Archive for June 24, 2019

Use Tor Browser to Surf Privately and Securely

What is the Tor Browser? The Tor Browser is based on the Firefox browser, and uses multiple relays to anonymize your web surfing. Sure, you can use your current browser to utilize their version of private browsing, but these only keep other people who use the computer from seeing you’re browsing history. They can’t keep your ISP, for instance, from monitoring the sites you’re visiting (see my previous privacy articles for other ways of doing this.)

Tor Browser, which stands for The Onion Router (to reach The Dark Web, more on this later) offers different levels of protection to keep your activities, location and identity completely private. All this anonymity does come at a small cost though, performance.

Tor routes your traffic through multiple relay servers, or Circuits, each of which anonymizes the information that comes from the previous relay. The more hops your data packets take on the way to and from your destination, the slower your browsing will become. If you find your surfing is unusually slow, or a page is no longer responding, click on the triple bar icon ( the “Hamburger” icon) on the far right hand side of the browser where you can select ‘New Tor Circuit for This Site” and your browsing should commence as before.

As well, you can choose your security level when you start Tor, Standard, Safer, Safest. When you start Tor for the first time, Security is set to Standard. Even Standard is FAR more secure than any other web browser, but if you want to work with either of the increased security levels, you need to be aware that these settings allow less and less features of a site to run or function, due to their ability to compromise your privacy, and warnings will also be shown to you onscreen.

In order to get the most out of Tor Browser, you’ll need to change your surfing habits. One of the first things is to change your default search engine from the likes of Google or Bing, to something like Duckduckgo.com, startpage.com, or searx.me that don’t attempt to track your searches. See my previous article on this.

If you log into your usual Facebook account or other social media while using Tor Browser, it completely defeats the purpose as the social media sites already know so much about you. As well, avoid installing any extensions in Tor as many extensions are not coded with privacy in mind.

Another feature under the Hamburger icon is called ‘New Identity’.
This is not as far reaching as it sounds, what is happening is that Tor is getting you a new IP address, which means it is changing all of the relay servers used to make your connection back to the web. Tor Browser will restart to accomplish this.

Staying safe and anonymous online starts with using encryption in all the connections you make. Tor Browser will automatically attempt to redirect you to the HTTPS version of a website, rather than the HTTP connection. The S in HTTPS stands for Secure, or encrypted. If Tor Browser can’t connect to the HTTPS version, a large in-your-face notice will be displayed alerting you to this issue. Another way to know if your connection is secure is that a green padlock icon will be present next to the URL.

For even more privacy and security, connect to a VPN prior to launching Tor Browser. The VPN will not be able to see what you’re doing in Tor Browser, and no Tor node will be able to see your IP address.

And now to The Dark Web we spoke of earlier. The Dark Web is basically a collection of .onion sites. These sites are not accessible to search engines so you will have to find a .onion directory on the clear web. And even though you are private and secure while visiting The Dark Web, be aware that many of the .onion sites contain illegal content, are selling illegal products, or promoting illegal activities. The Dark Web has its uses, but not for the average web surfing individual in my experience, in fact it can be dangerous.

You can get started with Tor Browser by going to the official site here: https://www.torproject.org/

If you would prefer to have me set you up on the Tor Browser, phone and we’ll set up a time to meet that works for you!

Surf safely folks!

Boost Your Privacy Folks!

Change Your Search Engine

It’s no secret that search engine providers like Google, Bing, and Yahoo track and record your search queries and either sell that data, or build a profile on you for the purpose of displaying targeted ads on your computer screen.

If you want to beef up your online privacy, you can remove these search engines from your web browser (i recommend Firefox), and install my following three recommended search engines in their place.

