How to use a VPN to protect your internet privacy

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The government won't protect your internet privacy, so here's how to do it yourself
To be safe, request reports from the three big credit-rating agencies by the time your children turn If they do, look for another VPN. Outwit Your Smart TV Automatic content recognition ACR systems built into many smart televisions transmit data to analytics companies that may use it for marketing. This is a software and network pairing that hides your identity by moving your traffic across different Tor servers, and encrypting that traffic. Jeremi Gosney, the head of the password-security firm Sagitta HPC and co-founder of a hacker conference called PasswordsCon, recently cracked million of them in just six days.

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11 Simple Ways to Protect Your Privacy

The measure already cleared the Senate with a narrow majority, and experts expect that President Trump will sign the bill into law. When he does so, ISPs, the companies that connect people to the internet, will be able to collect and sell information about specific users without their permission. More specifically, the bill nullifies a set of rules put in place by the FCC. Collectively, the rules—which have been in the works in the works for months and years and are built on prior rulemaking —are newly formalized: The FCC published the final version last December, and most took effect in January, with one part coming into effect this March.

Some of those protections provided by these rules are, technologically speaking, ancient—like extending privacy requirements originally written for telecommunication companies to also cover broadband internet service. Modern additions deal more explicitly with consumer consent and privacy online. The rules mandate that ISPs do three things: Let customers know about and opt-in or opt-out of any sharing of their information; get affirmative consent when offering customers financial incentives in exchange for selling their data; and not offer cheaper service to people on the condition that they surrender privacy rights.

Without these measures in place, ISPs will be freed up to turn user data into a lucrative business—and to do so without the users' knowledge or consent. Nullifying these rules, after all the time it took to create and implement them, gives companies implicit permission to do exactly what the rules protect against. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a major online privacy rights organization, describes it succinctly:.

Putting the interests of internet providers over internet users, Congress today voted to erase landmark broadband privacy protections. Worst yet, consumers will now have to pay a privacy tax by relying on VPNs to safeguard their information.

That is a poor substitute for legal protections. This change in rules means ISPs can profit off a captive customer base twice: At the same time, the information an ISP can collect has a lot more depth and specificity than what Google can glean just from searches, or what Facebook can find from stuff users post to the social network.

Wider availability of an individual user's internet footsteps could leave them more-vulnerable to security threats. Similarly, access to personal-finance and medical information could help would-be criminals commit fraud later on.

From a counter-intelligence perspective, that is a gold mine. The loss of online privacy could make it a lot easier for criminals to gain the trust of unsuspecting marks and then exploit that trust. The more information criminals can get about a person," Gourley says, "the easier it is to use social engineering to manipulate them. To make matters worse for users, should the bill be signed into law, ISPs will no longer be required to disclose data breaches.

That means people could have their information stolen from the company that collected it without their consent, and then not even know that the data theft took place. Restoring consumer protections will likely take either legislative or legal action, which means waiting until the next Congress takes office in at the earliest—or hoping a privacy-relevant case works through the courts before then. Here are some steps a user can take to secure their privacy:.

VPNs are tools installed on a user's device, like a phone or a laptop, that encrypt the traffic from that device, and mask the user's IP address and online behavior from tracking tools.

VPNs are already a standard security recommendation for anyone working over unsecured WiFi—like what you might find in a coffee shop.

But with ISPs now collecting data, and not just routing it, the workaround makes sense for home use as well. They also come in handy when you're trying to get TV streaming to work overseas.

Return to Sender Life as a direct-marketing target: Turn On Automatic Updates Keeping your software up-to-date is the most critical step you can take to boost security, according to professionals surveyed last year by Google.

Make sure you have auto-updates turned on across the board. Jeremi Gosney, the head of the password-security firm Sagitta HPC and co-founder of a hacker conference called PasswordsCon, recently cracked million of them in just six days. That represented 98 percent of the passwords stolen from LinkedIn in a huge data breach in A major problem, Gosney says, is that most passwords are just too predictable. Strong passwords have two things in common: But assuming that a password is a truly random collection of characters, how long is long enough?

Security experts use some quick math to get the answer. Just do the following:. Stop Making Sense One way to make a great password is to string together unrelated words. Diceware is a low-tech way to pick passwords that was developed in the s. You roll dice to pick from a list of 7, words. Just pick five long, random words and string them together into a nonsense sentence that you can remember. Password managers can generate a complex, unique password for each account. Got a Great One? Okay, Write It Down.

Everyone tells you not to commit your passwords to paper. That way, his loved ones can access his online accounts to pay bills and take care of other business. Be Password Loyal People also tell you to change passwords regularly.

