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May 20, 2019

How to Protect Your Privacy and Secure Your Communications

Many people have a desire to increase their privacy online. Being private and being secure is not the same thing, although there is a lot of common ground.

Cybersecurity is a constant tradeoff between security and functionality. Want your phone to be fully secure and private? Put it on airplane mode, place it inside a Faraday cage, and then place the Faraday cage inside a safe. While this is the most secure way possible to store your phone, it obviously impedes the functionality of the device.

So how do we increase privacy and security without sacrificing too much practical use of our devices? There are a variety of methods, and none of them is a panacea. But used together, a few simple steps can go a long way toward increasing your privacy and security.

The TOR Browser

TOR stands for "the onion router". TOR works by routing your internet traffic through a series of servers located all over the world. By the time your website request reaches its destination, it's very difficult to trace it back to your device.

TOR is based on the Firefox browser and so it will feel familiar to users of Firefox. The only real problem is that it tends to be a bit on the slow side when it comes to browsing because the traffic has to travel so much farther than normal.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

VPNs are a great way to protect user privacy. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel through which your network communication passes.

In addition, a VPN will cloak your IP address by routing traffic through a different server. Anyone looking at your traffic (which would be difficult given that it will all be encrypted) can only see your device communicating with the VPN server and nothing else.

Be careful, though. Some VPN companies collect data on users and store it in a database, while others never log any user data at all. Needless to say, you want to find one that does the latter if you're concerned about privacy.

There are myriad of VPN services available. Depending on your device and operating system, different VPNs may be suitable for different purposes.

Ad-Tracker Blockers

Ad-tracker blockers are an easy and free way to increase your privacy.

There are plenty of free browser plug-ins that block ads. Some even allow advanced users to control exactly which parts of a webpage will load and which will not.

Using ad blockers will cause pages to load faster because there is less for your device to process. That's just icing on the cake for those looking to enhance their privacy online.

Private Browser Windows

In addition to using tracker blockers, it's advisable to use private browser windows. Private browser windows do not store cookies. Cookies are little files stored in your browser that help companies track you and market to you.

At the very least, you should clear your browser cache regularly. Using private windows, of course, prevents the need to do this as cookies are never stored in the first place.

Private Search Engines

Google (News - Alert) is the enemy of anyone seeking privacy. Google's business model is that of collecting data and using it for marketing purposes. So, every search you have ever done in Google has been archived somewhere.

Consider using other, private search engines that do not track you, such as or There are many others available as well.

In the end, it's up to you to protect your privacy and stay as secure as possible. The above examples are ways to enhance privacy without limiting functionality much at all. It's worth noting that some websites won't work with TOR or VPNs, however. Other than that, these methods are a good palce to start.

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