Basic Post About Privacy/Security Tools And Practices Because I'm Lazy_

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Baseline privacy/security guide mainly for people that aren't interested in this kinda stuff. There are probably better resources out there...

Messaging

We all use messaging pretty often for online contact. You should probably be using something at least decent.

Use Signal. This is the absolute baseline. Just go to whatever app store and install it now. It is literally all the good parts of imessage and whatsapp. If you don't care about security or privacy at all still get it. There are people that you talk to that want to keep their private messages private. Respect that and use it, Signal is the same if not better than whatever you are using right now.
SMS is not encrypted on Android and Apple is evil.

If you are just a normal user, get it. Literally no reason not to, install it and see for yourself.

>>> SIGNAL <<<

There are some things you should know if you care at all...

  • This is a centralized service meaning everything is connected to one server/network. Though everything is E2EE (unless sent as SMS, i.e sent to someone that doesn't use Signal) meaning the glowy boys can only (ideally) get encrypted data from Signal's servers.
  • Signal isn't the best service (has done some weird things and adamant on staying centralized). But it provides the best convenience and privacy and is a huge upgrade to all popular messengers.
  • Requires a phone number to sign up. I suggest just using a fake one.
  • There are forks out there worth a look for the people that care more about privacy/security too. Check out Molly and Session.

Other messaging

For the more privacy/security focused Signal isn't the best option. I would suggest checking out Federated and Peer to Peer options.

Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Federated (multiple independent servers).

Matrix (Element), is a good choice for something more on the convenience side. Platforms (IOS/Android/PC).

XMPP, this is one I would suggest more as it is more minimal. I've heard people suggest using Snopyta as a provider. Platforms (IOS/Android/PC).

Peer to Peer (directly connect).

Briar, haven't got to use this much because no one I know uses it. Thus, I can't say anything about it. So hit me up if you decide on this option (and know me).

Browsing

Browsing the internet with a browser is another very common activity. I strongly suggest you care about securing it.

As a disclaimer there is no best option here. By that I mean privacy is just not a priority for companies that make worthwhile browsers at the moment (with one kinda exception)... ugh.

My first suggestion would be Firefox. It offers the most options and can be configured to offer quite a good amount of privacy. Personally I suggest the Librewolf fork. It is what I use and all the good privacy/security settings are out of the box.

If you must use a Chromium based browser, please don't use Google Chrome. Brave is a better option for an experience exactly like Google Chrome but superior.

I also suggest you don't overlook TOR. The TOR browser is the best for private and secure browsing. It can be quite slow but I found I use it a lot on my phone where pretty much all my searching is just throwaway stuff and I'm not searching that often. Anyway it's worth giving a try.

I also strongly recommend checking out I2P and Freenet, both are really cool projects kinda like TOR.

The most important thing about internet browsing is compartmentalization. Really meaning just keeping things separate in this case. This can be done by using different browsing profiles (just type about:profiles in the search bar for firefox), different browsers, or different devices. For example keeping throwaway searches, shopping, school/work all separated using a mix of the aforementioned ways is a good idea. That way any tracking done on one compartment can't be tied with the other activities. How you separate this out is unique to your life. I suggest writing your common browsing uses out and then grouping them into what seems logical based on what data relatedness is shared between any given activity. I.e I wouldn't group my banking with watching Youtube or shopping.

Email

Don't use Gmail. Just don't. Okay.
Email is email. Gmail doesn't do anything special for you so you should at least use something private.

Some suggestions (though I suggest you do some research on what's best for you, here is what I recommend).

Friendly (easy, minimal knowledge required).

A little more effort required.

Advanced.

  • Self-host (I know you can do it! Or just support a friend who does self-host...)

Compartmentalization is another good idea to use for email accounts. Simple Login and AnonAddy are two services that can help with this. I also suggest looking into GPG encryption if you care about security/privacy with email, but remember metadata exists.

Also remember don't make accounts for everything you use if you can continue as Guest or use a temp mail (i.e something like this) go that route instead :).

VPN

VPN's are advertized quite badly, really all they do is move your internet traffic to the VPN provider. All your ISP or the network you are connected to will see is you connecting to the VPN's servers. Though there is still legitimate use cases for one. But remember you are basically transferring your trust to another company.

I'm not really going to go through paid options here because I'm broke so I will assume you are too. If you want more data based ratings that includes paid options techlore has a nice chart.

Something real quick... Usually you don't want to go for a free vpn because it costs money to run a sever and if you're not paying them, your data is the payment.

ProtonVPN, by far the best for speed for the price of free. As far as my research tells me this is quite a privacy respecting company. I've used this vpn for a while now and it's nice.

RiseupVPN, slow but ultra private. Worth a look at.

Self-hosted (I use Wireguard), do it yourself or support a nerd you know. Really the only legit way of using a VPN. Though the other listed options are a close second.

Password Management

Want to use super secure passwords that you don't even have to remember? Use a password manager.
(some are better than others though...)

KeePassXC is my go to. It just keeps an encrypted file on your device. Give it a try you wont look back.
To sync with other devices you can use Syncthing (what I use!), rsync or a cloud based solution (I can really only suggest Nextcloud here.) Your KeePass file is encrypted so you're good even if someone gets their hands on it.

Bitwarden is the best cloud based one for users that find KeePassXC too much work (I suggest giving it a try though).

Know how to make secure passwords and make sure your database one is secure to the max. Using 2fac on everything you can is also good practice. OTP is the most secure method for 2fac so look for that.

Social Media/Videos

Well if you really want to use it. It's worth it to join the Fediverse.

I use Pleroma (Husky app on Android) and Pixelfed, both are great and better than their bloated counter parts. You won't get the usual crowd but it's important to move the usual crowd to better alternatives.

The fediverse basically works like email. Anyone can run a sever but they can all communicate. Because of this it's censorship resistant and gives you more choice and autonomy. You can also host your own instances no problem, making it even better for privacy!

For videos LBRY/Odysee is worth checking out. You may find people you already know from Youtube. Peertube is another really good alternative to the evil Youtube, and is part of the fediverse.

If you aren't a slave to the Youtube algorithm (I suggest you try to wean yourself off of it if you are...) you can use something like Invidous, RSS+MPV or NewPipe if you have Android.
(These services are a better than normal Youtube as they have no ads. In NewPipe's case you can watch Youtube videos in the background or in a widget which is a straight upgrade.)

Bonus Stuff

Your phone is a tracking box. Get a watch (F-91W or something), print recipes, and try not to rely on it that much.
(I get it though phones are nice and all. Check out custom roms like LinageOS or even better GrapheneOS. Your cell provider will still track you though.)

Don't use Discord. (Seriously, don't. Even just use it less, much less.)

Use cash to buy pre-paid credit cards to make private payments online. If you play guitar, even better, get one of those pick punchers; save the environment.

Try to use FOSS software wherever possible.

Personal Website > Instagram.

Avoid bluetooth as much as possible. It is very insecure and has had (and still has) many serious vulnerabilities. There are apps you can get that automatically turn it off after use (though some can be finicky).

For the more advanced users setting up Mac Randomization on portable devices and changing your DNS (set it on your router at home to save some time) to something thats not cloudflare or google is a very good idea!

If you are new to this stuff or just like visuals techlore has a good course. It is good for newbies or just people who are curious. For the cool kids out there and those who like to read, Extreme Privacy: What It Takes To Disappear by Michael Bazzell is a good one.