The internet was designed to facilitate anonymity when it was first created. The interaction ended when your PC issued a page request to the server, which was fulfilled by the server returning the requested page. The server only received your IP address (without which it would not be able to deliver you that page). Your online activity is no longer anonymous. Each browser request contains a wealth of information about you and your computer. Cookies and fingerprinting techniques are used by trackers to collect more data. Data brokers, on the other hand, compile public information about you into detailed profiles. The most benign outcome of this surveillance is targeted advertising; other effects are less benign, up to and including identity theft.
Although maintaining complete anonymity when using the internet is practically difficult, there are steps you can take to restrict your exposure, such as using a VPN or contracting a service that deletes your data from authorized data aggregators. We’ve compiled a list of goods and services that use a variety of approaches to data security. Check out our reviews before deciding on one or more to protect your privacy.
Part 1 of The Email Nightmare
Email, like the internet, was created by optimists and intellectuals who never imagined it would be misused. Have you ever read someone else’s mail? What a jerk! Fill inboxes with unsolicited mail? They had no idea what was about to happen.
One apparent technique to preserve the privacy of your messages is to encrypt your email. It’s such an important and powerful strategy that it deserves its own list, The Best Email Encryption. For a more in-depth look at these snoop-busters, check out that article. Here’s a quick rundown.
Using a technology known as public-key cryptography, Preveil, Private-Mail, ProtonMail, and StartMail let you to secure your conversations. All but Preveil generate a pair of keys, one public and one private, using the PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) protocol. You encrypt a message with my public key, and I decrypt it with my private key to send it to me securely. Simple!
However, using Preveil is considerably easier. You’ll never have to deal with a key, public or private, thanks to a high-tech technique incorporating wrapped keys, according to the company. It also means you won’t be able to communicate with users of other PGP-based services, but few people are aware of how to do so.
This public key technology also allows me to send you a digitally signed communication, ensuring that it came from me and was not tampered with. I simply use my private key to encrypt the message. It’s completely legitimate because you can decrypt it using my public key. ProtonMail and StartMail automate the procedure of exchanging keys with other users of the same service, whereas Private-Mail requires you to do it yourself. You can send encrypted messages to anyone who supplies a public key using any of them.
Of course, public key cryptography isn’t used by everyone for email. You may send encrypted messages to non-users with Tutanota, StartMail, and ProtonMail, albeit you won’t get the same level of open-source security. The service encrypts the communication with a simple password, which you send using an alternative to email, such as a secure messaging app.
Email encryption is free with Virtru, but only if you use Gmail and only in Chrome. It manages keys internally, like as Preveil, but it doesn’t employ public-key cryptography. You transmit an encrypted message, and the recipient reads it by clicking a button—neither of you has to enter a password. If you only want to safeguard one Gmail, Yahoo, or Microsoft account, SecureMyEmail is also free. ProtonMail has a free tier, however it comes with some restrictions.
We’ve deleted these tools from this article’s product lineup because they have their own roundup.
Part 2 of The Email Nightmare
No hacker will be able to decipher the contents of your email chats because they are encrypted. When you send a message, buy a product online, or join up for any form of internet-based service, your email address is accessible. While this may not appear to be a problem, your email address is frequently used as your user ID on numerous websites. The account is now owned by a hacker who found your email and guessed your weak password. And, of course, having your email address strewn across the internet only encourages spam.
But how can you communicate if you don’t give your email address to a store or service? A simple technology known as a disposable email address, or DEA, is the answer. These addresses are provided and managed by the DEA service, which ensures that mail sent to them reaches your inbox. The majority of these solutions allow you to respond in such a way that your responses appear to come from the DEA. Bulc Club, on the other hand, is an outlier in that it does not allow replies. You just destroy it whenever you’ve finished interacting with a particular merchant or if one of your DEAs starts receiving spam.
