It’s time to get proactive about your data privacy by incorporating these digital security and privacy tools into your online life.
Digital security and privacy are becoming nearly as important as staying private and secure in the “real” physical world. As the realities of real-life and digital life continue to merge, it’s more important than ever to build up your arsenal of privacy tools for protection.
The dangers of the digital world go far beyond what they used to be because nearly everything these days is linked: your bank account, your identity, your Social Security number, and, more than ever, your personal life.
You wouldn’t leave your front door wide open at night, and in the same turn, you shouldn’t leave your smartphone connected to free public wifi while unprotected.
Privacy is important to us (duh), and we want to make sure you have the best tools at your disposal to stay safe online.
These are the privacy tools that everyone needs
When it comes to your digital security and privacy, there’s really no silver bullet. It takes a holistic approach, using a variety of privacy tools that protect your data privacy from prying eyes.
Each of these tools accomplishes a specific task. VPNs mask your internet traffic. Password managers keep your passwords organized and secure. Private browsers prevents your search history from being monetized.
You may find the list to be intimidating. If that’s the case, it’s ok – just pick and choose the privacy tools that are best for you.
Virtual Private Networks
Virtual private networks, or more commonly VPNs, are the easiest and most effective privacy tools. VPNs allow you to secure your device and browse anonymously via virtual IP addresses. This will block internet service providers from spying on you and stop any location or IP tracking.
A VPN disguises where your computer or other device is by redirecting it through a virtual network elsewhere in the world. During this process, VPNs encrypt the information, making it impossible to be stolen.
Our recs for the best VPN services:
ProtonVPN is one of the top VPNs due to its reputation as an open-source service. Each time you use this provider, it will generate a unique encryption key. The service has 1,238 servers in 55 countries and allows you to choose which country you would like to browse from virtually. This will enable you to access websites that might be blocked in your country.
The service’s servers are located in countries with strong privacy laws: Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden. The core servers are located in a former Swiss army fallout shelter 1000 meters below the surface.
NordVPN is a Panama-based (good privacy laws) provider is one of the more popular commercial VPN services. The service is known for fast speeds and an extensive server network. Some of the pros, like ProtonVPN, are extremely strong encryption standards. Nord also includes a service to block ads, trackers and more called CyberSec.
Nord features 5,400 servers in 59 countries.
The first line of defense in your battle for digital security and privacy is a strong password.
The good news is that many websites where the most critical information is stored, such as Google, have enacted strong password practices such as two-factor authentication.
As a refresher, here’s how to create a strong password! This is a no-brainer in your box of digital security and privacy tools.
Unfortunately, the web is vast, and if you use your same password in more than one location, that could put you in danger. If that password ends up being leaked either by a hacker or a data breach, bad actors could access any other site you use it on.
The answer to this problem is password managers.
Password managers do it all. They help generate strong, complex passwords, remember those passwords for you and store them securely.
Our recs for the best password management apps:
Bitwarden is one of the most popular password management services. It is entirely open-source and has undergone a third-party audit.
For starters, it is completely open-source, has been through a third-party audit, and offers some great apps and browser extensions. Bitwarden supports 2FA and TOTP and AES-256 and PBKDF2 encryption. Some of the cons of the service are that users must provide an email address and that the data is stored in the United States.
1Password is one of the older password managers and is also known as one of the most reliable. One of the downsides, unlike Bitwarden, is there is no free version of the system.
Passwords are stored in the cloud and on local devices, and data is encrypted using AES-256 and 128-bit Secret Key. 1Password supports 2FA, multi-factor authentication and TOTP. Two of the cons are that it is based in Canada and you must provide a valid email address to use it.
Private and secure web browsers
What web browser you use has a massive impact on your digital security and privacy. By keeping your Internet usage private, you prevent search engines from tracking your behavior and monetizing that behavior for corporate profit.
While the leading players in the game, such as Google Chrome and Safari, may seem secure, the truth is that there are better options out there to keep you private.
As you will see, there is a tradeoff between privacy and performance, especially with the Tor browser.
Our recs for the best web browsers:
At the top of the list of the most secure and least invasive web browsers is Brave. This open-source browser is a complete solution to browsing privately that doesn’t require much customization.
For instance, Brave blocks nearly all ad trackers and also supports the Tor network, further shielding tracking of your IP address.
Brave was built on the framework of Google Chrome, so you get the best of both worlds. You can use most Chrome browser extensions while also enjoying the privacy the Brave allows.
Tor is the most secure browser out there. If your goal is purely privacy, then Tor is the answer. The browser scrambles your IP address constantly and aims to make all users look the same. This makes it extremely difficult for you to be browser fingerprinted.
Tor also boats that your traffic is encrypted three times as it passes through the network of volunteer-run servers.
The downside of all of this is that the security measures slow down your browsing significantly.
Privacy-friendly search engines
Most search engines log everything you do. While this can be helpful in customizing your web browsing experience, it is also highly intrusive.
Most search engines, such as Google, as data collection tools for advertising companies. Your searches equal their data. Some of the data that search engines collect includes IP addresses, location, search queries and identifiers.
The way around all of this is to use alternative search engines that put a focus on privacy.
Our recs for the best privacy search engines:
DuckDuckGo is one of the most recognized user-friendly privacy search engines. Although it has been around since 2008, it has picked up steam more recently as data privacy goes mainstream. The search engine does not track any of your information, including your IP address.
The good thing about DuckDuckGo is that its search engine, while not reliant on data, remains extremely strong. The search engine gathers results from more than 400 sources, including Bing, Yahoo and Wikipedia.
One of the downsides of the service is that it is run on Amazon servers in the U.S., which is considered a country with not-so-strong privacy laws.
MetaGer is an open-source metasearch engine that is run by a German non-profit. The browser is interesting because it shows the source of every search result, has robust filtering options for date, language and safe search and allows for proxy viewing options of search results.
Keep protecting your digital security and privacy
Now that you’ve got a list of the best privacy tools, you’re ready to graduate into more robust data protections. Here are a few other ways you can further protect your privacy and reduce your digital footprint.