying to get web sites to load the content you want, having to go though the list of sites that provide scripts.

Personally I prefer uMatrix for that, which uses community based subscription rules to block the known offenders.
 

donline

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Thanks for the great tips, SirSub42 :)

Are there any other organisations (besides EFF) you can recommend for privacy-focused software/apps?

What OS might you recommend? Some have suggested Linux (Ubuntu) as a good option for privacy/security.

And what chat (online messaging and voicecall) app/software can you recommend for privacy? I've heard of ones such as Threema, SecureChat, Signal, Telegram, Wickr and others, and was wondering which might be best.

Also, on a side note... what would you recommend in terms of smartphones for both personal privacy and security? Apple, Android or? I ask because of course our 'online footprint' can often span multiple devices.

Thanks D
 

SirSub42

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If you really want to hit the ground running, check out an operating system called TAILS. But I would definitely recommend the switch over to Linux (Not to say it is any more secure than Windows, but you are given more freedom of control and are much less targeted for malware). I am currently running Fedora 27 and love it. Though any Linux operating system holds the same potential, just depending on how you configure it.

Mozilla and Google, while they do not have specific applications, take privacy matters very serious in their browser developments. EFF is more of a legal rights foundation (Electronic Freedom Foundation), who have just happened to released two add ons.

As far as the chat systems go, each has their own little gimmick. I believe Signal requires you to verify your phone number, so if anyone ever sees messages, you can not really deny that you sent them, while something like Wickr allows you to create a user name. ChatSecure seems like a pretty solid option, utilizing the Jabber protocol with off-the-record settings (making sure neither party logs the conversations) and best of all, is open source.

I am still using a flip phone, but I have set up several android based phones for friends. I would say certainly do not use the stock ROM and take a look at this guide as far as the preferred configurations
 

donline

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Thanks, I really appreciate your sound advice...

I've heard of TAILS before (besides Sonic the Hedgehog) :) Can you use that for daily usage or is it more of a one-off option?

Do you feel there's more privacy (i.e. less spying) built into Linux distros? Windows 10 seems to want to track a lot of things (Cortana etc).

Fedora is a new one to me, I'll check it out thanks!

Perhaps ChatSecure could be a good option (though only for iOS I believe?). Any thoughts on Threema and Telegram?

Are Apple phones generally more privacy-based by default, would you say?
 

SirSub42

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TAILS can be used on a daily basis, but you have to give up a lot of convenience for the security and anonymity.
My opinion when it comes to operating systems such as Microsoft and stock android are they are created by companies who have revenue streams in the billions when it comes to online advertising. So it serves their best interest to be able to collect and utilize anything available. One thing that always got on my nerves was that Chrome removed the ability for add-ons in their mobile version. So you could not install an ad blocker of any sort.

I did not notice ChatSecure ended development, but it seems from the rubble emerged https://conversations.im/.
 

donline

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Thanks, sounds good with TAILS.
Yes, there certainly are large companies (MS etc) using a lot of customer's data for profit... so I'm looking for alternatives that respect personal privacy (and security) :)
That's strange that Chrome for mobile would block add-ons! (I guess being able to install an ad-blocker would block much of Gooogle's data and revenue).
Conversations seems to have some nice features, though it looks you have to download (and pay for it) via Gooogle Play so it's a no-go for me.

Again, I appreciate all your advice. Time for bed now, but I'll read up on all the things you mentioned and (if it's ok with you) get back to you :) Enjoy your day
 

Avast-Team

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Agreed with the VPN option as a great way to start. VPN's are especially crucial when you're on an unprotected or unfamiliar hotspot -- along with masking your "real" IP they also encrypt and protect your traffic in transit. (Disclaimer: we do offer our own SecureLine VPN. Happy to help if you have questions, here's a link if you are curious -- https://www.avast.com/secureline-vpn#pc)

You can also look into browser plugins that can do things such as block trackers and scripts -- Disconnect, Privacy Badger, NoScript, Ghostery are some popular ones. Of course, keeping your caches clean and Private Browsing on will also help.
 
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