The Government won’t Protect your Privacy. Here’s how you can do it instead.

Last month Congress passed a resolution overturning an Obama-era FCC rule that mandated ISP’s to get their customers’ consent before sharing their browser history with other companies. The rules are additionally required ISPs to protect that data from hackers and inform customers of any data breaches.

The resolution was passed by the Senate in a partisan vote and was promptly signed by the President shortly thereafter.  I have my own political beliefs and I’ll keep them to myself, the Internet has enough of people openly sharing their political opinions. Unlike most, I know I don’t have the whole story on just about every topic, so I’ll keep to the points I do know, and that’s internet security and your privacy.

This is extremely valuable to businesses, but I can’t see how this is a benefit to the American citizen in any way. During the previous elections and debates, at no time was something like this even discussed. I’m disappointed.

From the reading I did, the reason this got passed was because ISP’s stated that companies such as Google & Facebook were profiting off their consumers’ browsing habits…why couldn’t the ISP’s? Technically speaking, they’re right. These mega Internet titans aren’t your friends advocating for your privacy. We, the consumer, are the product.

What you don’t see here is that this is just a dog & pony show. None of this really actually matters. ISP’s have been able to sell your web browsing data for quite some time. It’s just something you didn’t realized you signed up for when you blew past the terms and services of your ISP contract. All this proved was that they can continue to still do just that.

“The consequences of passing this resolution are clear: broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, and others will be able to sell your personal information to the highest bidder without your permission. No one will be able to protect you, not even the Federal Trade Commission that our friends on the other side of the aisle keep talking about.”

– Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA)

Wrong. 

I beg to differ. We as tech savvy citizens of the internet do indeed have the ability to protect ourselves. Here are 4 tips I recommend:

  1. Clearing your cookies or your browsing history doesn’t help. They’re tracking the DNS queries and your actual internet traffic. The solution to this is using a Virtual Private Network (VPN for short). In my opinion, this is the best solution to protecting your internet traffic from ISPs. All an Internet service provider will see is encrypted VPN traffic…nothing more. However, you need to trust your VPN as they’ll see all the data. You need assurance that logs are not kept and your information is not being sent to a 3rd party. I highly recommend Private Internet Access. These guys are legit. It’s very simple to use. They support regular at home internet access, but also have VPN clients for Android and Apple as well. I don’t go anywhere unless I’m on a VPN.
  2. Don’t use Google. I know it’s so pervasive, it’s hard to get away from. Use search engines like DuckDuckGo.com instead.
  3. Chrome tracks your history even if you use other search engines, so try using a more security focused web browser that doesn’t phone back home to Mountain View or Cupertino CA. Tor Browser is probably the best known for protecting your privacy, but that can be a little much for some folks. Other browsers I recommend are Comodo DragonSRWare Iron Browser, or White Hat Aviator:
  4. Face it, if you sign up for a social network with online marketing, you’re going to be tracked for demographics. I recommend creating multiple profiles with fake data to follow businesses, celebrities, movies…basically anything other than your close friends and family.  There’s a new social network called Mastodon that I’ve discovered and I highly recommend. I need to feel it out some more, but I’ll be doing a blog post on Mastodon shortly.

One last takeaway here. I see so many people saying this is Trump’s fault. Partially they’re right. He did sign the resolution. However, the following people share an equal part of the blame:
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Basic Security Practices for Regular Folks #1

Funny thing. Sometimes you can’t see the forest through all the trees. Something along those lines happened to me just recently. Dropbox just recently announced it was compromised…from back in 2012. 68 million accounts were compromised. Including my own. I figured it would be a good deed to share with my friends via social media in case they didn’t know. Apparently people outside of infosec don’t follow major data breaches like I do. 🙂

For the next couple days, my friends (tech and luddite alike) hit me up with questions on how to improve their privacy online. That seems like such a simple thing from someone who’s occupation is security. All their questions are valid and I figured I should compile them all here so everyone can learn.

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