With privacy and security being more important today than ever, it’s essential to know how best to protect yourself in this digital era.
Apart from avoiding the internet completely, you can regain a lot of your privacy and security by simply using the correct services. For every major service that exists today, there is a similarly functioning application that respects your privacy. Usually, the privacy-respecting applications aren’t as well known as their popular counterparts.
This article features a comprehensive guide about what digital services a person should use to maximize their privacy and security online. Read on to see our recommendations, and why we’ve chosen them.
In this tutorial you will learn:
- How to use the internet and digital services privately and securely
|Category||Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used|
|System||Any Linux distro|
|Other||Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the
# – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user
For anyone looking to protect their privacy online, Tor is an invaluable tool. It is both one of the most reliable ways to hide your identity and one of the easiest to use on Linux.
Tor works by routing your computer’s internet traffic through their own network. This way, you can still access online resources as usual, but your network traffic appears to originate from the Tor network, your IP address remains hidden, and your data is encrypted in the process. With Tor, you can also access .onion domain names, and access the infamous dark web.
Check out our guide on installing Tor to get the browser setup on Linux.
DuckDuckGo is the most popular privacy-respecting search engine. While not as popular as Google or Bing, it’s quickly becoming a household name.
DuckDuckGo protects the privacy of the searcher by not tracking them. Google and other search engines famously track your every search and click, compiling that information in order to target you more efficiently with personalized ads. There’s something awfully “icky” about knowing every search query you type gets logged into a database, and will stay associated with your account.
DuckDuckGo is one thing that’s super easy one to incorporate into your daily habits, since it’s as simple as using a different URL to access the search engine you normally do. You can even configure Firefox to use DuckDuckGo by default.
Unlike nearly all other email providers, Proton Mail encrypts your data before sending it to their own servers. That means Proton is not able to read your email messages. Gmail (Google) and other popular email providers don’t provide this feature, as they’d be giving up a huge source for their data mining.
Proton Mail servers are located exclusively in Switzerland, a country that has privacy laws leaning on the strict side. This means it’ll be a lot harder for governments or other organizations to force the company to comply with releasing information.
ProtonMail has a sleek and modern interface, so you won’t regret switching over. Head over to ProtonMail.com to sign up for secure email.
Virtual Private Network
Virtual Private Networks are great for masking your location and giving an extra sense of privacy when browsing the web. But, you need to use a secure, reliable service.
ProtonVPN is developed by Proton Technologies, the same company behind ProtonMail, which we covered above. ProtonVPN is free and easy to use, so you won’t have any problem getting started.
The service is available for multiple platforms, including Linux, Windows, macOS, iOS and Android. So, regardless of what device you’re using, ProtonVPN is easy to get up and running.
Using a cloud storage service, even if just for a backup, is an extra scary concept because you’re putting your personal files online. Sure, these companies promise to keep them safe, but leaks and hacks are commonplace these days. Companies like Google can even scan your Google Drive documents for information and potentially share them with other parties.
What sets Proton Drive apart is that your data is encrypted locally, before being sent to Proton Drive’s servers. This way, it’s impossible for the company to sneak on your data – even if they were compelled to by a government, or a hacker intercepted your data.
Beware of most other cloud storage providers, which claim to “encrypt your data.” Unless you are encrypting the data yourself, before upload, it’s absolutely vulnerable. We have mutliple tutorials on encrypting files, such as file encryption with OpenSSL and file encryption with gpg.
Smart Phone Communication
Signal or Threema
Signal and Threema are two applications from which you can make secure phone calls, video calls, and send text messages. They both use end-to-end encryption and collect minimal user data.
WhatsApp, by far the most popular messaging service in the world, is owned by Facebook, which is infamously known for their tendency to violate user’s privacy. Routing all of your messages and calls through Facebook servers is a terrible thing to do if you enjoy your privacy, regardless of how safe the company says it is.
Telegram is also not a perfect choice, since end-to-end encryption only takes place on their “secret chats.” It’s definitey better than WhatsApp, but Signal and Threema are the two best choices for protecting your privacy. Check out our tutorial on installing and using Signal.
Smart Phone Operating System
Modern phone operating systems like Android and iOS will track your every movement. Sometimes, third parties will get access to all your location information or purchasing history, depending on what applications you install on your mobile device.
GrapheneOS is Android-based, but has been hardened for security and privacy. It’s open source and is compatible with multiple Google phones. The GrapheneOS features page offers a full list of what it offers.
If you’d like to install GrapheneOS onto your smart phone, see the official GrapheneOS installation page.
Desktop Operating System
This is a simple one. Linux! Many of the applications and services listed on this page are relatively new, but Linux has been around for decades, and respecting your privacy has always been a paramount feature.
Some Linux distributions are more privacy-minded than others. But all of them are leaps and bounds better than other desktop operating systems when it comes to privacy and security.
You can see our Linux download page to find the download links to any Linux distro you want. Or see our choosing a Linux distro page if you’re not sure which one suits you best.
For the most paranoid, Tails Linux forces all connections to be routed through Tor, and has tons of other implementations to ensure your privacy and anonymity. Other honorable mentions for privacy include Parrot OS and Elementary OS if you want a very user friendly distro with privacy features.
Maintaining social media accounts, like Facebook, is the worst thing to do for your privacy. We’re not talking about the fact that you’re voluntarily uploading your pictures, locations, and events, but also that Facebook and other applications constantly track your locations, listen to your conversations (even when the app is closed), and more.
It can be hard to give up social media completely, since it’s a decent source for news, and a convenient way to keep up to date about friends or famous people you want to follow. Telegram has turned into an impromptu social media platform, in the wake of other services banning members with differing views than those of the company.
As far as messaging goes, there are better choices than Telegram. But Telegram remains a decent way to get updates and news. Check out our article on installing Telegram on Linux.
Jitsi offers free video conferencing software for web and mobile platforms. This is a great alternative for other popular software, like Zoom, which have been featured in the news for numerous privacy and security violations.
The platform is open source, and you can even host your own instance of it on Linux. This will give you complete peace of mind that no one else can spy on your video calls.
It’s easy to get started with Jitsi by visiting their official website, Jitsi.org.
As seen in this guide, someone looking to better control their privacy and security is not without choices. Although the most popular choices for many things feature data mining, spying, ad personalization, and tracking, there are still alternatives to these applications and services.