Smart Phone, Internet and Smart Devices Privacy, Safety & Security.

Smart Phone, Internet and Smart Devices Privacy, Safety & Security.

(List of things you can do is below the short intro,
skip down to the header in RED to get straight to the list)

Many people are not aware of the amount of information they allow to be given away to companies, corporations, app designers and governments.
Much of it may surprise you.
Also, most are unaware of the multitude of reasons why we should consider it a concern and why we should go to at least basic efforts to do something about it.

If you’re aware of even a small sliver of the ability of various people or entities to gather information and even gain access to your phone or “Smart” device such as a tv, Alexa, security or doorbell cameras and other things like that including remotely turning on your microphone and camera (with no indication on your device it’s even on) then you’ll want to learn about the different ways to safeguard yourself as much as possible.

Many things you can do are easy and free, some take more time and can cost a little bit but either way you should at least learn the basics and be proactive.

If you don’t think your privacy is important or if you think it’s ok since “you’re not doing anything wrong” I would ask you to read up a bit and think about it. This post doesn’t cover much of that but you can read up on your own from various places including, but not limited to, some of the sites I mention.

This post isn’t meant to inform on all the reasons you should take some of these steps, it’s more of a list to have in conjunction with some research on your own.

The following list will be added to but there’s no way it will contain all you should know, so (just as with anything else important) do your own research, use multiple sources for information, make sure they are actually separate resources and use critical thinking.

Nothing mentioned here is guaranteed, you must read and research elsewhere on your own. Nothing listed here is a paid promotion or endorsement, This site has nothing to do with any companies or programs listed. All that is here was gathered from around the web, you must read up and decide what to do on your own.

*— List of what you can do for safety, privacy and security —*

1) Phones:
Android and Iphone cell phones both have their vulnerabilities and there seem to be no way to be 100% sure you can secure the device itself fully.
Starting with basic habits of turning them off when not in use, putting somewhere out of where it can pick up your voice (even if off) is a start and note, just putting in the other room or a drawer does very little good, they can pick up sound better than you may think. Test by turning on the audio or audio/video recorder, then walking away, talking and then reviewing what you recorded will show you that.

Beyond that, turn off location, don’t use any Apps you don’t really need, only use those by a trustworthy App developer, do NOT allow until you check all permissions you give them have to do with the functioning of the app and you are comfortable with, keep them up to date and uninstall if you don’t use them any more. Hundreds of Apps have been found to not only be harvesting info from your phone but have been turning on and using people’s microphones and camera. If you notice your battery draining quicker than it should that’s a possible indicator your phone is compromised by a bad app, is being remotely accessed or have become infested with a virus/malware/etc.

Many Apps were found to be giving Facebook user data even if the person didn’t know that was happening, so use less Apps, look into them before use, know what ones you trust and get rid of them if you don’t use them.

Open Source programs are programs where the code is available for all to inspect, so since it’s not proprietary any programmer can check it, audit it and see if it has the ability to act in a malicious or hidden way the user does not know about.
Just because it’s available to check does not guarantee it’s safe but the odds are much better, so getting Apps from a place like

   F-Droid (like the Play Store from Google but has only Free and Open Source)
https://www.f-droid.org/

or using

   Signal is a free App that is Open Source and encrypts your calls and texts so that they are secure and private.
https://www.signal.org/
You may use or be aware of WhatsApp and think since it’s encrypted it’s just as good as Signal. It’s not. WhatsApp is based some on the same encryption but is owned by Facebook and is NOT fully Open Source.
Signal is Open Source and is not owned by Facebook, so choose Signal.

You can also use something like PIA VPN for your phone.
https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/

   Phone Open Source Operating Systems.
The Android Operating System is NOT fully Open Source. Google (which owns Android) can put a backdoor in their OS if they want.
Alternatives to Android OS that will run on an Android phone can be found with a list at
https://itsfoss.com/open-source-alternatives-android/
but, like all other info here, you must research on your own before using any of it.
There may be info out there for Iphones, check if you’d like.

