Secure internet browsing

Last updated 8 months ago

The following safety practices help with safeguarding against “passive”, rather than “active” (when your tracker is actively, intentionally tracking you) surveillance.

First, test how secure your browser is with Panopticlick

The Tor Project and Tor Browser

Tor is a service that helps you to protect your anonymity while using the Internet. Tor is comprised of two parts: a software browser you can download that allows you to use the Internet anonymously, and the volunteer network of computers that makes it possible for that software to work. See What is Tor for further information and Tor and HTTPS for a demonstration of how your data can be visible.

Tor internet traffic is routed through multiple computers in the Tor network so that your physical IP address cannot be traced back. The computers in the Tor network are known as relays. Tor works with three different types of relays: a bridge relay, middle relay and an exit relay, all of which work to anonymise Tor users. Relays are run by volunteer computers worldwide.

One downside is that web browsing is slightly slower. Otherwise, the Tor Browser is designed to help keep you anonymous and is a simple yet effective way of browsing the internet without revealing your identity to anyone. Download it here.

Downloading Tor

Tor Security Settings

Browser Extensions

Browser extensions (Add-ons\/plug ins), are programs which extend or customise a web browser. Extensions can be used to protect your privacy by blocking third parties from tracking your online activity. WARNING: Extensions can also be malicious (examples)

Using secure browser https

  • Stay alert when browsing websites. Watch for browser windows that appear automatically, and read them carefully instead of just clicking Yes or OK. When in doubt, you should close 'pop up windows' by clicking the X in the upper right-hand corner, rather than by clicking Cancel. This can help prevent webpages from tricking you into installing malware on your computer.

  • Improve the security of your Web browser by preventing it from automatically running the potentially dangerous programs that are sometimes contained within web pages you visit. If you are using Mozilla Firefox, you can install the NoScript add-on, as described in Section 4 of the Firefox Guide.

  • Never accept and run content if it comes from websites that you don't know or trust.

  • Force the use of https with a browser plug-in available for Firefox and Chrome.

Installing too many extensions may slow down your browser so make sure to only install the essentials.

Useful add on: HTTPS Everywhere (forces websites to run on HTTPS)

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol with Secure Sockets Layer) prevents man-in-the-middle attacks, spoofing, phishing and sniffing, all of which are methods that deliver malware or can intercept your data, thus compromising your security. HTTPS doesn't hide your internet traffic, but it does secure the connection and encrypts the traffic, so attackers can’t easily read data in plain text.

For more see Securing Your Digital Life Like a Normal Person

Anonymous Browsing: Tails

Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) is an open-source Operating System that uses Tor to block all non-anonymous connections. Tails is booted (started up) with a live disk - DVD, SD Card or USB - and writes in memory so nothing is ever written to a drive and all online activity is erased on shutdown.

Tracking websites

Useful add on: Privacy Badger (blocks tracking websites and cookies) Privacy Badger is a browser add-on that stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, Privacy Badger automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. To the advertiser, it's like you suddenly disappeared.

Useful add on: Ghostery (blocks tracking cookies) Ghostery is a web browser extension that blocks cookies and reports newly detected tracking packages (packages, or packets, are used to analyse internet traffic. Some packets are malicious and can be injected into networks to intercept communications).

Useful add on: Lightbeam (visualizes hidden third-party sites) Lightbeam is a Firefox add-on that enables you to see the first and third party sites that you interact with on the Web. Lightbeam allows you to view the full depth of the internet by exposing the parts that are not transparent to everyday users and will let you see who is tracking you.

VPN

A VPN, or a Virtual Private Network, is a way of disguising your IP and encrypting all of your internet traffic so that no one can find out what you’re viewing online.

Free VPN: OkayFreedom (please note: the free version of OkayFreedom is ad-supported) ; TunnelBear

OpenVPN

OpenVPN is an application that is used to create a secure tunnel from your computer to the server you wish to connect to. It does this by means of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)\/TLS (Transport Layer Security), which are cryptographic protocols that encrypt communications over a network. (See Words for more information.) Alternatively, if you are using Windows, you can set up a VPN without OpenVPN.