7

Updated: April 6, 2016


Let us preface this post by saying that it is the longest and most in-depth post we've ever done.

Below you will find guides on how to do things from securing your email and encrypting your files, to securing your online storage and privatising your online messaging. We've also compiled 150+ tools and resources to help protect your privacy online.

There's no need to read every guide or use every tool below. Simply click on the sections that interest you and enjoy. We also encourage you to leave a comment below with questions or comments and we'll respond as quickly as possible.

Disclaimer: We have made every attempt to pick the most independent and private tools we could find. Using the tools and projects recommended on this page does not guarantee that 100% of your communications will be shielded against surveillance states. Please do your own research before trusting any of these tools and projects with your sensitive information.

Introduction to Encryption

What is encryption?

​Encryption is best defined as the most effective way to secure data. There are a few accurate and succinct definitions here and here but, “a process applied to data to keep it secure and only accessible by those with the ‘key’ or code to do so” - is arguably the most basic 101 definition.
We differentiate encrypted data and unencrypted data by calling the former “ciphertext” and the latter “plain text”.

Why does encryption exist?

The practical benefits of using encryption lend themselves to be incredibly helpful and effective to keeping private or “sensitive” data just that: private. Encryption is only more and more important in today’s web-based surveillance invasions on personal data conducted by agencies and organisations, like the NSA, as a way of protecting against such prying eyes.

Encryption essentially exists to allow you to pass a secret message from yourself to someone else. The important part of that process being that you wish the message to be secret -- i.e. you do not wish for third parties to be able to read your message. Without going into the thousands of reasons as to why encryption is important, this can be justified by simply using the example of how encryption allows you to use e-commerce (buying things online) without the credit card details you use being easily observed and saved by anyone/thing that is not your intended recipient of said details.

How does encryption work?

Whatever your initial message (the data you transmit) is, using encryption on said message will “scramble” it with a huge “digital number”. This scrambling is achieved by using high-level mathematics in a computational system. There is now different levels of encryption used all over the world.

The most common is 128-bit key encryption, which is used at the “commercial” level (i.e. it is widely used and as such has become the standard level of encryption nowadays.) Although this 128-bit key is super hard to hack and gain access through, more and more online users are choosing to increase their encryption key to 256-bit, which is of course a whole higher level of hard-to-crack encryption.

So when data is encrypted and sent to another computer, that computer will know the digital key used for the encryption and thus be able to decrypt and determine the intended original message.

Why is encryption not used for all data transmission?

​Thankfully this is actually becoming “the norm” for more and more online users, who are now able to take control of using encryption to protect all the data they transmit online by using very affordable “privacy-protection” software like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Today, the main reason encryption is not used for all data transmission comes down to speed. When encryption is used on data there is an unavoidable loss in the speed that data is transmitted because of the mathematical computations required to both scramble the message before transmission and then unscramble it at the end of the receiving server.

Introduction To Cryptocurrency

What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency may sound to many like some futuristic complex form of money… and in some ways it is exactly that! However, understanding what cryptocurrency is does not require super intelligence or a degree in computer science. The best way to get across exactly what a cryptocurrency is, would be to simply watch this awesome (and short!) video from the guys over at Good Mythical Morning:


There are currently hundreds of cryptocurrencies that exist today, with BitCoin being the first established cryptocurrency created. Below are some other popular cryptocurrencies in existence today:

How does a cryptocurrency work?

To define it it really basically, a cryptocurrency is a digital currency. Each “coin” of such a currency is created through a process called “mining”. It is most important to understand that this mining is how such currencies are created, rather than knowing how mining works. So for now, it is enough to understand that this mining process is how each coin is created.

cryptocurrency pic


This mining process is essentially the virtual equivalent of how physical “traditional” money is created. Physical currencies as we know them are created by governments and banks that print notes and produce coins that go into the world’s circulation. Whereas to create a “coin” of cryptocurrency, a user (yes anyone, even you, can create them) uses a mining program.

Such mining programs are used to solve incredibly sophisticated algorithms, with each algorithm solve producing a “block” (i.e. a “coin”) that will go into cryptocurrency circulation. The level of computational processing power required for such mining programs to solve these super complex algorithms to produce cryptocurrency coins is truly huge. The cost to build and maintain such computers to handle this level of processing power is why so few cryptocurrency produces are around today.

Why do cryptocurrencies have value?

The short answer is because of three factors:

  • Mining (i.e. producing) cryptocurrency coins is a fair game since nobody can just produce unlimited coins without competition. The mining process is such that competing to produce coins is a level playing field.
  • The more coins that are mined in any cryptocurrency; the harder it is to mine for new coins. All the algorithms have been made this way in order to maintain stability across all cryptocurrencies.
  • The total amount of cryptocurrencies that can be produced is finite. Only 21 million coins can be produced, ever. Once these are all mined, there will be no more in circulation. Much like any finite resource on earth, there is inherent value therein.

​To get a completely-yet-simple explanation of why cryptocurrencies have value, you should understand exactly how each coin is mined. There is an ocean of resources out there that can give you fantastic breakdowns of this process, but a great place to start is this very succinct explanation from iGaming.

How to Anonymously use the Internet

Keeping yourself anonymous with everything you do online is not only smart but becoming more and more fundamentally necessary as your freedom is restricted and your privacy is monitored.

