Since the Snowden case and the revelation of mass surveillance programs, online identity and personal data protection have become a major issue.
This issue is even more sensitive for people looking to make sensible investments (buying precious metals, copper ingots, etc.) or who work in sectors such as journalism. For many of them, it is nowadays essential to protect themselves against malevolent intermediaries.
LINGOT SWISS team has selected five essential tools, tested and approved by international experts allowing for a really secure and private internet use.
1st tool: TOR internet browser
What is TOR?
TOR is an internet browser, i.e. a software that can display web pages, download files and search online, the most used browsers being Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Safari.
TOR is the acronym for “The Onion Router”. It was created and developed in the 1990s the United States, for military use.
Now being a “mature” technology, the US military has decided to publish the protocol.
Unlike its counterparts, TOR has been specifically designed to anonymously browse the Internet.
To do so, search queries go through numerous intermediate machines before accessing the requested page.
This innovation was unveiled and offered to the general public through the form of a free software (open source). Its use is therefore perfectly legal. The declared goal is to help people living in dictatorial regimes to circumvent censorship and freely access the Internet.
Nowadays TOR is mainly used by journalists and political opponents.
B) How does TOR work?
TOR makes the user invisible, thereby preventing localization via IP address.
Data passing through the TOR network are redirected via several computers within the network, called nodes, which scramble the connection’s point of origin. Thanks to this technology, the data is hardly accessible by malicious intermediaries, e.g. corporations, hackers or governments.
This open-source software is free of rights and available on most systems: Linux, iOS, Windows and Android.
2nd tool: A VPN to choose your IP address’s location
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.
The process is simple: when connecting to a website via a VPN, you access a remote server that allows the encryption of your data and redirects it to the specified page. With a VPN, you can choose the country where you want to be located.
For more security, it is advisable to use a VPN with the TOR Browser.
B) Why use a VPN?
1. To protect sensitive data
2. To protect your identity online
3. To get around a country's web censorship
4. To optimize anonymity in addition to TOR
Proton VPN is an efficient and secure connection based in Switzerland.
This service was developed by a Geneva-based company renowned for its commitment to the protection of personal data on the Internet. Different packages are available, free or premium, depending on the services needed. The system is very efficient and user friendly.
---> Bonus: the company accepts Bitcoins!
3rd tool: Bitcoin, for financial transactions
A) What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital cryptocurrency whose payment system is based on a protocol which operates independently from any central authority.
Anyone can buy or trade bitcoins without restriction anywhere in the world.
Transactions are verified and recorded directly by the Bitcoin network made up of thousands of independent computers.
B) Why use Bitcoin?
For many reasons, Bitcoin is attracting more and more users:
• Transfer fees are minimal
• No risk of funds being blocked by a third party
• An international currency accepted all over the world
• Simple and practical, no need for bank or credit cards
• A currency which protects your identity on the Internet
C) How to buy and store it?
Bitcoins are mainly bought via most exchanges on the Internet.
It is an easily divisible currency. Thus, you can easily buy fractions of Bitcoin for a few euros (nowadays 20€ = 0.015 bitcoin).
The most popular selling platforms are Coinbase and Changelly.
It is also possible to purchase Bitcoins directly through physical distributors (ATM).
Find the complete list here: Coinradars
It is highly recommended to store crypto in secure hardware wallets in the form of USB keys specifically designed for that purpose.
The two main brands are Ledger, a French company, and Trezor, a Czech company.
4th tool: ProtonMail for secure e-mails
Communicating via e-mails is another major issue on the Internet.
For this, we highly recommend you use ProtonMail, a mail service created in 2013 in Geneva.
A) What is ProtonMail?
This Swiss company was created to provide for secure email communications. Thanks to technologies based on military encryption, this service guarantees increased confidentiality without any possible interception by a third party (hackers or government authorities).
B) How does it work?
To ensure its security, the service uses end-to-end encryption automatically with an asymmetric encryption system.
C) What are the garantees?
The company, based in Switzerland, is governed by local law. This is an additional guarantee since Switzerland has a particularly strict legislation on user data.
Moreover, even if foreign jurisdictions (USA or EU) managed to pressure the government, the encryption’s complexity is so high that ProtonMail would be unable to provide its clients’ data.
Should you require more information on ProtonMail, please refer to the following article: Why you should start using ProtonMail right now?
5th tool: SIGNAL, for conversations and private messages
A) What is Signal?
SIGNAL is a smartphone app to help you communicate by text-messaging and voice calls in an extremely secure way. This service is particularly recommended by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
B) How does it work?
For it to work properly, both the sender and receiver must use the SIGNAL app available on smartphones (iOS and Android), or as a software for Mac and PC.
C) What are the garantiees?
SIGNAL does not collect any data about you or your conversations.
The open source code is available on the GitHub collaborative platform in order to be evaluated at any time. Regarding the protocol, it is maintained and improved by an organization funded by donations.
Should you require more information about SIGNAL, you can refer to the following article : Why you should use Signal messenger?
Since the Snowden case, protecting one's identity on the Internet has become a priority for many citizens. The Internet is a fundamental freedom protected by international law.
In June 2012, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution reaffirming the protection and exercise of human rights on the Internet. This text states that "the rights that people enjoy offline must also be protected online, especially the right of everyone to freedom of expression and protection of their privacy.”
Yet, it has never been so difficult to protect your online privacy.
All the metadata collected by algorithms (e-mails, communications, photos, consumption habits, hobbies, etc.) represent a huge financial windfall for the GAFAs (Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple).
Personal data and buying habits are used, stored and often resold without your being informed, taking data espionage to an even higher level.
With the five essential tools presented above, take back control of your online data privacy and protect yourself against mass surveillance.