DEA management is available through programs such as Burner Mail, Abine Blur, and ManyMe. ManyMe is unique in several aspects. It’s free, just like Bulc Club, which is unusual. And, unlike most similar services, it doesn’t require you to create a new FlyBy email account before utilizing it. Let’s say someone at a cocktail party inquires about your email address. You can make up a FlyBy address on the spot to avoid giving out your real email address. You may also create up DEAs on the fly using SimpleLogin.
Abine Blur takes the idea of hiding your true identity online to new heights. It not only hides your email address, but it also hides your credit card details, which are unique for each transaction. So a sleazy shopkeeper can’t overcharge you or use the card again, you load the masked card with exactly the amount of the transaction. It also allows you to talk on the phone without having to provide your real phone number.
It’s worth mentioning that both Private-Mail and StartMail have some DEA management capabilities. You can manage up to 10 permanent DEAs and an unlimited number of DEAs that expire in two weeks or less with StartMail. Without complete DEA administration, Private-Mail provides five different email aliases. The email aliases available to Tutanota are even more limited.
Distract the Trackers from the Scent
If you don’t pay, you’re the product, as the saying goes. You can surf the internet for as long as you like without paying a charge to view certain sites, but those sites will still try to make money from your visits. Advertising trackers install cookies on your computer and keep track of when a tracker from another website encounters the same cookie. They create a profile of your online activity using these and other tracking methods, a profile that others are prepared to pay for.
Recognizing that many users prefer not to be tracked, the Internet’s Powers That Be devised a simple Do Not Track message to be delivered by the browser a few years ago. Despite the fact that the DNT system never became a standard, it was adopted by all of the major browsers. Because websites were and are free to ignore the header, it had no effect.
Many security businesses began developing active methods to identify and block ad trackers and other trackers in substitute of the ineffective DNT header. Many security suites and certain privacy-specific programs include this feature as a bonus. Active DNT is available in Abine Blur, Ghostery Privacy Suite, and IDX Privacy.
The trackers, in turn, devised a new method for identifying individuals across several websites, depending on the ludicrous amount of data sent by your browser to each site. This information includes anything from your IP address and browser version to minor details like the typefaces installed on your computer. Because there is so much data, trackers can generate a fingerprint that is practically certain to identify you, and you alone.
So, what are your options? That’s what you’re going to do: make your browser a liar. Avast AntiTrack mashes up the data provided from your browser, making each website unique. Important information still makes its way to the site, but not in a consistent, fingerprintable way. Norton AntiTrack is comparable to Avast AntiTrack in that it blocks standard trackers as well.
The use of a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, masks your IP address while leaving plenty of data unaltered for fingerprinters. Even yet, encrypting your internet traffic and masking your IP address are effective techniques to safeguard your privacy. IDX Privacy incorporates VPN protection in addition to other privacy features.
Passwords aren’t going away anytime soon.
We don’t yet have a universal replacement for passwords, which is a shame. Every safe site requires a unique non-guessable strong password for security reasons. Only by using a password manager will anyone be able to accomplish this feat. A data breach on one site could reveal dozens of your other accounts unless you use a different secure password for each one.
In an ideal world, you’d already have a good password manager in place, and you’d already fixed any weak or duplicate passwords. Some privacy products now provide password management as a bonus function, in case you weren’t already prepared. For example, Abine Blur provides a comprehensive, albeit rudimentary, password manager. It also scores your passwords, offering extra points to those that employ a masked email address in addition to a password. You could opt to install a top-notch free password manager separately.
IDX Privacy does not assist you manage your passwords in general, but it does provide a tool for identifying passwords that you should not be using. To see if a password has been compromised, enter it into its Password Detective tool. Spoiler alert: it very probably has if it’s a simple password. Don’t worry; IDX Privacy only sends a hash of the password to the database, not the actual password.
Exposure to the public
The presence of your personal information on the dark web could be the first clue that your privacy is in jeopardy. Hackers who break into online data vaults are keen to sell what they find. Safe Me, a free mobile software, analyzes the dark web for your email address, as well as breached passwords and other personal information. Your privacy score improves as you progress through the report, replacing compromised passwords. Working through dozens of brief security awareness courses, as well as properly configuring your device’s security, boosts the score.