A lot more on phone privacy and safety can be found listed below at numbers 9 through 12.

2) Internet:
    a) VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)
VPNs encrypt your internet and phone traffic. Without encryption your internet or phone ISP (Internet Service Provider or phone company) can see what sites you go to and if not a secure site can even see and log everything you view, listen to and do online.
There are free and paid VPNs. Generally what is said is that the free ones are much less trustworthy than paid ones. You have to trust them so read up.
One that is supposedly one of the best is PIA VPN
https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/

    b) Browsers
Firefox by Mozilla is Open Source, you can check into others. Don’t use Chrome, Edge, Safari or anything else by big corporations, if you do you’re handing over all your searches and everything to them on a silver platter.
https://www.mozilla.org/

Add-Ons in a browser can add many levels of safety, security and privacy if they are from a trusted source and are Open Source.
Script blockers, ad blockers, cookie blockers and cleaners/erasers, forcing an https connection, history cleaners and “anti-browser and canvas fingerprinting” are worth looking into as are various tweaks one can do to browsers.
Here are the Firefox ones
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/
Here are a couple links to tweaks and settings you can do in Firefox for enhanced privacy.
https://www.andreafortuna.org/2019/02/27/mozilla-firefox-tweaks-for-enhanced-privacy/
and
https://www.maketecheasier.com/ultimate-firefox-privacy-security-guide/
You can maybe find more on your own for Firefox and other browsers.

    c) Search Engines
Duck Duck Go,
https://duckduckgo.com/
Start Page
https://www.startpage.com/
and some others claim privacy.
Do not use Google and if you do then do not be signed into them, clear cookies often and so forth. Best way to deal with Google and any other corporate data harvesting is not to deal with them any more than absolutely necessary.
Example, you search “what are the symptoms of diabetes”
Maybe you’re curious, maybe looking up for a friend or you’re concerned about your health.
Google or others will sell that search query to health insurance companies.
You could then see your health insurance go up or be dropped.
Things like that have already happened.

    d) Email
Gmail, Yahoo and others harvest info from your emails and are not encrypted.
Look into others such as Tutanota
https://tutanota.com/
and ProtonMail
https://protonmail.com/
or others

    e) Firewall/Antivirus/Anti Malware/Anti Spyware
You should use a good Firewall with the various protections either built in or with other programs and run scans regularly.
One thing to do is make sure programs are not “phoning home” which just means you don’t want it reaching out on the internet without your knowledge and without a clear reason (updating is one thing, random or constant phoning home is bad and you can (in some firewalls) block that from happening.
Rad up on that.

3) Operating Systems:
Windows and Apple OS’s have proprietary software. There’s no real way to know all of the info they collect and send back to companies or whoever can get into the harvested info.
Look into ways to lower collection of info (like telemetry, keylogging, user data, etc) and consider an Open Source OS such as Linux, etc
Lots of info can be found at
https://www.thefreecountry.com/operating-systems/index.shtml
and elsewhere

   a) Programs and so forth:
Look up the (Open Source if possible) alternatives to Google, etc such as Maps, documents, cloud storage (if you really need it and remember, Amazon is owned by Bezos who does NOT care about your privacy.
One example of what can be found Open Street Maps
https://www.openstreetmap.org/
How to leave Google behind
https://tutanota.com/blog/posts/how-to-leave-google-gmail/

4) Smart devices like Smart TVs:
Don’t use them or if you do turn them off and unplug when not in use.
Cover the camera, hackers can easily gain control of the camera and you’ll see no indication someone can see, hear and record everything.
Samsung even says in the TOS of their Smart TVs that everything it hears is sent to “a third party”
Who that is and what they do with it is unknown.
Do you REALLY need a Smart TV?
And be aware of other devices that you might not even know can record and broadcast. Recently a bathroom scale was found to be built with a hidden microphone. When asked, the manufacturer said “The Mic is not hooked up” which begs the question, WHY did it have a built in mic? Remember, data can be sold or used as blackmail, etc. It’s potential money, so it’s not like it would make any sense to ignore the facts and reality and claim none of this is real.

