Sunday, September 30, 2012

The struggle for privacy


The news is awash right now with stories of hackers, identity theft and state sponsored electronic snooping. Thought this might be a good time to address some of these issues. First off, I am not an IT professional.....I am a hobbyist; that being said, I would like to offer the following suggestions for those that value their privacy. Also, these are intended as a workable solution and not a purist solution. What I mean by that is, the purist solution requires a high degree of lifestyle change and discipline that most people are going to end up procrastinating on, thus rendering them less than useful.

1) Switch to a hardened browser such as Comodo's Dragon, as most exploits are browser based. Also make sure your firewall settings are elevated.

2) Stop using Google/Yahoo/Bing for searches. Instead use an encrypted, non-logging search engine like Startpage or DuckDuckGo.

3) Use a VPN service. Make sure it utilizes Openvpn encryption standards and has no logging. I know Witopia and Camo List meet these requirements.

4) Keep any personal or important data on a separate drive inside a TrueCrypt volume.

5) Setup an email client like Thunderbird with the Enigmail encryption plugin. Once set up, this will allow you to send highly secure emails to people you choose to share your key with.

6) Use Pidgin with OTR for secure instant messaging. (Adium if you are on a Mac).

7) Use a reputable antivirus suite. I am partial to the sandboxing ability of Comodo and Avast.

8) Download and burn a Linux Live Disk (Ubuntu or Mint are a good place to start). This gives you a non-persistent OS that you can use almost anywhere.

9) Turn off your Bluetooth. Turn off your Bluetooth. Turn off your Bluetooth.

10) Park a piece of black tape over your webcam.

11) Get a security based USB system such as Tails or Liberte. You can boot into them on most computers and they provide some of the most robust security practices available.

12) The strongest encryption in the world is only as strong as your password. You must include symbols, numbers and a mix of upper and lower case letters. And do not use any words that can be found in a dictionary.


These are all easily implemented solutions that will keep you from being the "low hanging fruit" out in cyber land. I would also recommend that you look into switching your operating system from Windows or Mac to a Linux based solution. Most malware is written for the two big operating systems and simply will not work in a linux environment. Linux generally employs better security practices out of the box and being open source, it is much more difficult for state entities to have implemented hidden "backdoors" as they reportedly have in Microsoft and Apple products.

Here are some links to the software listed above:

Dragon Browser

Startpage

DuckDuckGo

Witopia VPN

TrueCrypt

Enigmail

Ubuntu linux    Mint

Pidgin Messenger    OTR plugin for Pidgin windows version

Comodo antivirus     Avast antivirus

Tails     Liberte linux


If you have questions about downloading or installing, hit me up in the comments and I will try to help.


7 comments:

  1. What about switching to Unix or Ubuntu would you suggest anything for those

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    1. Yes, Ubuntu is a good place to start in the Linux world. Very user friendly system. The rules above would still apply to Ubuntu though, as many of the hacks are platform independent. Switching to a linux solution all by itself will not protect you from a dedicated hacker.

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  2. This is a very interesting article. I've taken some of the advice from it to harden my system, and I'm realizing I'm not really up on current technology. Any suggestions on where I should start to get a deeper understanding of the subject?

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    Replies
    1. Can you be more specific as to which aspect of the above you want to explore in more depth?

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    2. Well, up till now my security measures have been pretty basic; good passwords, good firewall, and turning off my bluetooth and wireless while not in use. I just submitted to the idea that Google and other companies were collecting information on me. I understand the idea of rerouting my signal, but this is the first time I've heard about a TOR network, or a VPN. I've definitely never heard of having a non-persistent operating system. I never knew I was this behind on maintaining cyber security, and would like to learn more about the subject in general.

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    3. Here is a decent write up on how a VPN works...http://computer.howstuffworks.com/vpn.htm
      which would be a good starting point. A thumbdrive based security OS like Tails would be an excellent addition to ones' Go-Bag/Bail-Out Bag as well.

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