10 New Year's Resolutions to Browse the Internet Safely in 2013

At Global Voices Advocacy (GVA), we are dedicated to defending freedom of expression online. We have always been keen on publishing guides and tools to help our fellow netizens navigate the internet safely, circumvent censorship and protect themselves online.

That is why, in 2013, we are committed to continue to defend your rights as netizens by publishing original reports and a new series of guides covering areas as diverse as circumvention, anonymity, surveillance, privacy, citizen journalism, visualization, online activism and advocacy.

As 2012 draws to a close, dear reader, here at team Advox, we've decided to suggest 10 resolutions for 2013, presented in the form of a review of the tools and strategies to protect yourself online. This is a selection of the best ways and methods we've come across in 2012. Remember that no one tactic will ever provide you with 100% security and safety online. At all times, stay armed with your common sense.

#1 – Hide your identity when using your mobile

Whether you're a company wishing to monitor the browsing habits of your potential customers or a repressive government obsessed with tracking dissidents online, mobile devices have been created for you. No technology has come so close to achieving Orwell's dystopian nightmare. Yet there are many ways to help users browse the Internet with their mobile devices in a smarter and safer way:

Orbot is a free, open source Android application that uses Tor's worldwide network of servers to conceal user's location and identity. The application was developed by Tor and The Guardian Project.

#2 – Learn good mobile reporting practices

Whether you're a professional journalist or a citizen media producer you might want to take a look at “Media Workers’ Toolkit for Safer Online and Mobile Practices“. This comprehensive guide, produced by Internews, a non-profit organization working to empower local media worldwide, offers good advice for media producers on how to protect themselves and their sources while using their mobile devices.

#3 – Stay anonymous online

Keep websites and governments from tracking you online, use Tor. Tor is a popular free browser that uses a global volunteer network of servers that helps you surf the internet securely while concealing your location from network surveillance and traffic analysis. Tor can also be downloaded onto a USB drive and used from any computer.

#4 – Remember the basics

It's always a good idea to remind ourselves of some basic online safety rules. Google offers a set of useful tips for staying more secure on the web.


Speaking of basics, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Surveillance Self Defense page remains a must-read for those of us willing to know more about the fundamentals of defensive technologies such as encryption, secure deletion or virtual private networks.

#5 – Think ahead of trouble

If you're a blogger, especially if you live in a repressive environment, think of a contingency plan in the event of an arrest. GVA's own Jillian C. York offers a number of tips and premeditated actions for threatened bloggers in this article she wrote for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

#6 – Browse like James Bond… Don't leave a trace

Lifehacker walks us though how to use a portable Linux-based, live-boot operating system called Tails, to browse the internet from any computer “without leaving a trace.” The tactic is not completely infallible, but nothing ever is, isn't it?

#7 – Protect your privacy, stop online tracking

Your browsing habits say much about you. Most websites and online advertisers know it very well and use invisible tracking techniques to record personal information about you.

EFF offers an quick 4-step guide that will allow you to stop unwanted privacy invasion.

You may also want to use DuckDuckGo, an alternative search engine that, unlike Google, does not record user information.

#8 – Protect your data

Protect your sensitive data by using a hard disk encryption software like Truecrypt. Use it on every computer you own. Trucrypt is an easy-to-use, lightweight and intuitive freeware that can encrypt parts or your entire storage device. It is particularly useful for protecting and hiding your sensitive files, especially when travelling and crossing borders.

This Wikipedia article offers additional information on alternative disk encryption software and their system compatibility.

#9 – Destroy undesirable data

Deleted files may easily be recovered by interested parties. Make sure your sensitive data is not available to others by using data erasure software. One of the most popular of such tools is Eraser, a freeware available for Windows. It destroys undesirable data by overwriting it several times.

#10 – Commit to defeating censorship

Because the internet's original purpose is to allow people to communicate freely, without governments or corporations interfering, it is essential that we, netizens, learn about ways to make life difficult for the enemies of freedom of expression.

Floss Manuals, a Netherlands-based non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting the use of free software, published a comprehensive book earlier this year called “How To Bypass Internet Censorship” [PDF, 240 pages, 12 MB]. The book contains a diverse range of tools and techniques tailored to defeat censorship. It also assesses the risks associated with the use of each tool. A lightweight “Quickstart” version is also available here [PDF, 8 pages, 268 KB].

* * *

- Tactical Technology Collective's Security In A Box: A comprehensive set of digital security tools tailored for activists. Available in multiple languages.

- Access’ “A Practical Guide to Protecting Your Identity and Security Online and When Using Mobile Phones“. Also available in multiple languages.

Thanks to the Global Voices Advocacy community for helping put together the resources available in this post.


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