There are an ocean of resources and tools around today that you can arm yourself with in order to protect your anonymity with every website you visit; message you send; file you share and media you stream. This choice is fantastic, however so much choice can definitely be paralysing -- and although there is no way to 100% protect your anonymity online, there are plenty of ways you can give yourself the best chance of this with very little effort. So we have decided to define 7 areas of your online activity that when anonymised will cover 99% of your online activity:

5 Essential Life-saving Tools for Online Anonymity


1. DNS (Domain Name Service) Encryption

2. VPN (Virtual Private Network)

3. TOR (The Onion Router)

4. Anonymous-friendly Search Engines

5. Privacy-protected IM (Instant Messaging)


1. DNS (Domain Name Service) Encryption

For a more detailed breakdown of what DNS is and how it works, check out this succinct explanation we wrote up in our Ultimate SmartDNS Guide. For now, let’s just define what a DNS is briefly:

A DNS turns any website address from it’s IP form (e.g. 12.345.678) to the domain name e.g. www.example.com) in order to make websites easier to remember for us simple humans.

So to keep your DNS anonymity in tact, you want to avoid all possibility of a “DNS leak” occurring. A DNS leak is when -- even if you are using a VPN or TOR -- your computer keeps communicating with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) constantly during your online activity at a point in the network that allows your ISP (or third party ‘snoopers’) to see your online activity, regardless of whether you are encrypting your connection or not.

Therefore, encrypting your DNS is paramount. You can do this by simply using OpenDNS then test that your DNS is now tight and without leaks by using a free tool like www.dnsleaktest.com.

We also list some great DNS providers in the tools section here

2. VPN (Virtual Private Network)

For a detailed description of what a VPN is, how they work and what they are used for, definitely check out our Ultimate Guide to VPNs. A simple explanation of this will be laid out now. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a tool that allows you to create a remote virtual connection to another computer. These computers (or servers) that you connect to remotely from your own device can be located anywhere in the world.

vpn_process


A classic example of why a VPN is beneficial to use for anonymity is when you want to watch a specific movie on Netflix, only to find out that the location you are accessing Netflix from either does not give you any access at all, or only access to a limited library that does not include the movie you want to watch.

By using a VPN, you can change your “location” (your IP address) to be located in a country that will give you access to that movie on Netflix. Your IP address is something assigned to your computer. This IP address is what websites and online services use to determine where you are located, and thus deny or grant you access based on this. Although there are other methods to achieve this IP address change; only a VPN will give you the highest level of privacy/anonymity protection by encrypting your data while doing so.

The anonymity protection that VPNs give you really shine through when you consider how unsafe public WiFi connections that cafes and bars offer are. Use a VPN to make sure your online activity is as securely protected as it can be, regardless of where you are in the world.

We also list some great VPN tools in the according section of this guide here.

3. TOR (The Onion Router)

TOR is a very smart and ingeniously simple network that protects your anonymity by running your connection through a variety of multiple different servers before reaching its intended destination server. This process serves to make your data untraceable back to you, since no entity observing any point in TOR can accurately figure out where any data has come from or is going.

TOR homepage


The whole purpose of TOR is to offer zero traceability of any data to any user. Any user of TOR can be sure that no one can figure out which websites you are viewing or what data you are sending/receiving at any time. Similarly, TORs protect both the intended website from knowing you sent the data and any individual relays from getting your IP address or determining it through monitoring and attaching browsing habits back to your IP.

It is important to point out that using TOR does not absolutely guarantee anonymity. As much as it will improve minimising your online footprint and ‘breadcrumbs’, there are sophisticated methods that any intelligent hacker can use if they are specifically trying to monitor you. However, for the average ever-man online user that has done nothing so significantly illegal to warrant having such hackers monitoring you, then TOR is a great way to successfully stay anonymous.

To use TOR, just download the TOR browser and install then launch it. Super simple, with no “technical understanding” required. Alternatively for mobile you can use Orbweb, which is a great web browser developed for Android devices that focuses on privacy protection that is based on TOR.

4. Anonymous-friendly Search Engines

It is no secret that practically every major search engine online today tracks almost 100% of searches you perform. Google, Yahoo! and Bing are all able to very easily track your searches, so if you want to use a search engine that doesn’t -- then check out DuckDuckGO, ixquick and Startpage.

DuckDuckGo
“The search engine that doesn’t track you” - is DuckDuckGo’s slogan. The main approach that this search engine takes to protect your privacy is in not using the filtering system that major search engines use to offer “personalized results”. This search engine emphasises giving quality over quantity when it comes to results.

duckduckgo homepage


Ix
quick and Startpage
This search engine progressively improved the level their user privacy protection over the years, finally in January 2009 hitting the milestone of completely ceasing logging user IP addresses. Startpage is for the user that wants to feel the “Googleness” of a search engine with the privacy protection that ixquick gives you:

ixquick homepage


Additionally, if you really insist on sticking with Google as your preferred search engine, then you can use the little known encrypted version of Google, which gives you a certain level of encryption on your search queries.

We also highlight the importance of privacy-friendly web searching in the according tools section here

5. Privacy-protected IM (Instant Messaging)

Texting, texting, texting. We all do it, we all love it, and 99% of us do not consider just how much our messages are tracked and accessible by third parties like national governments. If you want to text to your heart’s content via an Instant Messaging service that exists to protect your privacy and keep every text you send and receive anonymous through encryption, then definitely check out these:

How to Secure Your Email

The general reason for encrypting email is because most, if not all popular email providers unashamedly track your emails and use algorithms to log specific keywords therein in order to show you ads that are targeted around these. Gmail is arguably the most popular email provider around today, and are a prime example of one such email provider that does this.

If you want to stick with Gmail as your email provider then definitely activate the in-built “two factor authentication”, which will require Google to send you a specific code that you’ll then need to punch in to login to your Gmail account. There are encryption standards specifically developed for email encryption, namely OpenGPG and PGP, that have subsequently spurred on email “hardware tokens” that allow you to increase the level of encryption you can place on your emails.

