As you’re reading this right now, you’re every move is being tracked, from recording your location to every detail of your activities. We’ve already covered some of the basics of online privacy in earlier posts (Part 1 and Part 2), feel free to check them out first.
Today we’ll focus on communication and how to circumvent the surveillance and snooping that infringes on your rights. Regardless of your opinion on multinational tech companies, one thing can be agreed, companies like Facebook and Google don’t exactly have a great digital privacy record, along with popular apps like WhatsApp (Owned by Facebook) being revealed to be security-lax and who’ve only recently began moving onto encryption.
The exact extent to which companies track you isn’t completely known (a problem in itself), but that’s not the only problem with most governments choosing to carry out extensive surveillance on their own citizens. This affects all of us too, whether you’re living under dictatorial regime or in the west where many of the major nations of the supposed ‘free world’ have some of the highest surveillance operations.
Using apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts in themselves is harmless for quick communication however if you really value your privacy or indeed have to communicate sensitive information with absolute confidentiality you don’t really want to go anywhere near these. Thankfully there’s plenty of alternative options to choose from, and while you’re at it, convince everybody else to make the switch too.
If you currently use Whatsapp you’ll find this a very easy transition to make as it’s just like any other simple messaging app, using your existing phone number to send messages (You can even make calls too) for free online, it’s uniqueness though lies beneath the surface in how it actually communicates.
Unlike your traditional messaging app Signal uses end-to-end encryption which means only you and your recipient can ever read the message, as you and you alone hold the keys to decrypt and read the message. Preventing anyone else from snooping, whether that’s the Government, the developers of the app, or any other third party.
Don’t just take our word for it though!
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 2, 2015
Love you Snowie, anywaaaaaaay where we we? Oh yeah, you can check out their site here
Use a Secure Mail Server – ProtonMail
Chances are your proabably using one of the most widely available webmail services such as gmail or outlook or perhaps if you’re old fashioned, even one from your ISP. Problem is, your mail is stored on a remote server somewhere which is owned by the company. Leaving you in no control over your data, and even if the company respects your privacy they can be forced to hand over your data to law enforcement.
ProtonMail is an email service running from Switzerland, a country well known for it’s strict privacy laws. It uses secure encryption to ensure the privacy of your mail along with open-sourcing their code allowing anyone to check for flaws and verify the program does what they claim it does.
By using ProtonMail you can be sure that mail stored in your inbox is truly safe and secure. Though bear in mind, you’re only as secure as your other contacts, so encourage them to use ProtonMail to! Otherwise your messages will be unsecure when sent to their servers.
What if you don’t want the hassle of a new email address? Enter EasyCrypt, their fantastic service removes the hassle from switching email as their simple service allows you to continue using your existing email address without the need to switch, making it easier to convert your friends to EasyCrypt users too. You’re also not limited to EasyCrypt users as you can communicate with other external users who’re using PGP. What’s PGP?
(Pretty Good Privacy) is an encryption tool used to provide encryption, it is implemented by many services such as EasyCrypt but you can also use it externally to. It allows for secure end-to-end communication by giving every user two keys, a public key and a private key. You hand out your public key for people to message you, while keeping your private key, well, private. People then encrypt messages using your public key,which results in your message being encrypted into gibberish text. Only the private key you hold will then be able to convert it back to its original form.
You can send your encrypted messages using any medium you like, to get started with sending messages download Gpg4win (if you’re on windows) and make sure to tick Kleopatra as part of your installation. You’ll then need to generate a key for yourself, make sure to keep it completely safe, then simply paste your public key everywhere for people to use and start sending messages to you. Simple stuff.
And that’s all for today on securing your communications. Any tools you use I didn’t mention, give me a shout in the comments below. Stay secure out there!