Your Connection > Securing Your Connection
It’s an established fact that governments are tracking everyone and storing the information. Keeping tabs on the bad-guys like terrorists and pedophiles, seems reasonable and even prudent. The fact that “everyone” is getting caught in the net, even if you’ve done nothing wrong, is a distasteful thought, to say the least. If you believe you’ve done nothing wrong and therefore have nothing to fear, by all means, continue with that belief. If however, you believe that your online activities are no one’s business but you’re own, you may want to explore the ways that you can be secure and virtually invisible while connected to and using the Internet.
How They Track You provides examples of how you fall into the net of entities who want your information. With this knowledge, you can take steps to stay out of the net and off your would-be tracker’s radar.
Connecting to the Internet
Normally, to connect to the Internet, you first choose an Internet Service Provider, or Internet Access Provider. This is usually a company who provides access to the Internet and other services like email, hosting, etc. In order to connect to their service, you rent or buy a device that serves as a modem and router. The modem part allows your computer to communicate with the Internet via your ISP’s connection, nowadays usually fiber-optic or coaxial cable. The router part connects your network to your ISP’s network and directs, or routes, where the data packets should go.
Securing your connection
- Use a firewall. In your IPS’s router/modem device, the router also serves as a firewall, screening potential attacks to and from your network. Since firewalls control the Internet traffic going in and out of your network, they are extremely important in keeping your computer and/or network safe from outsiders. For this reason, it’s imperative that the firewall is set up and configured properly otherwise it may not be doing its job meanwhile giving you a false sense of security.
- Use Anonymization: these technologies (VPN and Tor) keep your Internet data transfers private.
- VPN (Virtual Private Network). Usually you download the VPN service’s software and use that to log in and connect to one of their private proxy servers via an encrypted connection. Now you go out from the VPN’s proxy server on to the Internet. You connect to the proxy server with the IP address assigned to you, and known by your ISP. But, the IP address you leave the proxy server with to use the Internet is now the proxy server’s IP address, unknown to your ISP or anyone else trying to track you, like websites you visit. Since the connection is encrypted, your ISP can see the volume of traffic from your computer but cannot read the content. The other nice thing about a VPN is when using it to connect to a public wireless network, and therefore their ISP, since the connection is encrypted, it is unreadable by anyone monitoring the public network. A VPN is shown in the image below:
- Tor (The Onion Router): Tor was originally developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory to protect government communications. The Tor network is made up of thousands of servers or nodes run by volunteers, around the world. To use Tor, you log in to the Tor network and use an application that is safe to use with Tor, like the security hardened Tor browser. All traffic going through the Tor network is encrypted and randomly sent from node to node to its destination. Each node decrypts enough of the data to be able to send it to the next node, but knows nothing of the sender or receiver or of any other nodes in the transfer, thus keeping the sender and receiver anonymous. The only downside in using the Tor network is performance. It’s much slower than normal Internet traffic. There are paid-for services available that give the same security as Tor with better, faster performance.
- Use Obfuscation: anonymizing your Internet traffic can be considered suspicious with some websites and ISPs. For example, since Tor nodes are known, some countries are banning any traffic coming in from a Tor node. Obfuscation “normalizes” anonymized traffic, meaning that it transforms the anonymized traffic to make it look like “normal” traffic to the receiving website or ISP.
- Peer-to-peer communication: as opposed to “centralized” communication which is based on the client-server model, peer-to-peer communication is server-less. In the client-server model, individual computers, clients, communicate back and forth with a centralized computer, the server. There are advantages to this model, the main one being that many computers can share the resources of one centralized computer. The disadvantages are that the centralized computer knows everything about the clients it’s serving and keeps logs of all the clients’ activities. This disadvantage is especially true when the centralized computer is a public ISP server, for example. In a peer-to-peer network, resources and tasks are shared between multiple, interconnected computers, without a centralized, “administrative” computer. Public encryption cryptography can provide encryption of data sent through the peer-to-peer network.
Examples of peer-to-peer networks are Freenet and Retroshare. On Freenet, among other activites, users can anonymously browse “freesites” for content spread over the network, rather than centralized on one server. Retroshare is a secure, open-source chat and file sharing program.