How To Almost Completely Erase Your Digital Footprint

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Although its almost impossible to completely wipe out your entire digital footprint as if you’ve never had access to the internet, but you can get close. If you’d like to make an attempt to completely remove yourself from the internet, we’ve got a few tips and tricks that could help you along the way. 

To go the full off-the-grid route, “it’s cash, barters,” Bradley Shear, a lawyer specializing in social media told The Washington Post. “Do not use any electronic device that can lead back to your whereabouts.”  Which leads us to the first item to consider.

The first thing you want to do is the hardest for some, but its the most obvious. You need to quit appearing online.  Stop posting on Facebook or Twitter and no longer use search engines.  All of those will track your location and Internet usage leaving behind your digital footprint. Of course, just not using the internet isn’t quite enough if you’d like yourself completely gone in full-off-the-grid fashion.

The next step would be deleting your online accounts. Every single one of them. Having a social media account is, more or less, ensuring your active participation in letting the Internet learn more about you. Facebook, in particular, knows a lot about you and is very good at tracking what you do across the rest of the Web, even when you’re not actively using it. If you need help deleting your accounts, consider JustDelete.Me, which provides tips and links to remove accounts.  But you can’t just remove your accounts and expect that it’s done and over with. You will also need to remove any and all information and content that is posted about you by others.  This can get a little trickier, but you could consider trying Abine’s DeleteMe, which for a fee can assist in removing your personal contact information and your photos and will provide you with a regular report and updates.

Next, you want to search for yourself on the Internet.  This will help you discover if there are any old accounts (does anyone even remember MySpace?) that you may have forgotten you had just lingering around. If you happen to come across an account you cannot delete, just start falsifying the information.  Change the name on the account to whatever you want it to be, that’s different than yours, obviously. Change the city and state and leave the gender “unselected” if possible.  The less information you put in, the less you have to falsify.

You are also going to want to unsubscribe from all of those mailing lists you’ve accidentally signed up for during your Internet travels. That’s usually pretty easy to do.  Go into your junk folder and open up the advertisements.  Scroll to the bottom of the email and click the tiny word “unsubscribe.”  When it directs you to, make sure you choose to no longer receive ANY email that you’d consider “junk.”  Afterall, that’s why it was in that folder, to begin with anyway, right?

If you still need the Internet for work, you may have to stop here.  Having removed social media and cleaning up your email will go a long way in minimizing your online trail.  But for those who wish to continue on and “go dark,” your next step would be deleting search engine results. Google has a URL removal tool that could help. The next step would be contacting webmasters of websites you have no control over.  Be kind, and let them know you’d like your information and comments removed.  Be prepared to be told by some that all public information should remain public, in which case, you may be out of luck.  You’ll also need patience.  Not every single webmaster will get back to you in a timely manner.

Once you’ve completed everything listed above, you should consider removing your information from data clearinghouses.  Many companies track your online behavior and sell that data to others.  Intelius, Spokeo, and People Finders are a few examples of such data clearinghouses. In order to remove your information from these, however, will take up a lot of your time.  You’ll need to make a lot of phone calls and fill out tons of paperwork.  A paid service called DeleteMe could be considered if you’ve got some extra cash laying around.  For all others, you will need time and patience and determination to get through this step.

Once you feel you’ve gotten yourself removed from data clearinghouses, you should contact the phone company and be sure to make your phone number unlisted.

The last step would be to delete your email. “Every time you access it, they have your IP address,” Shear said.  This is last simply because, during the completion of the previous steps, an email address is likely going to be required at some point.

If you’ve decided you cannot completely “go dark” as far an internet use is concerned, consider protecting your data and information by using an encrypted email service such as ProtonMail. And if you want your activity not to be tracked across the Web, you would have to essentially use a virtual private network, or VPN, every time you access the Internet unless you exclusively access the Internet from public machines (such as those at a public library). For searching online, you can use sites such as DuckDuckGo instead of Google or Yahoo, or any other search engine that tracks you. Also, consider Signal, a text and phone-call encryption app that comes with a recommendation from Edward Snowden himself.

