News that the FBI is closely monitoring activists means we should all take extra precautions in our online activities to make it harder for the security services and corporate interests to keep tabs on us. Luckily, there are all sorts of tools out there – many of them free – that can easily make our browsing more secure.

1.Browser. Arguably the most security-conscious browser is Mozilla Firefox which has a large number of free add-ons to help you beef up security. You can switch between regular and private browsing by clicking the Firefox logo in the top, left-hand corner. It is also a good idea to spend a minute or two tweaking with the Settings.

a.Click the Firefox logo and select Options, then Privacy.

b.Tick the option “Tell websites I do not want to be tracked.” There is an option to “Always use Private Browsing mode.” Untick “Accept cookies from sites.”

c.Under Content, untick “Enable JavaScript.” You can always switch it back on when necessary, either permanently for particular sites or just for the one visit.

d.Under History, select “Never remember history.”

e.On the Advanced tab, tick “Never check for updates.” Tick “Override automatic cache management” or set Cache Size to 0. Under Update, disable “auto updating/checking for updates.” Update manually from time to time.

f.Under Security, tick “Warn before installing add-ons.” Remove all exceptions.

2.Kill Trackers. Do Not Track Plus blocks Web beacons and trackers that security agencies and others use to observe our browsing habits. Once installed, a tiny icon in the top right corner of Firefox issues an alert whenever a site has a bead on you.

Twitter, for example, will try to insert over 5,000 different trackers to follow your movements. At Facebook, nearly 8,000 will lock on to you. If people ever wonder how the social networks make money, this is how.

To see just who has an interest in what you do on-line, DNT+ publish a comprehensive list of the companies involved, together with information on them.

3.Control Cookies. BetterPrivacy allows you to remove or manage cookies and gives various ways to handle Flash-cookies set by Google, YouTube, eBay and others. Privacy+ does much the same thing. Flash plugins run independently of your browser and bypass any proxy configurations. If you were trying to mask your identity, these little nasties will reveal your IP address.

4.Java Switch. QuickJava allows you to quickly enable and disable Java, JavaScript and other intrusive plugins which track your travels and preferences. Another good option is NoScript.

5.Ban Ads. With Adblock Plus you can block on-line ads from anyone you would rather not hear from. You can choose from a predefined list and you can personalize your own, but don’t block sites you use regularly. Amazon, for example, is so stuffed with ads that by switching them off, the site instantly turns to text-only. You can also customize the settings to remove the annoying ads at the beginning of streaming videos on YouTube and elsewhere.

6.Cache Control. The Empty Cache Button adds a button to Firefox allowing you to quickly empty your browser cache should anyone start looking over your shoulder and optionally reload your page with just one click.

7.Password Protect. From the makers of the KeePass Password Safe comes KeeFox, a simple and secure password management plugin for Firefox.

8.Avoid Detours. To stop websites opening other pages on your browser and taking you off to potentially harmful sites, try Redirect Remover which prevents redirects from links and images. Another good option is RequestPolicy.

9.Block Baddies. Use either the free or paid-for versions of AVG or Avast which both warn of and block viruses and spyware entering your machine from malicious websites.

10.Wear a Mask. You can’t beat cloaking your identity as one of the safest of all strategies. This way no one need know who or where you are.

You can set up a proxy by fiddling with the Settings in Firefox and changing the IP address to one provided by HideMyAss or Rosinstruments but this can slow your machine down. A simpler solution isStealthy, a neat add-on to Firefox which seeks out the fastest proxies available and automatically routes you through them.

Another option is a Virtual Private Network (VPN), effectively a ‘secret’ tunnel where all your on-line activities are screened. Free options include FreeVPN and ProXPN. A popular and fast paid-for option is VrprVPN at $19.99 a month and available for all devices.

But perhaps the simplest solution for secure browsing is to use a “gateway” service such asAllNetToolsGuardster or Anonymouse. These free services allow you to type in any Web address and then travel around without leaving a trace of your activities. These are particularly useful for sensitive search engines queries and for visiting locally banned websites.

While all this will help keep your browsing relatively private, any adversary will be able to track you online if they are sufficiently interested in you – unless you adopt more serious measures like using cybercafés and the hidden networks of the Deep Web. However, by following these simple tips, it may well keep you off the radar in the first place and prevent anyone looking deeper.

For a deeper understanding read Deep Web Secrecy and Security.

This article first appeared in Occupy.com on January 11, 2013


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