With the recent introduction of the EU's General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), online data security protection is in the front of everyone's thoughts. Since the earliest days of the internet, online data protection and privacy have been of paramount importance to everyone - especially using services like online email servers and the cloud services.
General web surfing can also expose you to potentially malicious software and tracking software like cookies, that can (and will) follow your every move. Social media sites are some of the worst culprits who, by keeping you signed in, can constantly track your every move online for marketing purposes.
There are some simple steps you can take to prevent this kind of intrusion into your personal privacy, like changing browsers, but this might not be enough for sensitive information stored in the cloud.
These 15 apps, browser add-ons, and other software are great examples of ways to turbo-charge your personal privacy online.
1. Disconnect Stops Undesireables Tracking You Around the Net
You might not have been aware that many companies, governments and, of course, cybercriminals can and do track your online activity. This is where Disconnect comes in handy.
Disconnect is a Chrome, Safari or Firefox extension that prevents third parties tracking you around the internet. They also do not collect information on your IP address nor do they collect any other pieces of information about you unless you volunteer it, of course.
The companies mission statement pretty sums up what their product does:-
"Today, there are thousands of companies that track people’s online activity and capture their personal information. But there’s a huge disconnect between how people’s data is being used, sold, or shared, and what they actually may want. Disconnect is founded on a basic principle: that people should have the freedom to move about the Internet - and their lives - without anyone else looking over their shoulder."
It comes in three pricing levels ranging from Basic (which is free and limited to your browser) to Pro (Like Basic but protects your entire device for $24.99 one-off fee) to Premium (which costs $35.99 per year for Pro but on up to three devices and a secure VPN).
2. Blur Keeps You Secure Online
Blur from Abine, formerly known as DoNotTrackMe, is a browser add-on that helps protect your privacy online. It is designed to block web tracking, like others on the list, and also protects your privacy in other ways.
Blur offers email masking and password encryption and although it is an add-on it actually worked through a Web interface. It comes in a free and premium version that offering varying amounts of protection - as you'd expect.
The Free version blocks trackers, lets you manage and secure your passwords, auto-fills forms and masks email. Premium Blur adds credit card and phone masking to the mix and offers backup and syncing.
A nice feature of Blur is its 'Quick Password Generator" that lets you simply generate a random character password and auto-register/store it for you. If this feature is active it will also auto-populate forms for you.
Masked emails are also great as they let you signup to sites using random emails that can be blocked or forwarded to your 'real' email. You can create as many as you want to so, for instance, making site-specific email addresses is a simple process.
The premium version costs $39 a year or $59 for two years or $79 for 3 years.
3. AnchorFree's Hotspot Shield Is a VPN With a Twist
Hotspot Shield from AnchorFree is a VPN but with a twist. Like others, it provides anonymous browsing but also provides malware protection and offers secure connections to websites.
Like other VPN's, Hotspot Shield does not share your IP address with anyone. It also lets you unlock blocked sites around the world like YouTube, Twitter etc. and enjoy surfing the internet in complete anonymity.
Hotspot Shield, according to their website, is "integrated by 70% of the worlds largest security companies and has passed numerous security audits. We are the #1 in performance with thousands of servers worldwide."
This VPN is also specially designed for unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots and is ideal for situations where you need to send financial information for online payments etc.
Desktop versions are free but are ad-supported and iOS/Android versions come with a small monthly subscription after a trial period.
4. AdBlock Is a Simple Yet Effective Way To Protect Online Privacy
It is always good practice to take advantage of browsers add-on like ad blockers. They tend to be free and, as the name suggests, they help block advertisements on websites you visit.
Although generally speaking online adverts tend to be more of an annoyance than anything else, some can contain malicious code. AdBlock, for example, runs all by itself once installed and activated without you needing to do anything else.
AdBlock, like others, work by not allowing adverts to be downloaded in the first place. It also does not need any personal information to run and will not monitor your browsing activity.
Adblock even prevents adverts from running on YouTube so you can enjoy your favorite vlogs without interruption. It is the number 1 most downloaded extension for Google Chrome and Safari - according to its website, it is completely free but you can make a one-time donation.
5. SafeShepherd Automatically Deletes Your Records From Marketing Databases
SafeShepherd is a free service that removes your records from services that don't need a fax or snail mail request. It is particularly useful for people who use websites like Intelius and Radaris as it wipes their databases clean of your information.
It works by constantly scanning the internet and private databases looking for your specific information. Once a company is discovered that is trying to sell your information, SafeShepherd sends an automatic opt-out request that deletes the record in question.
For times when websites prevent automatic removal, it provides you with instructions on what to do next. It will also send you real-time alerts when it finds you on a private database or worse, exposed online.