5) Watches, health monitors and wearable internet capable devices:
Don’t use them. You’re subjecting yourself to have every move, everything visible and everything heard by it to be open to companies or government or hackers surveilling you AND all those around you, including those who don’t want that to be done.
Even if you think it’s cool, what about everyone else?
Not long ago it came out that US military personnel were wearing some health monitors and their location data was being transmitted and logged. That data was gotten into and released to the public somehow. It showed the location of a secret base and the movements of the personnel. That should make us think twice before wearing some shiny gadget that may seem helpful.

6) Security cameras, door monitors, etc
Those can be hacked into. If they are wireless others can access the audio/video feed. Just recently it was in the news that a popular doorbell camera/mic was accessible to neighbors so they could see and hear what your camera sees and hears.
That’s a lack of privacy and someone can use that (or one installed in your home) to see if you’re home, then break in.
Don’t use them, or use wired ones instead.

7) Smart devices such as “Alexa”, etc:
Don’t use them. Period.
You’re putting an always on microphone in your house where it saves and transmits everything it hears including conversations with guests of yours that may not want their conversations listened to by anyone other than who they sit there with.
Read up and you’ll find they not only save and send all they hear, there are people paid to listen in. Don’t believe me? Go do some research.
Should a corporation or whoever can hack into one of those hear your private conversations, private time with a spouse, political talk, talk of a product you invent before you patent it and so forth?
No.
A while back Alexa had sent an audio conversation to one of the contacts of the owner of the device even though they never said to record or send anything.
Don’t bug your own house.

8) Websites
Facebook (and all sites but especially facebook because of it’s size, it’s reach, it’s access to so many people and so much data and because of their history) harvests tons of info. One suggestion is if you want to be on social media use Open Source sites and/or ones with clear privacy policies and that you trust and always remember, do not put anything on the internet if it’s something you don’t want others accessing now or in years to come.
Here are 2 sites that are growing and are Facebook alternatives
https://mewe.com/
and
https://www.minds.com/
And here’s a Twitter alternative
https://mastodon.social/
Others are out there, take a look around

9) If you choose to be a whistleblower or share important information that someone or others may not want you to share, read up at
https://together4earth.one/what-whistleblowing-is-why-its-important-and-how-to-expose-truth-as-safely-as-possible/

10) Some links with more info
    a) Surveillance Self-Defense Tool Guides
https://ssd.eff.org/en/module-categories/tool-guides
    b) (another from EFF) Surveillance Self-Defense
          Tips, Tools and How-tos for Safer Online Communications
https://ssd.eff.org/en#index
   c) (and one more from EFF)
            Here’s a lot of info worth checking reading
                  “Surveillance Self-Defense
                   Want a security starter pack?
                    Start from the beginning with a selection of simple steps.”
https://ssd.eff.org/en/playlist/want-security-starter-pack
    d) Six easy steps to help protect your privacy
https://www.letsgetsafe.org/
    e) Device Privacy Tips
https://spreadprivacy.com/tag/device-privacy-tips/

11) Freedom of Speech and the Press
https://together4earth.one/freedom-of-speech-the-press/

12) A tremendous amount more can be found at
https://together4earth.one/the-issue-of-privacy-is-way-beyond-just-facebook/

 

More to be added.

Please do not dismiss the importance of privacy and security and please don’t fall into the trap of not questioning anything if it can lead to some convenience. Not everything convenient is worth every price it contains (even if that price is hidden from plain view)

Remember, this list is just to share with you what can be found elsewhere. It’s 100% entirely up to you to get informed and make decisions on your own.

To contact with suggestions of what to add to this list click here.

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