Although it seems it may be futile to attempt to “go dark,” you just might be successful. Best of luck to those who have the desire to disappear from the Internet, because you’ll need it, and all the patience you can muster.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Using the ‘Cloud’ in Survival Situations

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Using the 'Cloud' in Survival Situations via The Survival MomEvery survival situation we prepare for is unique. No two house fires – or tornadoes or evacuations or hurricanes or earthquakes – are exactly the same. We should never rule out any tool to help us be prepared, since true survival depends on adaptability and versatility more than any single piece of gear. One cyber tool, called “the cloud,” lends itself well to providing vital information at a moment’s notice, anywhere, 24/7. Using the cloud in survival situations is smart and doesn’t have to be risky.

What exactly is the cloud?

The cloud is actually a tangible thing. It is an off-site storage area for your data. You can connect to the storage area securely over the Internet and then access it anytime through the Internet. There are many companies that offer cloud storage – Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Flickr, Evernote, Dropbox, etc. If you can create your own server, you could create your own “cloud.”

The main benefit to utilizing the cloud for information storage is that your data is not “stuck” on one device, but is accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. Gone are the days of those frustrating moments, “Darn! My resume is on my desktop computer and I’m out of town!”

Before the cloud, most people used FTP to share large files and data across the Internet. Now, it’s as easy as sharing a single link.

It’s possible that you have been using the cloud without realizing it. You probably already use a type of cloud for downloading apps and updates for your phone or laptop. With that, you are accessing files someone else has put on a server. Some people use companies to sync or backup entire computer or phone systems. You can opt to only have certain files sent to that kind of cloud.

The cloud isn’t always secure

The downside to cloud storage is that it cannot be 100 percent secure. Data can be hacked and servers can crash – people have had data lost or stolen. If you’re going to use cloud storage, files should be backed up somewhere else. It’s no fun to lose photos or important data in a hack or crash.

Sensitive files should also be encrypted so there is less of a chance of the information being compromised if the data was stolen. Be careful with names and file data. File data can tell a person where, when, and who made a document.

If you do put any names or phone numbers in cloud storage, use encryption or develop your own code for family and close friends. “Mom” is something everyone knows but “Buzz” could be anyone. Think of childhood nicknames or family references that no one else could possibly know about.

To encrypt files, you want to use a public key encryption. Several companies offer online services or software to encrypt your files, such as Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), BoxCrypter, CloudFogger, and SecretSync. There are also cloud companies that offer encryption as part of its services. Encrypted files need a specific decryption tool with your password to view the files.

There is free software available for encrypting files. Read, “The top 24 free tools for data encryption.”

So, why would a prepper want to put anything out there in the cloud?

Preppers are very security minded, sometimes to the point of paranoia, but you know what they say: It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you! Over the past few years we’ve learned that even our own home appliances, cell phones, and laptop cameras can spy on us. So, why put personal, important information out there where it could be accessed by others?

The main reason to consider and use cloud storage is that we don’t stay home all the time, which is where most, or all, of your information is probably stored. Emergency scenarios of all kinds pop up quickly and unexpectedly, leaving us often to wonder, “If I only had my first aid book with me,” or “Where’s that list of essential oils that helps with stomach aches?”

I’ve found myself at the grocery store, wishing I could remember the ingredients to a family recipe. I’ve watched a severe nose bleed happen right in front of me and tried to remember, “Do I tell them to tilt their head backwards or forwards?”

The answers to those questions and thousands more can be stored in the cloud, accessible from a smartphone, tablet, laptop, even a borrowed or public computer. If you lose power and can’t access your computer, your smart phone could access the files you have in the cloud as long as its battery is charged.

Books, manuals, tips, and recipes can reside in a virtual library, if you think of the cloud as your library. Store reference material in the cloud and access it from anywhere in the world. Who cares if you’ve stored a list of sunburn remedies in the cloud or a list of different ways to start a campfire? By all means, store your kid’s summer reading list, names and addresses of pet-friendly hotels, and checklists for various emergency kits. So much of the information we rely on is anything but classified, and yet without it, life suddenly becomes a little more complicated and unsure.

What to store in the cloud for survival situations?

Consider this: If you are evacuated quickly from your home- fire, flood, terror threat- you will not be able to grab everything from your house. What would you still want access to? Perhaps that information should be stored in the cloud, where it will always be handy.