The bigger the E, the harder a password is to crack. That number is the same as 2 to the And yes, 12 characters picked at random from a keyboard will do the job.

If a loved one has died, send a copy of the death certificate to the IRS the funeral home may help with that. Early one evening last spring, my mobile phone stopped working. I immediately logged in to my account and changed the password. I also placed a fraud alert with the credit-reporting agencies. And I had to spend many hours getting the carrier to finish cleaning up the mess.

Section e of the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires companies to provide victims of identity theft with all business records related to the incident. So I filled out a template at identitytheft. Two months later, I received the records. She used a fake ID with my name and her photo.

Activate a PIN Sprint requires customers to set a PIN and security questions for their accounts, and the other major mobile providers offer customers the option.

Having a PIN can help keep strangers from making changes to your account. Watch Your Bills Many wireless plans are based on a flat rate, so make sure your bill is consistent from month to month. Check on the Kids Minors had their identity stolen 51 times more often than adults in a study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. Keep an eye out for letters from collection agencies, bills for unpaid balances, or a warning that pops up when you try to file your taxes electronically if you list your child as a dependent.

To be safe, request reports from the three big credit-rating agencies by the time your children turn That will give you time to clear up any problems before they apply for college loans, jobs, or credit cards. Web-connected devices promise convenience, but some can leak private data. Here's how to keep your information safe. Lock Down Your Baby Monitor Hackers sometimes break into WiFi-connected babycams, even hijacking the speakers to talk to children and caretakers. When you set up any internet-enabled camera, create a unique username and password.

That will make hackers less likely to discover it. Outwit Your Smart TV Automatic content recognition ACR systems built into many smart televisions transmit data to analytics companies that may use it for marketing. Lots of stuff that's fine at home—hanging out in your PJs, using WiFi file sharing, eating peanut butter from the jar—is totally inappropriate at a coffee shop. Here's how to get your laptop ready to leave your home network. Restrict File Sharing File sharing makes it easy to swap documents among devices.

Turn it off under the Sharing settings on your computer. Cloak Your Computer You just turned off file sharing, right? Also turn off Network Discovery to make it more difficult for other devices on the network to find your laptop.

Mac users can enter Stealth mode through Firewall Options. Do All of This Automatically Clicking away at laptop menus every time you leave home can be annoying. Windows makes it easy to automate the process using Advanced Sharing settings. To do something comparable on a Mac, use the free-to-download ControlPlane app. Use a VPN Virtual private networks route your traffic through a single remote server that has tight security in place.

Traveling with a work laptop? Toymakers are rolling out connected kids' products—including tablets and talking dolls—and asking families to divulge personal information to register them. But that essentially provides marketers and potential hackers with details about your children. So consider providing fake information.

Next, Your Computer Files You can encrypt your whole machine or just sensitive files. To encrypt specific files on a Mac, use the Disk Utility. Mitchell recommends Apricorn flash drives with built-in encryption.

Take these steps to boost privacy and limit how much Facebook—and its partners and users—can learn about you. But you can turn the function off using your phone settings.

For an iPhone, you'll find the controls under Location Services. It keeps strangers from accessing your account—even if they steal your password. Leave a Group Facebook lets users add friends to groups without their consent. But you can remove yourself from any group by going to your Activity Log. Hide such information by using the Privacy Checkup Tool found under the padlock on the upper right of any Facebook page.

A couple of years ago, Craig Young, who works on the Vulnerability and Exposures Research Team at a security firm called Tripwire, found that 20 of the 25 most popular home routers sold on Amazon contained big security holes.

Some of those have since been patched. And in , it took Young just a few hours to find 10 flaws in wireless routers during a competition at Def Con, a hacking conference in Las Vegas.

This is bad, because the laptops, smartphones, and other devices you use at home all connect to the internet through your router. The whole project shouldn't take more than 10 minutes. Find an Ethernet Cable Then use it to temporarily connect the router to your computer. And losing your connection during that process could turn your router into a doorstop.

Get the IP Number Every router has two IP internet protocol addresses, an external one for communicating with the internet through a modem and an internal one for your laptop, smart TV, and other devices. The local IP address is very likely to be Update the Username and Password If you never changed the default settings, do that now.

See Tips for password advice. Replace the default SSID with something more creative but not too personal. Embrace Encryption Fasten your jargon seatbelts: These acronyms represent ways to encrypt communications on your WiFi network. If you have really old devices, they may not be able to connect this way. Update Firmware Some routers today automatically update their firmware—they check for updates, install new software, and reboot in the middle of the night. Do you want to allow anyone else to do it?

No, so make sure that this feature is disabled. Shut It Down Going out of town?

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