However we do recommend most to switch your email provider to one like Protonmail, a super secure encrypted email based in Switzerland (so not under the privacy-invasive US or UK jurisdictions) and completely free. For mobile equivalents of such secure encrypted email providers, check out K-9 Mail and iPGMail for Android and iOS respectively:

K-9 Mail app
iPGMail app

How to Secure Your Browser

You can think of using a privacy-protecting add-on for your internet browser as the most straightforward and simple method to helping your anonymity, compared to using a VPN or TOR. However, the anonymity that such browser add-ons give you is minimal at best.

What such add-ons provide you with mainly is a way to stop the bombardment of ads that slow down or inhibit your online browsing, as well as adding security to your data being retained or monitored by websites you visit. Here’s a shortlist of the most effective and handy browser add-ons worth installing onto yours:


AdBlock Plus Blocks ads (funnily enough) while also stopping third-party sites from tracking your online browsing behaviour in order to serve you more relevant ads.

AdBlock Plus shot

disconnect.me shot



Disconnect.me is an add-on developed by an ex-Google engineer that monitors and blocks 2000+ websites from collecting your online data.




Ghostery
is a brilliant add-on that essentially tracks all the trackers that are tracking your online behaviour, and then lets you choose which trackers to allow or block based on your own preference.

ghostery shot

Firefox-specific add-ons worth checking out are Self-Destructing Cookies that automatically deletes all cookies gathered whenever you close the tab, and JonDoFox that improves the anonymity and security of your browsing. We recommend FireFox above Google Chrome because Chrome has become synonymous with data tracking and privacy-infringing activity. Internet Explorer is of course a redundant web browser and if you’re using this then we strongly recommend deleting it from your computer and using FireFox.

More web browser add-ons are recommended in the according tools section of this guide here.

How To Securely Communicate in 2016

It should be stated first that phone calls are not at all secure. In fact it may be the least private way of communication in 2016. It's safe to say that governments possess the technology needed to record your phone calls and they are more than willing to do so. Burner phones or disposable cell phones are certainly a possibility but information can still be collected this way.

The best way to keep your voice conversation completely private would be to use end-to-end VOIP encryption. VoIP, which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, allows you to talk and usually make video calls and instant messages over the internet. Skype is a great example of a VoIP service. Unfortunately it is now owned by Microsoft and they have simply turned over access to skype calls so your skype data is not secure.

Thanks to Edward Snowden we now know this is certain. So, to have a truly private conversation you would need end-to-end encryption. Below in the tools section you can find some good skype alternatives.

A lot of what we just discussed in the previous section on VoIP applies here as well as many VoIP services also have a chat or IM functionality built in. With that said we've listed a lot of great, dedicated IM tools below:

A Guide to Cloud Storage Security

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard of cloud storage. In fact you're probably already using cloud storage in some form or another. iCloud, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, Amazon Web Services, and countless others. The problem with these services is that they work directly with the NSA and many of their Terms of Service specify that they have the right to look into your files and turn them over to an authority. 

There are many approaches you can take to ensure that your files are secure, like manually encrypting your files before uploading them to the cloud (doing this is the simplest and most secure method.) By doing this you can continue using proprietary cloud service as long as you're the only one who holds the encryption key.

However, there are a growing amount of cloud storage options becoming available that focus on giving you the highest level of encryption and data privacy protection possible as standard. These cloud storage services are flying the flag of internet freedom proudly, and we definitely recommend giving them a try. 

Rather than bombarding you with the myriad of (very legitimate) reasons to why you should be using a cloud storage service that actually protects your file privacy rather than openly giving it up to the powers that be -- we will simply list a few of the absolute best file storage services around today, so you can check them out yourself:

spideroak logo
tresorit logo
cloudsafe logo
teamdrive logo

In addition we have also listed some fantastic secure cloud storage services that do not charge a penny. Check these out in the according tools section below by clicking here!

Guide To Antivirus, Malware & Firewall Software

What is antivirus software?

Antivirus software is a sophisticated piece of computing software that includes multiple programs that prevent, protect and repair viruses found on a device in an effective and efficient manner.

Exactly what antivirus software does can be defined in essentially two ways:

  • Prevents, quarantines and/or repairs pre-existing viruses on a device, by way of routinely checking an entire device’s system against a “dictionary” of known viruses to determine any such occurrences.
  • Monitors the “behaviour” of software and system processes on a device and flags then resolves any instances of “suspicious behaviour”, again by referencing such behavioural occurrences against a “dictionary” of such.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Use Antivirus Software?

As important and beneficial antivirus software is for any device, such software does not come without flaws and cons. Overall, no antivirus software is 100% effective in doing its job. We do want to stress that ultimately the benefits of antivirus software definitely outway the negatives.

With that said, it is worth laying out the most common negatives with antivirus software, as these explain why every user does not choose to use such protective software on their device:

Negatives of Antivirus Software

Processing power required

The biggest negative of antivirus software is in the large amount of computing power required to run a “scan” (i.e. check your entire computer system for viruses). When a user runs such a check, they are basically unable to perform any other task on their computer until the check is completed -- unless using a computer that has serious processing power, which most consumer devices do not possess.

Downloading issues

When a user downloads any file from the internet and is running antivirus software on the system, the software may incorrectly flag a file you know is safe as “unsafe”, which then requires disabling the antivirus software just to successfully download and use such a file. This can be unnecessarily time-consuming and annoying for some.

Program safety confusion

When running some software, your antivirus software may incorrectly flag that software as dangerous or suspicious, causing it to stop running or run incorrectly. This happens due to the antivirus software seeing “behavioural patterns” in the software that match “suspicious behaviour” in their built-in dictionary.

Remaining up-to-date

Although most use antivirus software to ideally prevent viruses on their device, the software ends up acting as a cleanup tool that discovers new viruses that already get into the system.

What is Malware?

