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

3 Things To Do: Protecting Your Online Communications

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I tend to hide in the background of the American Preppers Network. I’m the web-master, the guy that makes the guts of the place work. It’s a thankless job, but somebody has to do it. Well, actually it’s not thankless, both Tom and Gman at Prepper Broadcast have thanked me for countless little and big things that have happened over the years. What most people may not know is how I got the job in the first place. You see, I sorta hacked one of Tom’s sites….

I actually don’t remember how long ago this was, it’s been literally years. It was way back in the beginning when River Walker first coined the term “Preppers” before anyone else, yes even Doomsday Preppers didn’t exists back then. Tom was trying to create a nation wide network of like minded people who wanted to connect and share information on preparedness. He set about setting up each and every state blog and worked hard at getting people involved. I was busy doing my own thing, hosting sites, and working on side projects for mostly my own amusement when I noticed that one of his sites had an error.

Getting a hold Tom back then was like trying to pull teeth from a bull in heat.

After several emails with no reply, I just fixed it myself. Being the honest guy I am, I sent him a final email on the subject telling him what I had done. That last email actually got a response from him, he asked “You want a job?”

Hacking for the most part is rather easy. Most people are unaware that all your on-line communications are out there for the whole world to see. Finding out how to access your personal bank account, your browser history, and guessing your passwords can be done with just a few keystrokes. Tracing you to your door is even easier. This so called set of “private” information is very public.

And now the Nanny.gov wants help to spy on you, from your own ISP.1 2 3

Yes, in the Republican controlled Congress, rules made by the FCC to protect consumers’ right to privacy were over tuned4. Well so much for Trump being the hero of the common man in the White House. What this means to you is basically this. Before you didn’t have any real privacy on-line from hackers, trolls, and various scum on the net. Now, you can add your own Internet Service Provider and any branch of the government to the list.

There are three things you need to do now.

  • You need to use the privacy features of your browser.

When you use incognito mode, Chrome doesn’t record any history or cookies, and it disables browser extensions. This means that third party services like Facebook, Google, etc that use cookies to track your movement across the internet to serve you better ads won’t follow you to the incognito tab.” guidingtech.com 5

Most browsers that are available, even if you use alternative operating systems other then windows, leak. They leak your history, tracking cookies, saved login settings to your bank and social networks. And that’s not to mention other information about you that goes out on the net from your ISP, or the data that is literally mined from advertiser software and places you go to. The privacy tab option helps prevent most of those leaks, but not all.

The most important thing to remember about the privacy tab is that it mostly helps with preventing unwanted snoops from checking out what you are doing with your browser who have physical access to that browser, your house guest for example. Some private modes are better then others. It all depends on how much effort is put into making it secure by the developer and how much you trust those developers. Firefox’s private mode automatically blocking web trackers, where as Chrome’s doesn’t 6, But that being said, Firefox has been known to still record the SSL certificates from sites7.

Private browsing prevents people from snooping on your web browsing after it’s occurred, but they can still snoop while it’s occurring … ” – howtogeek.com 8

  • You need to be able to turn off Java.

Java is a favorite target of cybercriminals because it is so easy to exploit, and also because users are frequently using outdated versions of it.” – tomsguide.com9

The easiest way to do this is to install an extension that allows you to toggle Java. on and off at will. Sometimes you still need to use Java due to login options on sites your active in, or simply because you trust the site in question. If you want to remain anonymous, to hide your IP, and prevent maleware, you are going to need to turn it off, and know if it is off.

Fortunately, Java is heading the way of the dinosaur10, sites are now using HTML5 which simply doesn’t need it anymore. The number one issue with Java that I have is that it does not self update, if there is a future security risk involving Java your system will not automatically update. A lot of things use Java, not just the personal computer or laptop, this is the main source of DDOS attacks on the internet.

  • You need to anonymize your connection to the internet.

Tor aims to conceal its users’ identities and their online activity from surveillance and traffic analysis by separating identification and routing. It is an implementation of onion routing, which encrypts and then randomly bounces communications through a network of relays run by volunteers around the globe.” – wikipedia 11

This is where it gets hard. Even if you set up a VPN on your laptop, the browser on your other devices is not configured. And not only that, how can you be sure to trust your VPN? You need something between you and the router that you connect too. Not everyone is a tech geek like me, a simple solution is needed for the average Joe to protect himself from big brother, and the nosy neighborhood. You need to either use a simple solution, or jump on a huge learning curve about proxies, virtual private networking, and the peer-to-peer system, to name a few.

I found such a device. It’s called Anonabox. The original Anonabox is perfect for using as a simple way to securely connect to the internet in a way that I don’t have to worry about being traced back to my ISP. It uses the TOR Onion networking system which is constantly evolving to to be better. This isn’t the total geek version AnonaboxPro, which I also got for myself, it’s the one I use so I don’t have to worry about the other devices, and the kids.

It’s real simple to use. It’s pre-configured, locked up, and plug in-play. You just plug it into your router, power it up and connect to it via WIFI. That simple.

There are a lot of reasons to use TOR. But it is not user friendly. Even the most basic set up12 can be a real headache for the average user, even experts have fallen prey to the FBI because of simple mistakes13. Having a simple always on, hardware connected to the TOR network like Anonabox reduces the risks of stupid mistakes. You do still have limitations, you can’t use Skype over TOR, and most people will fine it hard to stream movies over TOR unless they use a Kodi with a high cache amount.

Some geeks might suggest to just use the TOR Browser bundle, but that isn’t always the best option, Freedom Hosting was taken out by the FBI due to the bundle having vulnerabilities14. Using a standalone plug in-play helps avoid problems from others on your network.

