Sunday, March 11, 2012

Encrypting Your Online Communications: Essential Apps

Updated 22 June 2014


Internet privacy should be a concern for everyone. Have a look at the list of the FBI's suspiceous behaviours:

When you try to protect your personal privacy online the FBI could lable you a potential terrorist.

The Internet is an amazing creation. It allows people from around the world to interact instantaneously. This interaction allows people to establish new relationships and discover new information. The information that is available may be restricted or taboo in a specific culture and it is the perception of anonymity that lets people see this information which may challenge their beliefs and their cultural norms. 

However, would your behaviours on the Internet change if you knew that governments watched everything you do online? The fact is they do. Most of us in the English speaking world are being watched by a multi-government program called Echelon. Echelon was started during the cold war but is now targeting and spying on citizens’ electronic communications. Echelon intercepts citizen communications in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, The United Kingdom and the United States.

If government spying was not enough corporations like Google, Microsoft and Facebook monitor all of your online activities with their “free” applications as well. Remember,you never get anything for free. Those corporations pay for their “free” apps by selling your personal information. 

I know most people have nothing to hide but that is not the point. The government has no right to spy on you unless you are a criminal and they have a warrant based on probable cause. I will show you a few apps that you can use to protect your personal communications when you are on the Internet.

Question: What can you do to protect yourself from snooping your activity online?
Answer: Encrypt everything!

Encryption is the encoding of data to make it nearly impossible to read by anyone except for the intended recipient.

Since the writing of this blog March 2012 Edward Snowden has blown the doors wide open on government surveillance of people's electronic communications. I would encourage you to read Glen Greenwald's book No Place to Hide which documents Snowden's revelations.

Another great resource is prism-break.org. They provide heaps of information about software to keep you save. Check out prism-break.org here.

Encrypted Internet

When you browse the Internet your electronic communications including which web sites you visit can be determined by your ISP or by intelligence agencies. You can use anonymizers to help protect you privacy online. Most anonymizers have free proxies that allow you to anonymously browse websites. If you want to protect all of you Internet activities you can use a VPN. Most VPNs are paid for services.


Hide My Ass

Hide My Ass
Hide My Ass is service that allows you to browse online anonymously. You can use the free proxy by clicking here

The VPN service allows you to use multiple VPN protocols to connect to different VPN servers around the world. This allows your communications to appear as though they are coming from that country. Not only does this protect you from having your ISP snooping your data, it allows you to access services that are specific to a country such as streaming video, shopping, etc. You can learn more about the Private VPN service here.

Other services include File Upload, Anonymous Email and Anonymous Referrer


Encrypted Email

When you send an email you have to keep in mind that it is like sending a post card. All of the text on it is visible to anyone!

Thunderbird + Enigmail 

The best way to protect your email and ensure that you are 100% in control is to use your own encryption key.

I have a new blog about simple email encryption using Thunderbird and Enigmail.

Check it out here.

Hushmail (Hosted)

I switched to Hushmail after learning that Google scans all of the email in your gmail account. 
Hushmail is a secure hosted email service that does not access your email. You can send email to anyone and you can encrypt that email so that no one except the recipient can read the message. 

You can use hushmail for free but you can get more storage and options if you pay for a yearly subscription. I purchased Hushmail premium and use Mozilla Thunderbird to manage and encrypt my email.

Find out more here.

StartMail

Coming soon (BETA)
 
Startmail, the private email service being developed by StartPage and Ixquick, the world's most private search engines.  
 
Find out more here

Encrypted Instant Messaging

OTR

Coming soon

BitWise IM

BitWise IM 
BitWise is a free IM service that encrypts all of your instant messages. BitWise has standard IM client functionality including the ability to send instant messages, send files,  use whiteboards and use voice chat.
BitWise does not contain any ads or spyware like IM clients such as MSN Messenger and all of your communications are encrypted. BitWise Plus gives you extra functionality for a one time fee of $25.


File Encryption

File encryption can be used to protect files when they are stored on your computer or when they are sent across the Internet via email. 

Cryptophane

Cryptophane

Cryptophane is an easy-to-use Windows application that works with GnuPG (a PGP-compatible encryption program.) It allows users to encrypt, sign, decrypt, and perform key maintenance without having to deal with GnuPG's command-line interface. 

I have a blog that explains how to use Cryptophane to simply encrypt files.

Check out the blog here

Check out the video here.

Archive, Disk and Computer Encryption 

TrueCrypt

Warning: Apparently TrueCrypt has unresolved security issues as per their website. However, I think something dodgy is going on. I cannot see how an open source project would shut down production and then recommend a proprietary software such as BitLocker. Snowden used TrueCrypt to encrypt his files so until I can get a definitive answer I will continue to use TrueCrypt.

TrueCrypt is an amazing piece of software. It allows you to encrypt containers, encrypt whole disk drives and even encrypt and hide whole computers!

Download TrueCrypt from here. (I am now hosting this software)

Hide an encrypted computer blog here.

Encrypted Cloud Storage 

MEGA

When we launched MEGA early 2013, global mass surveillance by rogue governments under the pretext of fighting terrorism was still a wild conjecture and its proponents were often touted as conspiracy theorists. Edward Snowden's revelations 137 days later fundamentally changed public attitudes and it became excruciatingly clear that security by policy ("we have access to your data, but we promise to keep it confidential and not misuse it") had not been good enough. Anything short of security by design ("we cannot gain access to your data without you being able to find out"), for which strong end-to-end encryption is an essential prerequisite, now seems grossly insufficient.

MEGA was architected around the simple fact that cryptography, for it to be accepted and used, must not interfere with usability. MEGA is fully accessible without prior software installs and remains the only cloud storage provider with browser-based high-performance end-to-end encryption. The only visible signs of the crypto layer operating under MEGA's hood are the entropy collection during signup, the lack of a password reset feature and the novel (and browser-specific) ways file transfers are conducted. Today, millions of business and personal users rely on MEGA to securely and reliably store and serve petabytes of data and we believe that this success is the result of MEGA's low barrier to entry to a more secure cloud.


You can access MEGA here.

Encrypted Voice and Video Chat 


Skype

(DO NOT USE SKYPE - CALLS RECORDED WITH PRISM)

Conclusion

Take the time to learn about online privacy and have a look at these technologies. You have nothing to loose but your personal information and your identity.

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