An earthquake or tornado can easily destroy your home and computer in a matter of seconds. Any files you have in the home would probably be destroyed, too. Having your reference material in the cloud means that information is still there for you. If you find yourself having to evacuate, most hotels have at least one computer, with a printer, available for hotel guests.

Store Recipes

If you are visiting a friend’s house and want to share a recipe, you can go grab it off the cloud. Just set up a file called “Recipes”, store your favorites, and have them available, always. Perhaps add another file, “Solar Cooking Recipes,” or “Off Grid Recipes”.

Store Important Contact Info

Sooner or later, you’ll need the phone number of a handyman, your insurance agent, a good roofing contractor, or your doctor. That information isn’t security sensitive, so why not include it in a Note or Folder labeled, “Contacts.” Unless it includes your bookie’s email and phone, there’s nothing incriminating!

Entertainment & Education

If you’re stuck in traffic or at the airport, you could access something in the cloud to keep the children entertained, such as knock-knock jokes or favorite short stories. You could also store spelling lists, book lists, and links to educational websites.

A Solution to a Bad Memory

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for our small electronics to go missing. If you’ve forgotten important phone numbers, dates, your schedule — it can all be accessed on the cloud using a friend’s cellphone. I use Google Calendar, which I access from many different sources and have connected my husband’s calendar as well.

TIP: If your smartphone is rendered useless and you keep reference material on it, simply go to your computer and access those files via Dropbox, Google Drive, or some other cloud storage and then restore all of it to a new phone.

Small Business Owners

Use the cloud to store employee contact information, names of vendors, schedules, reference materials, tax documents, and even employee time sheets.

Other types of information that aren’t of a sensitive nature:

  • Recipes
  • Manuals
  • Medical information
  • Gardening tips
  • Music
  • Weather information
  • Puzzles
  • Movies
  • Smart prepper tips
  • How-to articles
  • Pet information
  • Weapons manuals
  • Directory of repair companies
  • Maps
  • Craft ideas and instructions
  • Knitting and crochet patterns
  • Reference books
  • Insurance companies contact information
  • Downloadable resources from favorite websites and blogs (Read 16 Tips for Finding Reliable Survival Information on the Internet to learn how to find good sources online.)
  • Service manuals
  • Home remedies
  • Essential oil reference materials
  • Lists and photos of edible plants
  • Homeschool material
  • Canning advice
  • Sewing patterns
  • Children’s growth stages
  • Coloring sheets
  • Jokes
  • E-books
  • Foreign language lessons

I can’t say putting information out there on a cloud is for everyone, but it is something to consider. A situation may arise where it would be to your advantage to access information from anywhere in the world. What you store in the cloud and what files you encrypt is up to you.

If you decide the cloud is not for you, make sure you have files backed up in a drive that you can grab easily if you need to evacuate. Consider storing essential documents on a thumb drive or in a binder in a trusted family or friends’ safe in case you can’t get yours from your own home.

SURVIVAL MOM’S NOTE: I use Evernote constantly for immediately accessible online storage. It allows me to “clip” articles from the Internet and store them in one of my Evernote Notebooks. I have a few favorite websites and can file all clipped articles in separate Notebooks, one for each site. I have a Recipe Notebook, a journal, Goals Notebook, and several more. It’s a great resource.

Using the 'Cloud' in Survival Situations via The Survival Mom

If You Like Living in a Police State, Vote for Jeb Bush

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For those not already nauseated by the constant spin surrounding the bought candidates vying to seize power as President of the United States, you may have caught Jeb Bush’s comments

It’s Easier Than You Think to Encrypt Your E-mail and Shared Files

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I’ve been dinking around with electronic encryption for about 30 years. In spite of the fact that secure communications would be useful to me professionally for more than one reason, up until now I’ve never gone beyond “dinking around” to “using” encryption.

One reason encryption hasn’t become part of my every-day experience–and I’m guessing this applies to millions of others as well–is that it’s just too much hassle for too little reward. My favorite tool up until now has been some variation of Pretty Good Privacy. It’s robust: the NSA could crack it, but it would take way more resources and cost way more than it would likely be worth. It’s open source: any geniuses out there who want to inspect the encryption algorithms or software implementation are able to do so, and if they can’t find any real problems, then I’m not going to complain. And it’s free; I like cheap. Unfortunately, it is just complicated enough (with all its talk of public keys, private keys, trusted keyrings, etc.) that the “where can I find the file I just downloaded” crowd won’t use it unless their really mean boss absolutely forces them to. In other words, I can’t use PGP to send encrypted messages because nobody else I know uses PGP (which also explains why I’ve never received an encrypted message).