IDX Privacy captures a range of other personal information that it subsequently searches for on the dark web, unlike Safe Me, which only looks for data related with your email address. It provides guidance on how to minimize the negative consequences on your security and privacy for each exposure.
Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection searches the dark web for your personal information as well, but it goes further than IDX Privacy. It creates connections between found data in order to generate data that may be relevant to you. It fine-tunes its dark web search as you analyze these potential exposures and either validate or ignore them.
Data Brokers: How to Work With Them
Criminals are the ones who trade stolen information on the Dark Web. Others have figured out how to profit from your personal data without breaking the law. Data brokers develop profiles of individual consumers by sifting through publicly available information and snapping together things that fit, profiles that they can sell to advertisers or less savory clientele. However, if you request it, the law states that they must delete your information. The issue is figuring out who to ask and how to ask them.
Abine DeleteMe is a forerunner in the industry of data deletion services. When you subscribe, your data is searched across dozens of data broker sites. It sends an opt-out request to erase your data wherever it finds you. Because this process cannot be entirely automated, DeleteMe is quite costly.
Sure, DeleteMe was a trailblazer, but it has since been surpassed by more sophisticated alternatives. Both Optery and Privacy Bee keep track of hundreds of brokers, far more than DeleteMe does. DeleteMe is more expensive than Privacy Bee, and Optery’s most premium tier is still more expensive. Both, however, have free tiers that are very informative. Optery, in particular, offers a wealth of information to assist you in submitting and tracking your own opt-out requests. Privacy Bee goes beyond the basics with an ad-blocking browser plugin and a mechanism for notifying thousands of organizations about your privacy preferences; it also administers some essential industry-wide opt-outs.
Various Other Modes
Software businesses find a number of ways to protect your private data, just as your data might be exposed in a variety of ways. If a thief steals your laptop or gains access to your computer in some other way, your personal information may still be safe—if you’ve encrypted it. We’ve looked at a number of programs that are primarily focused on encrypting files, folders, or whole drives. Encryption is included in certain privacy solutions, which enhances their protection.
SafePic is a free iOS software from Norton Labs that seeks to secure sensitive data in photographs, such as receipts, passports, and other important documents. It collects such photographs, stores them in encrypted storage, and replaces them with a blurred placeholder that can only be un-blurred by you.
Private-Mail extends the functionality of encrypted email by providing an online storage facility for protected files. You can use PGP or a basic password to encrypt files, and you can even share your encrypted files with others. ProtonDrive, a feature of ProtonMail, also allows you to exchange encrypted files, however it is still in beta.
It’s simple to save important files in your secured cloud with Preveil. You simply treat the cloud as if it were any other folder. It’s also simple to share with other Preveil users.
Although Virtru does not provide cloud storage, it does provide you with unprecedented control over your messages and files. Messages can be made to expire, secure forwarding can be disabled, and some attachments can be watermarked. Attachments can also be converted into a protected form that only the receiver can see, similar to a Virtru communication.
IDX Privacy promises recovery if identity theft occurs, as well as payment for associated costs, in addition to all of its identity and privacy protection features. We’ve decided that we can’t test identity theft recovery, but it’s comforting to know that if a thief manages to get beyond the protective layers, you’ll be able to get aid.
Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection has a unique feature that detects social media impersonators. This tool does not request your social login credentials or require you to download a separate app. Instead, it combs through hundreds of social networking sites for profiles that are either yours or appear to be yours. Any accounts that remain after you’ve claimed your legitimate accounts must be impersonators.
Defend the Defenders
Your account password is a potential weakness when using an encrypted email system or a disposable email address manager. You may lose control of your privacy protection if you use an easily guessed password or if a stranger shoulder-surfs your login. Multi-factor authentication can help with this.