“Malicious Software”, shortened to “Malware”, is an all-encompassing term that refers to computational spyware, viruses, worm and Trojan. You can essentially define malware as being something that is in your device that is 100% designed to damage that system or the network it is connected to.

Why does Malware exist?

The short answer is: MONEY.

For those of us that would never dream of damaging a computer system, or whom can’t even understand why someone would want to -- hopefully this will explain why malware exists.

For all the different forms that malware can take, the purpose of it ultimately comes down to two conclusions:

1. Advertisement.
Yup, most malware is installed onto a device for the purpose of making money through advertising. Such malware is usually found masquerading as a random offer popping up to a user online while browsing, offering “software to increase the speed of your computer” and the like. If you are naive enough to download such a scam, you quickly discover that the “software” is in fact useless and only bombards your system with ads from which the malware creator makes money.

2. To make your computer a brain-dead “zombie”.
This is malware that, once unwillingly installed on your device, will take control and command it to perform such things like contributing to a DDoS attack or steal all your info contained in the device. Such info-stealing malware will also do this for money in the end by selling your information to third parties.

What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a system that is created to prevent unauthorised network access, from either end. Firewalls exist on both hardware and software. Almost every device nowadays has some level of firewall installed as standard.

The main shapes that software firewalls take today are either as packet filters, gateways and proxy servers.

Why do Firewalls exist?

Firewalls are predominantly used as a way to moderate networks on the internet (i.e. intranets) by checking every data packet that is sent through such networks to make sure every packet adheres to pre-specified security points. Using a firewall essentials prevents users or bots from accessing data inside a network that they are not authorised to.

Firewalls keep networks accessible to only users that are officially allowed access. Thus, using a firewall puts up a “wall” around your network, protecting the privacy and security of data within that wall.

Additional Security Tricks & Tips

In addition to the -- what we believe to be essential -- online privacy and anonymity protection tools and software we have recommended through this comprehensive guide, we also want to conclude this section with some very sensible and “every day” additional security tricks and tips for you to take into consideration with your device and internet usage.

Password Advice

It goes without saying that you should always use a completely unique password with every personal account you access from your devices. The main reason that most online users stick with either a simple to remember password or the same more complicated password across all accounts is because of our simple human brains. We simply cannot remember a highly complex password, let alone a different highly complex one for every personal account we access online. The paradox with the ideal password is that it should be so complex that you are unable to remember it.

So how do you remember it? This is why we strongly recommend using a password manager to take care of this for you.

Password managers work in such a way that you only need to remember one password (to access the manager) and all your passwords therein (which you should make so difficult that even you cannot remember them) will be accessible; giving you access to your personal accounts automatically. Here are the top password managers that we recommend giving a try:

lastpass_logo
splashid_logo
1password_logo
1password_logo

Nowadays, many online services offer two-step authentication for you to utilise. Definitely use this, as it does allow you (if you reallllly don’t want to use complex passwords or a password manager) to increase the strength of your account access by using two steps of authentication to login each time.

Software Advice

Always, always, always keep your software and all programs/applications on your devices completely up to date. So many “hacks” and malicious software get into your devices through the “cracks” that form in software, applications or operating systems that are not up to date on the latest versions. Stay smart when downloading new applications to your devices.

Mobile device applications are not so applicable here, but with laptops and desktops; applications that are “FREE!” should always be giving serious consideration and research before downloading and installing onto your computer. Why? Because a massive percent of freely offered applications and programs usually come with a “side door” function that could make your computer open to malware and viruses, or worse -- to be used remotely for powerful computational processing (there was a “free” application that, once installed, used the users computer for BitCoin mining) so always be 100% sure you need and research every application you install onto your devices.

Although a lot more legitimate mobile device applications (from the App Store and Google Play, for example) are freely offered in comparison to lap/desktop computers, you should always take 30 seconds to check the “permissions” you are giving each app you install onto your mobile device. There are some that will attempt to access your personal data through such installs.

Email Advice

We all get literally hundreds of emails, sometimes even thousands(!) a week. So taking the time to sensibly go through each can become a tiresome task, resulting in many people giving less time to consider whether an email is safe to open or not.

Do not give in to this temptation to fly through emails just to get to “inbox zero”. Although most email clients and providers are always improving their spam filtering systems, there are always a few emails that are entirely malicious, which get into your main email folder.

Opening such emails is sometimes equivalent to opening your identity and personal sensitive information files to a complete stranger that wants to take advantage of such access.

Web Browsing Advice

Although we went into detail about the best ways to secure your browser here [LINK], it is worth mentioning a few more quick recommendations that many security-savvy users do when web browsing on their personal devices. For Windows devices, one major one that we see coming up time and time again is to disable JavaScript in your browser.

This is quite an extreme thing to do, since many online services, games and sites use significant amounts of JavaScript to keep their service functioning smoothly and correctly. However, you will be 100% more secure in your web browsing by disabling JavaScript, so if you are OK with reducing your user experience a touch on some websites, then this is a good tip for you.

Alternatively, you can perform some simple customisations to your browser’s JavaScript settings to improve security therein, which you can check out here Since we covered so much about securing your web browsing already, the only other significant tip worth reiterating is to use a VPN for all your browsing activity -- especially if you regularly use public WiFi.

Back up!

One last thing: back up! Regardless of what device you use or how up to date your operating system is or how “stable” your devices are -- the circumstances are never secure enough to justify not backing up your data regularly. Backing up your systems at regular intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc) is always a smart idea.

You can never, ever predict what may happen to you, your devices, your files, your entire computing system in the future, so why take such chances? Back up, back up, back up!

Know the Enemy

​What is PRISM?