The most straight forward of the three is SearX. SearX claims to not collect any logs, displays no ads, and does not engage in any tracking. It is decentralized with nodes around the world so you can pick one from a country that you feel the most comfortable with.
https://searx.me/

StartPage.com is based in the Netherlands and promises Google search results with complete privacy protection. As they state on their website “we’re paying them (Google) to use their brilliant search results in order to remove all trackers and logs.”
https://www.startpage.com/

Another choice is DuckDuckGo. They also claim to not track any of your searches, nor do they store your search history so they couldn’t sell it if they wanted to. Your personal information is also not collected at any time, so no risk of it being shared out either.
https://duckduckgo.com

All three of these search engines claim to not track or log your activity in any way. StarPage is based in the Netherlands, and they have very strong privacy laws. Duckduckgo is based in the United States, in Paoli, Pennsylvania to be precise. Both the Netherlands and the US are part of the 9 Eyes group of countries that share intelligence data. It is also known that 5 Eys, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes groups of countries can and do spy on each others citizens, and the data is shared back. You can start here with this info: https://www.privacytools.io/providers/

So, having said that, these search providers do provide a great service, providing search facilities and not tracking your movements nor logging your search queries. I recommend you stop using Google, Bing, Yahoo or any other search provider that doesn’t respect your personal data and your privacy.

While changing out your search providers in Firefox isn’t terribly difficult, if you value your privacy and would prefer I set it all up for you, give me a call and we can set up a time that is convenient for you.

Surf Safely folks!

Wayne Goldsmith
GoldTek Computer Services

Easy Tip to Boost Your Online Privacy!

Online privacy is more important than ever, and sometimes it’s the little things that can help make a real difference.

More and more people are becoming concerned about the idea that their activities online are being tracked, and that they could be identified and the information used against them.

There is no “one thing” that can keep your activity online perfectly private, except not going online at all. That’s just not practical in today’s world though.

Changing your DNS settings to a DNS server that does not log or track your DNS resolver requests is a way to help keep your activity much more private.

Who would want to look your activity up? Well, depending on your activity, it could be the police, it could be a suspicious spouse, or it could just be your Internet Service Provider (ISP) selling the info to companies like Google. Yes, this happens all the time.

What the heck is DNS anyway? Well, the quick answer is that when you type ”facebook.com” into the address bar of your web browser, your computer sends that to a DNS server to have our language translated into a numerical address that it can understand, which in this case would be “157.240.14.35”. Once it has that address it fetches Facebook’s website back to your web browser for you to use.

At this time the most private DNS servers I can find are at DNS.Watch located in Germany. They claim to not log anything at all so your activity can not be gone through later via this avenue. As well they perform their DNS translations (also called “resolving”) very quickly as I have not noticed any increased lag while surfing the web after adding them to my network configuration.

https://dns.watch/how-to

Changing your preferred DNS servers is not terribly difficult, and in fact DNS.Watch offer How-To’s for Windows, Mac, and Linux which you can work through to make the changes.

As always, if you’re not comfortable doing this yourself you can call me and we can arrange to get this done for you at your convenience.

Surf Safely Folks!

Wayne Goldsmith
GoldTek Computer Services

Beef up your Privacy online!

These days it is harder than ever to maintain your privacy. Just walking down the street will have you recorded on several video cameras, let alone hopping on the internet and pursuing your interests there. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and a host of others are tracking and recording your every step.

If you value your privacy, and want to do more to maintain it, there are things you can do that will help.

My first recommendation would be to use the Firefox web browser. Firefox has many configurable settings that can toughen it up to the point where it can be a real chore to even surf the web. How private and secure you ultimately become will be determined by how much effort you want to put into it.

The following link contains a lot of information on how to configure Firefox to be substantially more private and secure.

https://www.privacytools.io/browsers/#webrtc

As well, if you watch this video, they will take you through toughening up Firefox step by step. It can move quickly in some areas but you can always stop and rewind, or go through the article in the previous link.

I highly recommend that you download and install Firefox and configure it with the privacy settings recommended in the video and article. You will be amazed at how many cookies and scripts from online entities you’ve never heard of, who have no business whatsoever being interested in your activities, are recording your every move and forming a profile of you as an individual.

If this is all a bit overwhelming don’t worry, you’re not alone. If you want to beef up your privacy while on the internet, call me and let’s talk, I can definitely help.

Wayne Goldsmith
GoldTek Computer Services
250-485-7146