The principle is straightforward. Logging with multi-factor authentication necessitates at least two of the following: something you know (such as a password); something you have (such as an authentication app); or something you are (such as a password) (such as a fingerprint). A multi-factor option is available in a number of the privacy products reviewed here, including Abine Blur, Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection, Burner Mail, IDX Privacy, Private-Mail, SimpleLogin, StartMail, and Tutanota.
All of these items work with Google Authenticator or another One-Time Password generator based on time. To get started, scan a QR code issued by the privacy program with your authenticator mobile app. You’re done once you’ve entered the code generated by the app. Your password is no longer sufficient to gain access to the privacy program. A password thief will be unable to enter the code from your authenticator app and hence will not be able to access your account. A Yubikey or other U2F (Universal 2nd Factor) authentication key is also supported by SimpleLogin and Tutanota.
By virtue of its encryption, Preveil also enables a level of multifactor authentication. If you have access to both the email account and a trustworthy device, connecting to your encrypted mail is simple and automatic. Even if a bad guy cracks your email account, he won’t be able to read your encrypted emails or files. You can also revoke your trust if you lose a trusted device.
Virtru, on the other hand, does not require a password and does not support multifactor authentication. Logging into your Gmail account serves as proof of identity. Given this, you’d be wise to use multi-factor authentication to secure your Gmail account.
This isn’t a full list of privacy-cloaking approaches, and these aren’t the only apps for safeguarding your private. All of these apps, however, do their best to keep you safe online from advertising, spies, and predators.
Your Abine Blur Premium subscription unlocks a plethora of privacy-enhancing features and services. Its disguised emails feature automates the process of sending each transaction to a separate disposable email address. You can merely remove one of those masked emails if it begins getting spam, and you’ll know which seller sold you out.
What good is it to encrypt your email when you’re handing the retailer something much more sensitive—your credit card number? Card numbers are also hidden using Blur, and each masked card only has enough value to cover the transaction. No dishonest business can overcharge you or make a false transaction on your card.
You can have as many masked emails as you want, however masked cards come with a small fee to cover Abine’s costs in processing the payment. The number of masked phone numbers is still limited; you only receive one. When you use that masked phone number, however, you may rest assured that it will not be sold to robocallers or text spammers.
It’s only a short step from tracking your disposable email accounts to tracking all of your online logins. Blur comes with a full-featured, albeit simple, password manager. Most password managers reward you for using a unique password for each website; Blur rewards you even more if you use a masked email address for each.
Blur syncs your passwords and payment information across all of your PCs, Macs, and mobile devices in a safe manner. Its browser extensions provide you full access to the program’s capabilities and have an active Do Not Track component that prevents advertising and other trackers from tracking you. Furthermore, Blur explains how it handles your data in clear, basic terms. It’s a veritable profusion of privacy safeguards.
Even if you’re careful about how much information you share online, you can’t avoid leaving traces. Companies to whom you send email should have access to your email account. Your physical address is available to online retailers. Your real estate purchase is a matter of public record. And so forth. Data brokers collect all of this data, group like items together, and create a profile of you that they can sell, use, or abuse. It is permissible to gather public information, but the collectors must also erase your information if you request it. Optery searches the internet for your data profiles and either removes them for you or provides you with the tools to do it yourself.
Optery is completely free if you go the DIY route—it doesn’t even ask for a credit card. You can subscribe at three subscription tiers for a better experience, up to the Ultimate tier, where Optery handles opting you out of hundreds of brokers. Its one-of-a-kind system reveals all the brokers know about you and, when available, provides a direct link to your profile. After the removal has been completed. Optery publishes a report on its work, complete with links to verify that the data has vanished.
Your life may not seem intriguing to you, yet online data brokers find the smallest details fascinating. They collect and compile all of the information they can into a profile that they can sell. Your profile can be used to target adverts or to start a full-fledged identity theft attack if it is purchased. Privacy Bee tracks down brokers who hold your information and demands that they delete it—and the brokers must comply.
