Updated: December, 2020
Protecting your privacy online is not an easy task and it takes a lot of knowledge to be able to do it correctly. “Correctly” doesn’t mean “perfectly”, but you can start with a few easy tricks to increase your online privacy by orders of magnitude, and here is how.
Hide your IP
Use a VPN service and Tor for online anonymity. Avoid free VPNs since they are all shady and they have no incentive to protect you. The common-sense rule “if a product is free, you are the product” applies to most free VPNs and they’ve been caught to collect and sell user data, leak user data on the internet, or be vastly operated by the same Chinese companies.
The same applies to free proxy services and also note that a proxy doesn’t encrypt your traffic.
Tor browser provides anonymity and it is free, but is often slow and many websites block access from Tor gateways. A VPN can be much faster, but does not give you anonymity. The most paranoid users can use them both at the same time, for an extra protection layer: first connect to the VPN, then use Tor for anonymous browsing.
Use only VPN services that are serious about privacy and don’t keep logs of your online activity. Check their privacy policies, research their past for potential data handling incidents.
Always check your new IP address and run leak tests after you connect to VPN or Tor: tools to check your IP info
Fix your browser
All browsers will disclose a lot of information about you, including your real IP address or other sensitive information that would help 3rd parties to identify you. There are some very efficient ways to reduce the risk of exposing your identity online through your browser:
- Block ads and tracking services
- Disable the browser Location services
- Disable / block WebRTC
You can do all the above with these free addons: Best Browser Addons for Privacy
Use a privacy-focused email service
There’s no secret that Gmail, Yahoo and all popular email services are harvesting user data and they even share it with governments. These are some of the best email services that are focused on user privacy: ProtonMail and Tutanota are email services that we recommend (details in our review: Best Email Services for Security and Privacy).
Use fake identities
Create fake identities when signing up to online services that you don’t really need to share your real data. fakena.me is a service that generates random names including addresses, phone numbers and credentials that you can use when you want to sign-up quickly to a service.
Use strong, unique passwords
Reusing passwords is just as bad as having very weak passwords for all your online accounts. Use a password manager to save them privately and generate random, unique passwords for each online account you have. Bitwarden, Keepass , KeepassX are excellent password managers.
Use separate browsers and virtual machines
Protect your DNS requests
Use a DNS service that doesn’t log instead of your own ISP’s DNS. Be warned that DNS queries are still insecure because the protocol itself is not encrypted. Use encrypted DNS (DoH / DoT) if supported by your browser / devices.
Check our recommended public DNS servers guide to learn more.
If you use a VPN, make sure you don’t have DNS leaks: dnsleaktest.com, ipleak.net, ipx.ac, whoer.net, browserleaks.com
More details: DNS leaks and how to fix them