PRISM is a clandestine surveillance program operated under the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The program collects internet communications from more than nine major US internet companies. ​

What is XKeyscore?​

XKeyscore is a formerly secret computer system used by the United States National Security Agency used for searching and analyzing global internet data collected on a daily basis. The program has been shared and is used by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, German, and other countries. This program was revealed in July 2013 by Edward Snowden. ​

What is Tempora?

Tempora is the codeword for the a formerly secret computer system used by the British Government Communications Headquarters. The system is used to buffer internet communications that are extracted from fibre-optic cables, so these can be processed and searched at a later time. The existence of Tempora was revealed by Edward Snowden.  

☆ The Tools ☆

Anonymizing Networks


Overview

Anonymizing networks such as Tor or I2P provide a way to anonymize internet communications, so as to make it hard to link communication parties. Such networks often rely on a distributed overlay network and on onion routing to anonymize TCP-based applications like web browsing or P2P



Proprietary Tools

There are no proprietary anonymizing networks that we've discovered.


Free Tools

Freenet

Decentralized censorship-resistant network.

Wikipedia

I2P

The invisible internet project.

Wikipedia

Orbot

The features and functionality of Tor for Android.

Wikipedia

Tor

Free software for enabling online anonymity.

Wikipedia

GNUnet

GNUnet is a free P2P network.

Wikipedia

Syndie

Distributed, anonymous forum software.

Wikipedia


Overview

Disk encryption is a technology which protects information by converting it into unreadable code that cannot be deciphered easily by unauthorized people. Hardware or software is used to encrypt every bit of data that goes on a disk or disk volume. this prevents unauthorized access to stored data.



Proprietary Tools

Apple FileVault

McAffee Endpoint Encryption

BitLocker Drive Encryption

Symantec Drive Encryption


Free Tools

Cyrptsetup

A convenience and ease-of-use layer for use on top of dm-crypt.

Wikipedia

eCryptfs

POSIX-compliant enterprise cryptographic stacked filesystem for GNU/Linux.

Wikipedia

geli

Disk encryption subsystem included in the FreeBSD operating system.

Wikipedia

DiskCryptor

High performance partition encryption software for Windows.

Wikipedia

encfs

File based encryption tool with support for GNU/Linux, OS X and Windows.

Wikipedia

TrueCrypt

Real-time disk and partition encryption software for multiple platforms.

Wikipedia


Overview

DNS stands for Domain Name System which is a hierarchical distributed naming system for computers, services, or any resource connected to the internet or a private network. It associates various information with domain names assigned to each of the participating entities. Most  prominently it translates domain names to the numerical IP addresses needed for the purpose of computer services and devices worldwide.



Proprietary Tools

Apple OS X DNS

Google Public DNS

Microsoft DNS


Free Tools

CloudNS

DNS hosting with DNSCrypt, DNSSec, and Namecoin support.

Namecoin

Distributed DNS for the .bit TLD based on Bitcoin technology.

Wikipedia

Unbound

Validating, recursive, and caching DNS server.

Wikipedia

DNSCrypt

Secure communications between a client and a DNS resolver.

OpenNIC

Open, democratic, and anti-censorship DNS provider.

Wikipedia

Guide


Overview

Email needs no introduction. If you're using one of the common online email providers like Gmail by Google or Yahoo Mail, you're data is not so private. Consider using on of the tools recommended below. MyKolab is hosted in Switzerland and benefits from the strong swiss privacy law. Riseup's services can be accessed via their Tor Hidden Service addresses. 



Proprietary Tools

Gmail

Microsoft Outlook Online

Yahoo Mail

Yandex Mail


Free Tools

Autistici / Inventati 

A full range of privacy-aware services including hosting, VPNs, email, IM, and more.

MyKolab

Secure Kolab accounts hosted in Switzerland for 8.99 CHF per month or 4.55 CHF for email-only accounts.

Wikipedia

EnigmaBox

Plug and play cjdns appliance, offering a distributed and end-to-end encrypted telephony and email service.

Riseup

Secure communication tools for people working on liberatory social change.


Overview

Consider using these communication tools which can act as an alternative to traditional email communication. Bitmessage has not yet been audited by security professionals and should be used at your own risk. 



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

Bitmessage

Encrypted, decentralized P2P messaging service based on Bitcoin technology.

Wikipedia

RetroShare

Secure P2P communications platform offering IM, forums, VoIP, file sharing, and more.

Wikipedia


Overview

Switching from a proprietary email service like Gmail to one of the more transparently run email services listed here on Fried.com is the first step to securing your email privacy. 



Proprietary Tools

Apple Mail

Microsoft Office Outlook


Free Tools

Claws Mail

Fast, lightweight email application for multiple platforms with built-in PGP support.

Wikipedia

K-9 Mail

Email application for Android devices with built-in PGP support.

Wikipedia

Mozilla Thunderbird

Multi-platform email application with mail encryption through the Enigmail add-on.

Wikipedia

Evolution

Email, address book, and calendar application for the GNOME desktop with PGP support.

Wikipedia

Kontact

Email, address books, calendars, and more for the K Desktop Environment (KDE) with PGP support.

Wikipedia

Sylpheed

Lightweight, user-friendly email application for multiple platforms with built-in PGP support.

Wikipedia


Overview

PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy. It's a data encryption and decryption computer program that privacy and authentication for data communication. Read the Email Self Defense guide for more information.



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

APG

OpenPGP implementation for Android.

Wikipedia

OpenPGP Keychain

OpenPGP implementation for Android.

Project License

GPGTools

OpenPGP add-on for Apple OS X Mail.

Wikipedia

GPG for Android

This trusted protocol is a free alternative to PGP

Project License

Enigmail

OpenPGP email encryption add-on for Thunderbird and Icedove.

Wikipedia

Mailvelope

OpenPGP email encryption tool for major webmail services..

