Privacy Tools

Web browsers:

Tor browser – What is Tor? Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.  Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location. Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.

Anonymouse – During a page request, Anonymouse filters all personal data and requests the page from the target server again. After the response by the target server is anonymized (the most difficult part), it is sent back to the use.

Startpage – Startpage is brought to you by Ixquick, the world’s most private search engine. Ixquick has been third-party certified by EuroPriSe, a European Union privacy initiative. Startpage does NOT record your IP address. You can continue using the Web results via Google but now under the privacy protection of Ixquick, the world’s most private search engine.

Google (encrypted) – Allows you to encrypt a connection to a Google server in order to run a basic Google query. Your ISP will not be able to collect and catalog what you are searching for in Google. You may also be able to avoid the snooping eyes of network administrators like school administration or workplace restrictions on your Google searches.

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Encryption & file management software:

TrueCrypt - TrueCrypt is an easy to use encryption software that is free and open-source. With the TrueCrypt you are able to create a file which then acts as a volume, similar to a folder.  When creating this volume you select the size of the volume and either a password or both a password and a keyfile which are used for decryption.   The keyfile is an optional and extremely powerful tool. This keyfile is a file, such as a .jpg, .doc, .pdf, etc., that is required – in addition to the password – to perform the decryption.  But beware that if you cannot locate the keyfile you cannot decrypt the volume.

When your new volume is “mounted” and open, you can add files to it just like a regular folder as long as all the files in the volume do not exceed the size limit you selected when creating the volume.  Volumes can be extremely large and 1GB of space is not uncommon. But when using TrueCrypt with Dropbox (see below) smaller volume sizes are recommended because of the time required to perform the uploading and downloading of the files inside of Dropbox.  TrueCrypt is free and it takes about 10 or 20 seconds to mount and close a volume which then protects your information against identity thieves, illegal surveillance, criminals and others.

Even strong encryption like 256-bit AES or Swordfish which meets Department of Defense standards and is used by TrueCrypt can be broken but it requires thousands of dollars worth of resources and lots of time, creating an exponentially expensive curve for an extortioner in terms of both time and money that weighs heavily in favor of the individual using encryption.

Dropbox - is an extremely handy and simple solution to sharing files via the cloud. I use it on all my machines, and it simply works. A Dropbox account is free to setup and comes with a 2GB limit…additional space (50-100GB) can be purchased for a nominal monthly rate. With Dropbox is installed on your computer, laptop, iPhone, iPad, etc, you simply open the Dropbox folder and put files in it. Dropbox then works in the background to upload the files and sync all the other devices as they are brought on-line.

The wisdom of using Dropbox with TrueCrypt is clear: For example, you can travel with a laptop that contains no information across state or national borders and when you arrive at your destination, simply install Dropbox and sync (download) your TrueCrypt-encrypted files that you had loaded previously to the cloud. Because Dropbox itself has control of the Dropbox encryption key you can also use TrueCrypt for an added layer of security… that is, Dropbox is syncing nothing but files that are later to be decrypted by TrueCrypt.

Also, setting up your information archtectiure to use TrueCrypt and Dropbox is that you no longer need to worry about backing up the files… They all live in Dropbox’s cloud.

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Ghost snail-mail / physical addresses:

EarthClass Mail - Get a constant physical address with superb mail anonymity service that will increase your privacy and helps protect your financial affairs.  Most typically your street address is in Oregon which assesses no sales tax. For example, if you order a laptop you will pay about $300 in sales tax. Shipped to Oregon you pay nothing! ( A contact address in Europe is available including Switzerland, Germany and several other countries.)  Not only will this protect your privacy and save sales tax money but also your FICO score may increase as your location independence is achieved. See the section on sales and use tax here.

USGlobalMail – same principle. See here.

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Web-based fax services:

MyFax – MyFax is a cloud-based internet fax service used by individuals and businesses to send and receive faxes through email. No phone lines, no fax machine, no office and no fixed location necessary. My faxes even hit my mobile devices… around $50/year, and I have had no complaints in over 3 years of use…

eFax – same principle. See here.

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