Privacy Bee provides more than just personal data protection. It also comes with a browser extension that prevents tracking adverts and other trackers from appearing on websites. Thousands of firms accept it as a way to define your privacy settings. It can remove you from spam mailing lists, credit card prequalification solicitations, and more. It is, however, extremely pricey, and the free tier lacks the complete DIY features featured in Optery.
IDX Privacy brings together a wide range of tools for safeguarding your online privacy. For starters, it searches the dark web for your personal information and notifies you of any breaches through email and within the app. Once you’ve gone over the initial findings, it continues to scan in the background in case there’s another breach. The Password Detective component works in a similar way, looking for exposures in any password you enter without actually causing one. It also makes every effort to delete your personal information from legitimate data aggregation websites.
IDX Privacy also offers secure search using DuckDuckGo, a well-known service. Its straightforward VPN protects your online conversations while also masking your true IP address. It has the ability to prevent web trackers, and its unique Social Media Sentry keeps an eye on any social media behavior that could suggest a hack.
In addition, IDX Privacy provides an identity theft remediation guarantee, which includes a million-dollar insurance coverage to cover lost funds and identity theft recovery costs. Of course, we weren’t able to put this guarantee to the test.
Advertisers are quite interested in what you do on the internet. They can target adverts more effectively the better they can profile you. They may also make money by selling a juicy personal profile. Some trackers have shifted to a technique known as browser fingerprinting as a result of the growth of active Do Not Track systems. And Avast AntiTrack is right in the middle of everything, ensuring that your browser does its job without making you a target.
Your browser sends a lot of data every time you visit a website. To receive the requested pages, it must send your IP address. However, it also provides the browser version, operating system information, and even the typefaces installed on your computer. In theory, this data aids the website in fine-tuning your browsing experience. However, because the browser generates so much data, trackers may quickly establish a unique fingerprint and hence detect you when you visit a different site.
AntiTrack does not block information from your browser because doing so could cause issues with some websites. It simply shakes things up a little by giving each website a slightly different fingerprint. It does cost $49.95 each year, but for certain people who are tracking-obsessed, that’s great.
To receive mail from your throwaway addresses, some DEA providers require you to create a new, immaculate email account, while others feed right into your old inbox. The latter method is more convenient, but it has a drawback. Your email address, as well as other personal information, is already widely disseminated on the internet. It’s hard to completely remove such information from the internet, but Abine DeleteMe does everything it can to limit your exposure.
DeleteMe looks for dozens of information gathering websites on the internet. These websites collect public information in a lawful manner and make it easily accessible. They are also required by law to remove your information if you request it. The opt-out process is as automated as possible with DeleteMe. In other circumstances, though, automation isn’t practicable, thus Abine has a staff of human operators on hand. You’ll receive a report every six months detailing what DeleteMe discovered and what was erased.
Human operators, unlike automatic opt-out algorithms, must be compensated. That’s why DeleteMe, at $129 per year, is more expensive than most privacy services. You can frequently find discounts or special offers for adding a family member.
Keeping your email address private is one strategy to preserve your privacy. How do you accomplish it and communicate at the same time? Instead of using your real email address, SimpleLogin requires you to use an email alias. Without providing your actual email address, you may receive receipts, verify purchases, and even have secure discussions. SimpleLogin is also adaptable. You can order it to generate a random email alias. If you like, you can make your own alias. Even if you don’t have access to a computer, you can create an email alias. Other Disposable Email Address (DEA) services provide some of these features, but SimpleLogin provides them all.
You may also use two-factor authentication to secure your SimpleLogin account. It, like many comparable solutions, supports the usual Google Authenticator style. However, it goes a step further by allowing you to authenticate with a Yubikey or other security key. It’s the most feature-rich DEA service we’ve come across.
After installing Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection, the first thing you should do is fill out forms with your personal, financial, and medical information. The software searches the dark web for breaches that may have exposed any of your personal information, but it goes further than most such scans. It also finds exposes that may include personal information about you. It refines the search when you validate or discard these.
The program also looks for your personal information on reputable data aggregator sites, however it doesn’t try to opt you out automatically as other competitors do.