Project License

Gpg4win

Email and file encryption for Windows (XP, Vista, 7 and 8)

Wikipedia

GNU PG

OpenPGP for frontends, including Thunderbird/ Icedove.

Wikipedia

TorBirdy

Add-on that makes Thunderbird and Icedove connect through Tor.

Project License

File Storage & Syncing


Overview

With closed source software you need to have 100% trust in the vendor because their's nothing except their own morality and integrity in the way of them leaking your personal information. Another alternative to cloud storage is local backup with external hard drives.



Proprietary Tools

Apple iCloud

Dropbox

Google Drive

Microsoft OneDrive


Free Tools

Buddycloud

Open source, federated social network.

Project License

git-annex

Synchronize folders on your computers and drives.

Project License

MyKolab

Secure Kolab accounts hosted in Switzerland.

Wikipedia

Pydio

Instantly turn any server into a file sharing platform.

Project License

Tahoe-LAFS

Free and open cloud storage system.

Wikipedia

Cozy

A personal PaaS you can host, hack and delete

Project License

GitLab

Self hosted git server.

Wikipedia

ownCloud

Cloud data in your control.

Wikipedia

Sparkle Share

Self-hosted version control and file sync.

Wikipedia


Overview

There's a great introduction to Bitcoin and getting started with your first free wallet over at We Use Coins.



Proprietary Tools

Paypal


Free Tools

Bitcoin

P2P digital currency with no central authority.

Wikipedia

Litecoin

Litecoin is intended by its developers to improve upon Bitcoin and offers three key differences.

Wikipedia


Overview

Instant message conversations are extremely vulnerable to programs like PRISM. We've put together a very extensive list of alternatives for you below.



Proprietary Tools

AOL Instant Messenger

Apple Messages

Facebook

Google Hangouts

Skype

Trillian

Viber Messenger

WhatsApp


Free Tools

Adium

Multiprotocol chat client for Apple OS X with OTR features.

Wikipedia

BitlBee

IRC instant messaging gateway that supports a bunch of protocols.

Wikipedia

Cryptocat

Encrypted instant messaging within your web browser.

Wikipedia

dukgo.com

Private XMPP service run on the DuckDuckGo Community Platform.


Jitsi

Encrypted text, voice, and video messaging for multiple platforms.

Wikipedia

Linphone

Encrypted voice and video chat client for multiple platforms.

Wikipedia

Off-the-Record Messaging

Install and enable this plugin in Pidgin for encrypted chat.

Wikipedia

Psi+

Multi-platform IM client for power users with built-in OTR support.

Wikipedia

Riseup

Secure communication tools for people working on liberatory social change.

Source Code

Xabber

OTR-encrypted instant messaging for Android.

Wikipedia

Autistici / Inventati

A full range of privacy-aware services including hosting, VPNs, email, IM, and more.

ChatSecure

OTR-encrypted IM for Android and iOS.

Wikipedia

CSipSimple

End-to-end encrypted VoIP calls for Android devices.

Wikipedia

Gajim

Light and fast IM client for GNU/Linux and Windows—OTR support via plugin.

Wikipedia

Kopete

Flexible and extensible multi-protocol IM client suitable for personal and enterprise use.

Wikipedia

Mozilla Thunderbird

Multi-platform email application with mail encryption through the Enigmail add-on.

Wikipedia

TorChat

Anonymous P2P chat built on Tor Hidden Services (not sponsored by the Tor Project).

Wikipedia

Pidgin

Free universal instant messaging client.

Wikipedia

RetroShare

Secure P2P communications platform offering IM, forums, VoIP, file sharing, and more.

Wikipedia


Overview

IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat. It's an application layer protocol that facilities communication in the form of text. Below we've recommended a few IRC tools that may be of interest if you're looking for secure communication channels. 



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

Adium

Multiprotocol chat client for Apple OS X with OTR features.

Wikipedia

BitlBee

IRC instant messaging gateway that supports a bunch of protocols.

Wikipedia

Mozilla Thunderbird

Multi-platform email application with encryption through the Enigmail add-on

Wikipedia

Pidgin

Free universal instant messaging client.

Wikipedia

WeeChat

Extensible and customisable CLI chat client for IRC and XMPP/Jabber.

Wikipedia

HexChat

Cross-platform IRC client.

Project License


Overview

You can find a beginners guide to running your own mail server here called "NSA-proof your email in 2 hours.



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

IndiMail

Highly scalable and configurable messaging platform based on the MTA qmail.

Wikipedia

iRedMail

Install and configure email server packages automatically in GNU/Linux and BSD.

Project License

Kolab

Groupware solution for email, files, calendars, address books and mobile sync.

Wikipedia

Mail Transfer Agents


Overview

 “Within Internet message handling services (MHS), a message transfer agent or mail transfer agent (MTA) or mail relay is software that transfers electronic mail messages from one computer to another using a client–server application architecture. An MTA implements both the client (sending) and server (receiving) portions of the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol." - Wikipedia



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

Exim

MTA used on approximately 43% of all email servers—the default on Debian GNU/Linux.

Wikipedia

Postfix

Easy-to-setup MTA used by approximately 23% of all email servers.

Wikipedia


Overview

Here are some media publishing tools we recommend you use for you photos, videos, blogs, etc. 



Proprietary Tools

Imgur

Minus

Instagram

Picasa

YouTube

Vimeo

Flickr

Tumblr


Free Tools

Austistici / Inventati

A full range of privacy-aware services including hosting, VPNs, email, IM, and more.

img.bi

Client-side encrypted image hosting

Project License

Zenphoto

Self-hosted media management system.

Project License

MediaGoblin

Decentralized media publishing platform.

Wikipedia

Piwigo

Self-hosted photo gallery platform.

Wikipedia

WordPress

Self-hosted website publishing platform.