The Anonabox Original is a small light weight device that works right our of the box. I have very fast internet, my main worry for using the Anonabox was whether it would slow the net down to the point where I couldn’t use it with Kodi. But it turned out that it worked fairly well, not as good as a direct VPN connection, but still good enough to use CCLOUD VOD on Kodi, which is what I am currently using to watch classic movies. Using a TOR Browser to watch streaming movies from other sources just doesn’t work unless you can cache the whole film, or via a torrent.

I also got an AnonaboxPro, which I plan to use with the darkspider project. For a more technical article on it visit my blog.

– wolfe

1https://epic.org/privacy/netneutrality/ What does that have to do with privacy?

The post 3 Things To Do: Protecting Your Online Communications appeared first on American Preppers Network.

How to Unplug from the Digital World

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Erase yourself from the Search Engines

There is plenty of information out there about how to physically move off the grid, but what about going off the grid in the digital world? For many off-gridders, a social media or digital presence is still necessary – to remain plugged into the world around us, at least socially. But as the ease with which the government – and landlords, potential employers, even strangers – can track our movements online increases, so too seems to be the interest in disappearing from the digital world and becoming truly invisible. But how do you vanish from the internet?

Bradley Shear, a lawyer who specialises in social media and privacy, warned that it wouldn’t be easy. He said if you really want to step away from the internet and leave no digital trace, it would mean giving up using all electronic devices.

“[To go the full off-grid route] it’s cash, barters,” Bradley said. “Do not use any electronic device that can lead back to your whereabouts.”

Social media backlog

Bradley suggests deleting your social media accounts, or at least cleaning them up. Social media accounts, more or less, ensure you actively participate in letting the internet learn more about you; Facebook, in particular, is very good at tracking what you do across the rest of the web – even when you aren’t actively using it. The site stores your search information to suggest particular webpages, news of interest and advertisements.

“You have to think about the digital accounts you currently have,” Bradley said. “You have a Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, old Myspace? Anything that has your name on it. You want to either delete content from them or delete the accounts altogether.”

Although when you delete your accounts many of the companies will still keep the data you previously gave them, at least it won’t be publicly shared.

Bradley pointed out that Gmail in particular has to go – and you can’t use Google or Yahoo, because these programs all track your access location.

“Every time you access [Gmail], they have your IP address,” he said.

If you want to make sure your activity isn’t tracked across the web, Bradley said to use a virtual private network, or VPN, every time you access the internet, unless you only login from public machines (such as those at a public library or internet café). To search, Bradley suggests using sites such as DuckDuckGo instead of the traditional engines that track you.

If all that sounds too painful to deal with, at the very least consider deleting unnecessary content from your social media accounts. Twitter and Facebook let you download an archive of your data on the platform, in case you’re worried about losing any of those utterly amazing early tweets. And beyond the in-account settings for each service, third-party tools such as TweetDelete allow you to erase years of content automatically. But even that, Bradley said, doesn’t provide perfect results – the government probably already has your tweets on file.

“Using a service that deletes old tweets is helpful,” he said. “However, the Library of Congress is cataloguing every single tweet ever.”

JustDelete.Me provides a good starting point for people who want straightforward links to the deletion pages of a ton of accounts, along with a bit of guidance on how easy or hard it is to delete each one.

Misinformation

For those who can’t stand to go completely off the grid – which is probably most of us – Bradley said one of the most valuable things to do is litter the internet with misinformation about yourself.

“Never have a real birthday,” he said. “Always use a throwaway birthday when signing up for social media accounts or pretty much any other service online. Use a throwaway email. If a site or an app is asking for a bunch of information that you think it doesn’t need from you to provide you with whatever service it is promising, don’t do it. If that personal information is required to use that service, then make up some stuff. You want to provide as many alternative facts as possible.”

Of course, most of us will have already provided a lot of the information to a bunch of sites – so try to change it. On many sites, you can change your birthday, your likes and dislikes, past employment experiences, place of residence and other personal details, although some have a limit on how many times you can alter information (like Facebook).

Bradley said he knows that he’s essentially advising people to ignore the terms of service for these sites, and he’s okay with that.

“Feel free to protect your privacy and violate their terms of service,” he said.

Data leaks

Anyone who’s ever self-Googled knows that there are a ton of “people search” sites out there that promise to host valuable information about individuals. Usually, this information – phone numbers, social media profiles, addresses, anything else available from public records or through data collection on the internet – is sold for a fee (but not always). These companies are known as data brokers, businesses that collect information to sell it to other businesses. Bradley warned that trying to fully disappear from their databases is like “whack-a-mole.”

“Look at the first five to 10 pages of your Google results and see who has your name,” Bradley said. Your information will probably be on sites such as Whitepages, Spokeo and Intelius, for example, and each of these sites should have a way to opt out – but Bradley warned that sometimes the opt-out process can be a scam. If the site requires users to verify their identity before opting out by giving more information or providing a government ID, get out of there.

The second part of keeping your information out of the hands of data brokers involves plugging any digital leaks. If you’ve ever signed up for an account by linking it to a Facebook, Google or Twitter account, you have a leak, and should undo it if possible.

The other thing to think about is your phone – and what permissions you have given your apps.
“Most apps ask for way too much information,” Bradley said. “If you want to keep your phone, go ahead and delete every single app you don’t actually need.”

Of course, even doing all of these things won’t completely disappear most of us from the internet – particularly those who are older or have been using it for all our lives so have an extensive digital trail. So, the question becomes: Can you really disappear from the internet?

Bradley said it doesn’t matter if it’s futile or not – it’s important to try as much as you can, and do it properly, as if it’s going to work.

“You might not get perfect results, but it’s always worth the effort to try.”

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