Stop The Government Spying On You

Stop The Government Spying On You

In recent news the government has announced plans to monitor what we do on line, so here are a few ways to make it harder for them to do so.

Use Encrypted versions of websites

The new version of Firefox 14 adds a feature (already in Chrome) that will automatically encrypt your Google searches by switching you to the HTTPS version. This will prevent third parties like you ISP, the government and Google itself from seeing what you are searching for. You can apply similar encryption by using the prefix https to web address. An easier way of doing this is to install an add-on that does the job for you, such as HTTPS Everywhere for Firefox or Google’s Chrome, using this add-on forces your browser to use a secure version of a website, if there is one, this way anything you do on line will be kept from prying eyes.

What’s the catch?

Encrypted sites are normally slower than standard versions. You will also have to ignore the browsers warning about installing HTTPS Everywhere, as its safer to use the add-on than it is not!

Browse the web anonymously using Tor

The secure-browsing tool Tor will keep location and private data concealed at all times. It does this by using software called ‘onion proxy’ to apply layers of encryption to your web connection, sending data through a network of virtual tunnels so servers can’t pinpoint you. This will let you visit sites and communicate without revealing who or were you are. The free Tor browser bundle includes a modified version of Firefox, which lets you turn on and off the encryption by clicking the Tor button. Tor is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

What’s the catch?

As with HTTPS Everywhere (bundled with Tor) the price you pay is speed. Also as soon as you log in to a website your identity will be exposed.

Stop The Government Spying On You

Stop The Government Spying On You

Scramble your social networking posts

The public nature of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ means that government snoops can view anything you say on them. Social networks are now a prime source of evidence for many court cases, and they can pass incriminating content to the police even if the defendant has deleted it. One way to keep your comments private is to use Scrambles. This plug-in encodes, or scrambles the text you post on social networks, this way only other Scramblers users can read it. Everyone else just sees a random mix of characters. You can even make posts expire and disappear.

What’s the catch?

If the government snoops also have Scrambles installed they can decode your post, especially as the add-on always preface them with (scrambles).

Use different browsers for different activities

Another way to stop the government spying on you through social network is to keep them separate from all you other Web browsing. Running two browsers side by side is unlikely to cause conflicts or slow your system down. If you are really paranoid, you could even run the social- networking browser in a sandboxing tool, such as Sandboxie. This isolates your ‘likes’, tweets and updates from the rest of your PC and vice versa.

What’s the catch?

Rather than just being able to click on a link on Facebook or Twitter, you will have to copy and past it to the no-social browser, which can be a hassle and easy to forget to do it.

Encrypt your online conversations

Because instant messaging tools involve ‘live’ interaction, rather than a static post or just downloading e-mails, you might think your conversations cant be monitored? Most IM services like AIM, Windows Live Messenger and Google talk encrypt your chat sessions, they also record them so you can then access the content whenever you (or the government) want to. Fortunately you can prevent this intrusion by adding another level of encryption. Switch to a ‘universal’ instant messenger such as Pidgin or Miranda IM, and install its Off-The-Record (OTR) plugin. This lets you chat normally but your provider won’t be able to see what you are saying. For Facebook chat, you can use Pidgin or install Abine’s free tool Facebook Encrypted Chat. To use it, just drag the bookmaker to your browser’s bookmark bar and click it whenever you want to talk to someone.

What’s the catch?

Both you and the person you are talking to have to have the encryption tool installed to keep your chat private.

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Java Security Issues

Java Security Issues

JavaWhat happened?

Security researchers across the world have said web users are still at risk from flaws in Oracle’s Java, a software platform used across websites, despite the company issuing a patch to fix it.

The patch is meant to reduce vulnerabilities that were leaving people at risk of identity theft and credit card fraud. Adam Gowdiak, a researcher with Poland’s security exploration who has discovered several bugs in Java over the past 12 months said: “We don’t dear tell users that it’s safe to enable Java again”

Java is so widely used that the software has become a prime target for hackers. Last year, Java surpassed Adobe’s Reader software as the most frequently attacked piece of software, according to security software maker Kaspersky. A week before Oracle issued the patch, the US Department of Homeland Security advised people to disable Java. Bitdefender also advised people not to use it.

How will it affect you?

If you are committed to using Java, make sure you have updated it to the new-patched version. Being on the latest version won’t eliminate every risk, but it will ensure you are covered for existing threats, and it reduceds the chance of being hit by others.

Turning off Java is easy. In Chrome, type chrome://plugins in the address bar. Scroll down to the Java section and click ‘Disable’ you can easily turn it back on again following the same process.

In Firefox, go to Tools, Add-ons, and Plugins and click disable. Turning Java off in IE is more difficult, but you can easily remove it in Windows by going to the Control Panel and removing the software entirely.
Once you have done this, your browser will tell you when a site requires Java, giving you the option of turning it on if you trust the site.

What do I think?

All companies are hit by security holes – it’s impossible to keep bugs out of software as there are as many, if not more hackers looking for new ways to attack than there are security researchers looking to keep us safe.

We can’t blindly depend on web firms to keep us safe. We need to learn how to take defensive measures on our own. In this case, it’s relatively easy, and a good lesson. By turning off features and plug-ins you don’t use, you’ll leave fewer holes for attackers to sneak through and jeopardise your security.

However, it’s high time that the worst offenders – Oracle with Java and Adobe with PDF software and Microsoft with Windows, Office and IE – Improved their game and do more to protect us. When security is such an issue that government agencies are advising users to ditch software, it time to admit there is a problem.

Security experts say Oracle is as much as two years behind patching serious holes in its software. The company need to invest in improving its software or it could risk losing users.

Don’t wait for Oracle to catch up: disable Java now, you will cope without it.

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