Wikipedia


Overview

A mesh-networks is a decentralized peer-to-peer network, with user-controlled physical links that are usually wireless.

“Mesh networking (topology) is a type of networking where each node must not only capture and disseminate its own data, but also serve as a relay for other nodes, that is, it must collaborate to propagate the data in the network.” - Wikipedia



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

Byzantium

Live Linux distribution that delivers easy-to-use mesh networking.

Wikipedia

Cjdns

A networking protocol, a system of digital rules for message exchange between computers.

Wikipedia

Commotion

Uses mobile phones, computers, and wireless routers to create decentralized mesh networks.

Wikipedia

Enigmabox

Plug and play cjdns appliance, offering a distributed and end-to-end encrypted telephony and email service.

License

Freifunk

A non-commercial open grassroots initiative to support free radio networks around the world.

Wikipedia

guifi.net

Open, free and neutral wireless network for everyone.

Wikipedia

LibreVPN

A free network that runs over other networks.

Project License

Tinc

Free software daemon that uses tunnelling and encryption to create a secure private network

Wikipedia


Overview

Apple, Google, and Microsoft are allegedly part of PRISM. Their proprietary operating systems cannot be trusted to safeguard your person information from the NSA. 



Proprietary Tools

Apple OS X

Microsoft Windows


Free Tools

Arch Linux

Elegant, minimal, and flexible GNU/Linux distribution.

Wikipedia

ArkOS

Lightweight self-hosting for websites, email, files, and more on Raspberry Pi

Wikipedia

CentOS

RHEL-compatible enterprise computing platform.

Wikipedia

AntiPrism

Live USB/memory card OpenELEC-based media server toolbox platform for securing the online presence, web browsing and communications.

Project License

Debian

Popular ethical GNU/Linux distribution.

Wikipedia

DragonFly BSD

Free Unix-like operating system created as a fork of FreeBSD 4.8

Wikipedia

Fedora

Fast, stable and powerful GNU/Linux distribution.

Wikipedia

Whonix

VM-friendly OS based on Debian and Tor focused on anonymity, privacy and security.

Wikipedia

FreeBSD

A free BSD-derived operating system.

Wikipedia

FreedomBox

Privacy protection on a cheap plug server so everybody can have privacy.

Wikipedia

Gentoo

GNU/Linux distribution about choice, control and security.

Wikipedia

gNewSense

Fully free software GNU/Linux distribution based on Debian.

Wikipedia

NetBSD

Unix-like operating system descended from Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD),

Wikipedia

OpenBSD

A secure BSD operating system.

Wikipedia

OpenSUSE

Stable, easy-to-use multi-purpose GNU/Linux distribution.

Wikipedia

Parabola GNU

Libre, lightweight, and flexible GNU/Linux distribution based on Arch Linux.

Wikipedia

Qubes

Fedora/Xen-based OS designed to provide strong security through isolation.

Wikipedia

Yunohost

Personal distribution based on Debian with preconfigured mail, IM, and web server.

Wikipedia

Scientific Linux

Linux distribution produced by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Wikipedia

SME Server

Simple distro based on CentOS with preconfigured mail, file sharing, web server, and more.

Wikipedia

Operating Systems (Live)


Overview

Consider using these communication tools which can act as an alternative to traditional email communication.



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

JonDo Live

Live CD/USB based on Debian with pre-configured tools for anonymous surfing and more.

Wikipedia

Tails

Live CD/USB aimed at preserving your privacy and anonymity.

Wikipedia

Operating Systems (Mobile)


Overview

iOS and WP are proprietary operating systems whose source code are not available for auditing by third parties. You should entrust neither your communications nor your data to a black box device.



Proprietary Tools

iOS

Blackberry

Google Android

Microsoft Windows Phone


Free Tools

Cyanogen

Aftermarket firmware for Android devices

Wikipedia

Firefox OS

Open source operating system for Android-compatible devices.

Wikipedia

Replicant

Fully free Android distribution based on CyanogenMod.

Wikipedia


Overview

Here are some alternatives to the popular productivity tools you may be using in the cloud. Tools like evernote, google docs, and microsoft office do not properly protect your privacy. 



Proprietary Tools

Doodle

Evernote

Google Docs

Novell Groupwise


Free Tools

dudle

A free online poll with an optional privacy-enhanced version.

Project License

Etherpad

Self-hosted, real-time collaborative documents.

Wikipedia

Riseup

Secure communication tools for people working on liberatory social change.

Site

EtherCalc

Multi-user spreadsheet server.

Project License

ProtectedText

Free online encrypted notepad.

Project License


Overview

These awesome projects can be used securely with Raspberry Pi. 



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

AntiPrism

Live USB/memory card OpenELEC-based media server toolbox platform for securing the online presence, web browsing and communications.

Project License

ArkOS

Lightweight self-hosting for websites, email, files, and more on Raspberry Pi

Wikipedia

FreedomBox

Privacy protection on a cheap plug server so everybody can have privacy.

Wikipedia


Overview

SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol and is a communications protocol for signaling and controlling multimedia communications sessions. This is commonly used with internet telephony for voice and video calls as well as instant messaging over IP networks.



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

Asterisk

PBX implementation with VoIP/SIP support.

Wikipedia

Kamailio

Open source VoIP/SIP server.

project license

FreeSwitch

Cross-platform soft switch software with VoIP/SIP support.

Wikipedia


Overview

The most commonly used social networks like Facebook and Google plus are allegedly involved in the PRISM program. Here are some alternatives you can use to protect your data.



Proprietary Tools

Facebook

Google+

Linkedin

Twitter


Free Tools

Buddycloud

Open source, federated social network.

Project License

friendica

Distributed, federated social network.

Wikipedia

Salut à Toi

 multi purpose communication tool.