Encryption technology is not exactly a growth industry, unless you’re working for The Man. Governments really don’t like not being able to snoop on the things we say to one another, so often when somebody comes out with encryption in some sort of useful form, the government makes them an offer they can’t refuse: Put in a back door that lets us read that stuff, or don’t do business in this country. Apparently it’s not just people wanting to protect trade secrets or exchange naked pictures of Marty Feldman who use encryption, but also international terrorists and drug dealers. This government arm-twisting might be no problem if it came only from Tonga, but when it comes from places like China or the USA, well, problem. So encryption start-ups typically end up spending a lot of their time trying to fly under the radar, to justify why their secure applications should be legal, or building back doors.

A lot of us think of encryption algorithms when we start thinking about communications security. But it turns out that hackers don’t bother actually trying to crack encryption so much as intercepting our private keys and using that to decrypt our information, or they might simply grab our information directly before it’s encrypted or by reading ghost data left on our hard drives or in memory. And if even that is too tricky, there’s always the time-proven expedients of blackmail or coercion to make us just give over the information free and clear.

Image courtesy xkcd |

Well, recently a need arose for me to communicate securely with a person in a very insecure country, and I looked into things some more. I found an app that I’m really starting to warm up to: Peerio. Peerio looks like a cute little chat application. One must login to the app using a longish pass phrase (this can be shortened to a password, but the password is only good for that specific device), then simply message or e-mail in what appears to be clear text. One may also upload files and share them, in which case they go out as attachments to a message. Attachments received can be dragged to a local folder and opened, viewed, edited, etc. In other words, anybody that can chat or drag-and-drop files can communicate and share files with Peerio.

What’s going on in the background–that users don’t need to be educated about or see–is some pretty strong encryption and decryption. When a contact is added to one’s address book, so is that contact’s public key. Peerio uses the pass phrase to generate a user’s private key each session, then when a message is sent it is encrypted before sending; the private key is not stored anywhere, and disappears when the user logs out. No clear-text messages or files ever hit Peerio’s servers. When the message is received, the recipient’s app decrypts it using the public key found in the address book, and presents the message in clear text. Shared files are likewise encrypted on the sender’s computer and decrypted on the receiver’s computer.

Here are some things that drew me to Peerio:

  • It’s so simple. Unlike every other encryption application I’ve ever used before, I already have people I know in my contact list and I’ve already used Peerio to communicate with them and share files. This is the biggie for me.
  • It uses end-to-end encryption rather than server-based encryption; if a Peerio server ever gets breached (accidentally or by a disgruntled employee), all people get is a bunch of encrypted data.
  • The encryption algorithm and software is open-source and peer reviewed. I can’t tell good encryption from bad, so it comforts me that those who can tell are able to check what Peerio’s doing. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can. Peerio actually hires third-party experts to check it out every so often, just in case.
  • Peerio will actually pay you $1,000 if you find a bug or exploit in their software.
  • This one I’m not really counting on so much, but Peerio claims that if the government ever asks them for my data (they’ll know the name and e-mail I supplied when I signed up, though they don’t check to see if they’re real), they’ll require due process and will notify me before releasing the information in case I want to challenge the request.
  • Peerio is portable, meaning I can run it under Windows or Mac from the USB thumb drive that’s part of my everyday carry (EDC).

Ultimately, there’s no such thing as complete electronic security. If someone carries Federal ID in their pocket, assume all your data are belong to them. If someone who knows what they’re doing gets their hands on your actual computer, assume they have access to all your data. If someone doesn’t know what they’re doing, but can sneak this USB keylogger into a slot on the back of your computer, they’ll have all your passwords, pass phrases, and anything else you type e-mailed to them on schedule. And of course there’s always the aforementioned blackmail, drugs, and threats of violence.

I’m totally happy to have found Peerio. Are there other apps out there I may have missed? Security concerns I need to be aware of? Let me know in your comments below.

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