"You can rest easy knowing that SafeShepherd has your back; our privacy experts are on-call, ready to help you" says SafeShepherd.
Like many freeware, there is a premium product that performs more thorough record removal. It also includes personal customer service support.
6. Web of Trust Rates Websites For Perceived and Experienced Security Issues
Web of Trust (MyWOT) works in a similar way to other entries on the list but is a great free tool that is simple and useful. It, also like others here, is a browser add-on that displays a color-coded icon indicating the perceived safety level of the site you are currently on.
It works via a community consensus (and Machine Learning) for sites on its list and, therefore, you as a user are encouraged to rate sites yourself. Web of Trust also works on search engines as well as sites which is pretty neat. Search results displayed within a search engine such as Bing will include the Web of Trust color code.
According to its website, it is "Powered by 140 Million Users & Machine Learning, our free browser extensions, mobile app and API let you check if a website is safe before you reach it, giving you a clean and safe browsing environment".
It has, at the time of writing, been downloaded 140,000,000 times and is designed to secure you against scams, malware, and other potentially malicious online activity. WOT works on both desktop computers and also has an app for smart devices and is compatible with most browsers.
As well as the color coded icon (colored donuts), WOT displays a pop-up warning if user ratings deem the site to have a particularly poor reputation. This pop-up will also offer users guidance on what to do but does, of course, let you proceed to the site if desired.
7. LBE Privacy Guard Helps You Manage What Information Apps Can Access on Your Android Phone
Most apps will inform you what personal information it intends to access at the time of download. But many people either don't really read it or later forget what information exactly it requested access to.
This is where LBE Privacy Guard comes into its own. Within this app's Permission Manager you get a summary of other apps on the device that require access to text messages, contacts, call logs, GPS data or other information.
"With the state-of-the-art API interception technology, LBE Privacy Guard provides a great enhancement to Android permission system" - LBE.
This app does require you to have a rooted Android phone but it does let you manage the types of data that each app can access. It also requires Android versions 2.0 or above.
8. CyberScrub Privacy Suite Helps Keep Your Windows PC Free From Personal Information
CyberScrub Privacy Suite goes the extra distance to keep you safe online - but only if you have a Windows PC. Although you can delete your browser cache manually without any additional software, Cyberscrub actually performs a secure delete that conforms to U.S. Department of Defense Standards.
Cyberscrub was founded in 1999 and have since become, according to their website, a market leader in "data security, privacy, and data sanitization." Their customers include private consumers, industry and government clients.
"Think of us as the data cleaners that use US military grade technology to securely delete and protect your legacy data before the bad guys find it!" - Cyberscrub.
Cyberscrub can also remove evidence of your history from Windows pagefile, temp files, and Index.dat files. It is even application-aware and can remove evidence from a variety of browsers, applications, email and newsreaders, and peer-to-peer programs.
Not only does it delete and destroy data from disks, browsers, and caches it also monitors your system for potential threats. You can let it run automatically from startup but it does also include advanced scheduling, command-line functions, permissions, password protection, data encryption, and a broad range of data destruction criteria.
CyberScrub comes in a variety of paid-for options including:-
- CyberScrub Security with Infinity Safe - $69.95 - Offers their highest level of data destruction and comes with Media Wiper. It is designed to keep your computer clean of any traces from Browsers, Windows, Peer-to-Peer, Application traces, and Custom sensitive areas.
- CyberScrub Privacy Suite with Infinity Safe - $59.95 - Erases any evidence of your online activities including browsers, Windows Sensitive Areas, P2P activity and includes Emails and IM's.
- CyberScrub cyberCide 3.0 - $29.95 - Deletes all your data from your hard drive pertaining to online security. "It can even delete certain partitions. cyberCide is Essential for Sarbanes-Oxley, GLB, FACTA, HIPAA and other Regulatory Compliance." - CyberScrub
9. ownCloud Lets You Build Your Own Cloud Server
ownCloud, the clue is in the name, takes cloud storage to a whole new level. When you use other providers like Google Drive and Dropbox you are literally trusting them with your data and its security.
In the past, there have been examples of data security being compromised by cloud servers and so you might want to create your own. This is where ownCloud (the clue is in the name) might just be the answer to your woes.
It lets you build your own personal cloud and, therefore, lets you have complete control over everything - including disk size and hardware.
With ownCloud you don't have any third parties to worry about which significantly reduces your chances of security breaches.
10. Cocoon's Proxy Servers Block Unwarranted Monitoring of Your Online Activity
Cocoon adds an extra level of privacy for your browser by routing traffic through one of its proxy servers. These servers protect the user from tracking cookies, viruses, and spam.