Project License

pump.io

Self-hosted social stream server.

Wikipedia

RetroShare

platform offering IM, forums, VoIP, file sharing, 

Wikipedia

Syndie

Distributed, anonymous forum software.

Wikipedia

diaspora*

Community-run, distributed social network.

Wikipedia

GNU social

Self-hosted, decentralized social network.

Wikipedia

Movim

Private, decentralized social network server.

Wikipedia


Overview

There are lots of ways to communicate online via video and voice services. Below we've listed some pretty solid alternatives.



Proprietary Tools

Apple FaceTime

Skype

Facebook

TeamSpeak

Ventrilo


Free Tools

CSipSimple

End-to-end encrypted VoIP calls for Android devices.

Wikipedia

Linphone

Encrypted voice and video client for multiple platforms.

Wikipedia

Tox

Free and open-source, peer-to-peer, encrypted instant messaging and video calling software.

Wikipedia

Jitsi

Encrypted text, voice, and video messaging for multiple platforms.

Wikipedia

Mumble

Encrypted, low-latency multi-user voice chat.

Wikipedia


Overview

Encrypted virtual private network (VPN) technology can be used by ordinary Internet users to connect to proxy servers for the purpose of protecting one’s identity and online footprint. It's a great way to tunnel your traffic through remote servers, allowing you to properly encrypt your data and remain anonymous online.



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

OpenVPN

Free software VPN client.

Wikipedia

TunnelBlick

Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. 

Project License


Overview

Consider using these communication tools which can act as an alternative to traditional email communication.



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

OpenVPN

Free software VPN client.

Wikipedia

Libreswan

Free software VPN client (3rd generation) derived from Openswan.

Wikipedia

Tinc

Free software daemon that uses tunnelling and encryption to create a secure private network

Wikipedia

StrongSwan

Free software VPN client derived from FreeS/WAN.

Wikipedia

Openswan

Free software VPN client derived from FreeS/WAN.

Wikipedia


Overview

Alternatives to Google Analytics. 



Proprietary Tools

Google Analytics


Free Tools

Piwik

Open source, self-hosted web analytics.

Wikipedia

Open Web Analytics

Alternative open source web analytics. 

Wikipedia


Overview

Our advice is that you try to use TBB (Tor Browser Bundle) for all of your web surfing. It will make you far more anonymous than any other browser. Learn the basics of Tor before using it. Most browsers do not anonymize your IP by default. 



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

Onion Browser

Surf the web through the Tor network with this open source browser for iOS.

Project License

Tor Browser Bundle

Encrypted, anonymous web browsing powered by the Tor network.

Wikipedia

Mozilla Firefox

Fast, flexible and secure web browser with a vibrant add-on ecosystem.

Wikipedia

JonDoFox

Private browsing with IP anonymization service and JonDoFox profile for Firefox.

Wikipedia


Overview

Consider using these communication tools which can act as an alternative to traditional email communication.



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

Adblock Edge

Block advertisements and trackers across the web with filter subscriptions.

Project License

Disconnect

Visualize and block invisible tracking of your search and browsing history.

Project License

Mailvelope

OpenPGP email encryption tool for major webmail services.

Project License

Request Policy

Control which cross-site requests are allowed by sites you visit.

Project License

CryptoCat

Encrypted instant messaging within your web browser.

Wikipedia

NoScript

Only enable JavaScript, Java, and Flash for sites you trust.

Wikipedia

Self Destructing Cookies

Automatically delete cookies and local storage when they are no longer used by open browser tabs.

Project License

HTTPS Everywhere

Encrypts your communications from thousands of websites by enforcing HTTPS everywhere.

Wikipedia


Overview

Unfortunately unless you're a systems admin there aren't many private web hosting options. We'd recommend setting up your own servers and hosting environment if possible. 



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

Autistici / Inventati

A full range of privacy-aware services including hosting, VPNs, email, IM, and more.


Overview

About time you stopped using Google and Yahoo search and started using something more private.



Proprietary Tools

Google Search

Bing Search

Yahoo Search

Yandex Search


Free Tools

Disconnect Search

Anonymous VPN service for popular search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Project License

Ixquick

Metasearch engine based in New York and the Netherlands

Wikipedia

Seeks Project

Open decentralized platform for collaborative search.

Wikipedia

YaCy

Decentralized web search.

Wikipedia

DuckDuckGo

Anonymous, unlogged web searches.

Wikipedia

MetaGer

Meta search engine that proxies your queries to multiple search providers.

Wikipedia

Startpage

Private, unlogged web searches.

Wikipedia


Overview

“If you spend time contributing to OpenStreetMap you are helping a good cause, and building a geographic database of the world which is free and open for all and forever.” - OpenStreetMap Wiki



Proprietary Tools

Apple Maps

Google earth

Bing Maps


Free Tools

OsmAnd

Map and navigation app that uses OpenStreetMap data.

Wikipedia

Open Source Routing Machine

C++ implementation of a high-performance routing engine for shortest paths in road networks.

Wikipedia

Open Street Map

Free, collaborative world wide map.

Wikipedia

Marble

Free virtual globe and world atlas.

Wikipedia


Overview

XMPP or Extensible Messaging and Protocol is a communications protocol for message-oriented middleware based on XML. 



Proprietary Tools


Free Tools

Tigase

Cross-platform XMPP server written in Java.

Wikipedia

Openfire

Cross-platform XMPP server written in Java.

Wikipedia

Prosody

Flexible lightweight XMPP server written in Lua.

Wikipedia

Metronome

XMPP server based on Prosody, with advanced management/ microblogging features.

Wikipedia

ejabberd

XMPP server written in Erlang/OTP for GNU/Linux and OS X.

Wikipedia


Additional Resources