Magazine article Mother Jones

How to Lock Down Your Data

Magazine article Mother Jones

How to Lock Down Your Data

Article excerpt

1 Use open-source software

Software whose source code is publicly available is more secure than anything developed by Microsoft, Apple, or Google: Its transparency means developers can't easily conceal security holes at the behest of hackers or governments. You'll want open-source platforms for your browser (Firefox, for example), email (Thunderbird), and instant messaging (Jabber), all of which are virtually idiot-proof to install. Switching to opensource for your operating system (Linux is the most popular choice) seems more intimidating, but ultimately isn't much harder than changing the format on a text document.

Nerd Factor: you've tweaked the default settings in your apps.

2 Hide your location

Install the easily downloaded Tor Browser, which comes preconfigured to mask your IP address and, therefore, your location. Tor's software bounces your data through several of its thousands of volunteer servers; anyone intercepting traffic will think the data came from the last server in the chain. It's like a lightning-speed version of trying to shake a stalker by racing around town and repeatedly switching cars-it may not always work, but it makes you much harder to follow. Downside: The fbi recently acknowledged that it hacked into some Tor servers.

Nerd factor: You've downloaded software.

3 Encrypt

Though we learned in September that the nsa has defeated most commercially available encryption, scrambling your online activities will still foil hackers. The easily installed browser extension https Everywhere encrypts your web activity; for instant messaging, try Off-the-Record Messaging. …

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