Cocoon protects your privacy by preventing companies from tracking your web activity. Their servers block this activity and prevent them from compiling data about your browsing history.
Cocoon also acts as a robust anti-virus software by using its patent-pending advanced isolation technology which keeps malware well away from your computer's hard drive. It also employs antivirus scanning techniques to find viruses before they reach your computer, isolates them and traps them.
Cocoon is also very serious about encryption, as you'd expect. Once you've logged into their service everything you do is encrypted. Your browsing history, personal information, passwords etc are all protected.
According to its website:- "Cocoon's encryption even protects you from hackers at open WiFi access points such as coffee shops and airports. Sign up now and start surfing safely."
It has a variety of free versions and well as a premium service ad $2.49 a month for extra security services.
11. Boxcryptor Lets You Encrypt and Decrypt any Files You Put on the Cloud
Although there is a risk of using online cloud servers, they are incredibly simple to use and are specifically designed to be as convenient as possible. For this reason, there are other ways to get the best of both worlds by using cloud storage systems and personally encrypt anything you put on them.
Boxcryptor is a great example of this and it lets you encrypt your data to prevent any unauthorized person from viewing it online. This software works with all major online storage drives and makes good use of AES-256 and RSA encryption algorithms.
Decryption keys are yours alone so no one, not even Boxcryptor, is able to decrypt your files. It has both free to use and paid for versions.
12. OnionShare Uses Tor To Send Files Safely Over the Internet
OnionShare has been created for one purpose - to let you share your files over the internet safely and completely anonymously. It does this using Tor Hidden Services and each file you share is given an unguessable .onion URL that can only be accessed using a Tor Browser.
To 'receive' the file you simply pass the unique URL to the recipient.
13. Tor Bounces You Around the World to Protect Your Privacy
Tor is a handy browser bundle that helps you stay anonymous online. Available on most platforms it works by bouncing communications throughout a network of relays to make you untraceable.
Tor is a modified version of Firefox and it comes with other useful tools to help preserve your online privacy. These include NoScript (to prevent any sort of script from running) and HTTPS-Everywhere, which enables HTTPS on websites by default.
These relays are run by volunteers all around the world. This system prevents third parties from watching your internet activity and prevents them from knowing your physical location. It also, like VPN's lets you access sites otherwise blocked in your geographical location.
According to their website: "Tor Browser lets you use Tor on Microsoft Windows, Apple MacOS, or GNU/Linux without needing to install any software. It can run off a USB flash drive, comes with a pre-configured web browser to protect your anonymity, and is self-contained (portable)."
Like some other products on this list if you have a rooted android phone you get some extra benefits. This lets you one of its components, Orbot, that makes all data transmissions anonymous - this includes other applications.
Tor can be slower when compared to other services but it is a great way but it’s a good self-contained way to stay completely anonymous.
14. ProtonMail Offers End-to-End Encryption For Your Emails
One of the major sources of sensitive information for many people the world over is their email accounts. Many of these are now cloud-based, like Gmail for example, and like other cloud storage systems, you are wholly reliant on their security for protecting your data.
This is where services like ProtonMail really come into their own. ProtonMail is easy to use and setup and offers unprecedented security for your personal emails.
The Swiss-based company offers end-to-end encryption which means anyone without the decrypt key will have a very hard time accessing your emails. It is cross-platform and you can still send encrypted and unencrypted email to other services.
ProtonMail has infrastructure across Europe with its datacenter sited 1000 meters underground.
ProtonMail is also open source and basic accounts are free to use. You can support the project by donating or signing up for their premium service.
15. Privacy Score Lets You Check and Rank Websites for Security and Privacy Issues
Privacy Score is a beta service that lets you investigate websites based on how they use people's personal information as well as how they track them. You can either use the site to investigate a single website or create a list of sites in order to compare them against one another.
According to their website: "PrivacyScore is an automated website scanner that allows you to investigate websites for privacy and security issues. You can scan individual websites, or enter a list of related websites to see how they compare against each other."
It is currently in Beta public state so might have a few bugs, but that's better than nothing. "The tests carried out by PrivacyScore have been tested extensively. However, we consider most of them to be unreliable at the moment," they warn on their website.
Privacy Score Beta currently offers checks on the following four issues:-
-Tracking and Privacy Checks - to test if the site is tracking you or allows thirds parties to do so,
-Website Encryption - To check if the web server offers HTTPS connections and checks how secure they are,
-Web Security Checks - Tests if the website has any obvious security issues and;
-Mail Encryption - Checks mail servers to see if they support state-of-the-art transport encryption.