Encryption

Let me just reiterate the same thing that so many articles have said over the past few weeks: you cannot create a backdoor in encryption software that only “good guys” can use. Back doors in software, no matter who you intend them to be used by, can be used by anyone who gets the chance to exploit them. Either everyone, including criminals, can have digital security and privacy or no one can have it. And I’d rather live in a world where I can protect my data from bad actors, even if those bad actors get the same protections as I do; it’s a consequence of equality. I like keeping my emails un-read and my money un-spent by anyone who isn’t me.

There are no gray areas when it come to this (like there are in real life between the “good guys” who need the back door and the “bad guys” who would exploit it). Either the encrypted data is secure and only accessible by its intended recipients, or it’s insecure any anyone can access it if they try hard enough. So who are these idiots who are calling for these back doors and why do they think they know more about this subject than Cryptographers, Mathematicians, and Computer Scientists?

American Politicians.

Anyways, you should probably learn how to utilize the tools we have now, before who knows what happens. So, use Tor. Not just Tor though, use TAILS. TAILS is a Linux Distribution intended to be run off of a USB stick and leave no trace on your machine. It comes with a plethora of privacy protecting programs and routes all of your internet traffic through Tor. Tor’s focus is to keep you anonymous online, and does so by encrypting your traffic and routing it through a number of machines. In a way, it’s kind of like a VPN, but there is a distinction to be made. A VPN is often commercial, and although it does provide some additional security for your internet traffic, it does not anonymize your traffic. A VPN is always a good idea to have, and it should be used often, but take caution when using both Tor and a VPN at the same time. This guide from The Tin Hat goes over the benefits and drawbacks much better than I ever could, but unless you have a trustworthy VPN then you can’t be sure you’re safely connected to the Tor network. It’s also worth noting that DuckDuckGo offers anonymous searches via Tor.

You should just encrypt ALL of your data, not just your web traffic. Use full disk/device encryption on your desktop, your laptop, your phone, your portable external hard drive. Encrypt your email with PGP/GPG, and/or use something like ProtonMail. Use an instant messenger (hello 2002) with OTR messaging, Tox, i2p’s anonymous IRC service, and Signal. Use them all! If you can encrypt it, do it. Why? Because in the end, it’s better to lose data than for someone who isn’t you to have it (and if you’re keeping backups like we all should but often don’t then recovering lost data becomes much easier). macOS and pretty much every Linux distro has tools built in to the OS for encrypting disks, but Veracrypt is good for encrypting things too. If you’re looking for privacy and are running Windows (or frankly, macOS) you’re already fighting a losing battle. Bite the bullet and just install linux already.

Another neat little tool I want to give the spotlight to is i2p. It’s really similar to Tor, because they’re both anonymity networks that facilitate anonymous online communications, but i2p is better than Tor when it comes to things like anonymous file sharing. If you’re looking to privately browse the public internet, Tor wins hands down there (it’s a larger network and that was its original intention), but if you want to take advantage of more peer-to-peer stuff, then i2p is for you. But it’s not like you have to choose, you can download both and take advantage of both their strengths; the people over at i2p recently released a pre-configured browser to use, so you don’t even have to think about manually configuring anything. Zeronet is also a cool peer-to-peer (and censorship resistant) network build using the technology of torrents and magic internet money, but it’s not anonymous by default so you do have to configure Zeronet to use Tor if you want anonymity.

Learn these tools, and use them to keep yourself protected online. Because you never know when something will happen that will leave you unprotected.

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