The last thing you want is a hacker impersonating you on social media, harassing your friends, and attempting to install malware. Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection does not require access to your personal information or profiles. Rather, it combs through dozens of social media sites for profiles that appear to be linked to you. Any leftover profiles may be impersonators once you’ve claimed your legitimate profiles.
Bulc Club, as the name implies, exists to assist you in dealing with the onslaught of bulk mail and other unwanted mail that infests most email inboxes. This free tool allows you to contact with online retailers and other organizations without disclosing your real email address. Simply create an email forwarder (also known as a Disposable Email Address, or DEA) and provide it to the merchant. Your inbox receives mail forwarded to the forwarder. If you start receiving spam, simply delete the forwarder.
Bulc Club, unlike most other DEA services, does not allow you to respond to mail from forwarders. On the bright side, it detects and deletes spam communications before they reach the inbox. Because it’s free, you can try it out and see if it’s right for you.
In the movies, spies communicate through burner phones, which are destroyed after each operation. Burner Mail is an email client that uses the same approach. Its Chrome or Firefox browser extension detects URLs that ask for an email address and offers to replace it with a burner address. Messages continue to arrive in your regular inbox, and your responses appear to be sent from the burner address. If one of those addresses begins to get spam, delete it!
Burner Mail provides you with more options than some of its competitors. You don’t need to create a new email address to get your communications, as previously stated. You can even modify the recipient of a specific burner or assign several recipients to it.
Burner Mail focuses on one task: delivering and managing burner addresses, and it does it well for $29.99 per year.
In a single sense, you get most free webmail companies by paying along with your privateness. It solely is sensible that if you wish to protect your privateness, you may need to shell out money. Not with anyone. The DEA service is currently exclusively free, with plans to earn cash on a feature-enhanced paid version.
As famous, ManyMe differs from many opponents in that it would not require you to register DEAs (which it calls FlyBy addresses) earlier than utilizing them. Begin along with your account identify, append an interval and any phrase, and you have got a FlyBy, one thing like [email protected]
The service does have a couple of limitations. In testing, we discovered that its safety precautions prevented communication with sure electronic mail programs, together with PCMag’s personal. Your essential account electronic mail deal can by no means be modified after the initial signup. And it would not supply two-factor authentication. Nonetheless, you’ll be able to beat the value!
You may locate the information you need without giving any personal information to Google or other big search engines by utilizing the Ghostery Glow private search engine. The Ghostery Dawn browser, which includes all of Ghostery’s other components, defies manipulation by employing a number of high-end techniques that leave no trace. And Ghostery Insights provides you with more information about the websites that are following you.
Ghostery Privacy Suite isn’t very pricey, and the most of its security features are free. Ghostery Insights, enhanced support, and a few capabilities you definitely don’t need are all available to paying users.
In certain ways, the majority of free webmail services are obtained by paying with your privacy. It’s only natural that if you want to protect your privacy, you’ll have to pay money. With ManyMe, that is not the case. The DEA service is now free, with intentions to charge for a feature-rich subscription edition in the future.
ManyMe, unlike many competitors, does not need you to register DEAs (which it refers to as FlyBy addresses) before utilizing them. Begin with your account name, then add a period and any phrase to create a FlyBy, such as accountname.manyme.com.
There are certain limitations to the service. During our testing, we discovered that its security measures precluded contact with some email systems, including PCMag’s. After the initial register, you will never be able to modify your primary account email address. It also lacks two-factor authentication. Even so, the pricing is unbeatable!
Advertisers and other trackers may not believe your internet wanderings are of interest to anyone, but they are. They use the information to target adverts or sell “you” to third parties. Some trackers may even be attempting to steal your identity. Both traditional cookie-based techniques and contemporary browser fingerprint analyses are thwarted by Norton AntiTrack.
You’re good to go once you’ve installed its browser extensions in Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. If you want to see statistics, you can open the app. AntiTrack keeps track of how many trackers it has blocked for each page you visit and lets you see the full details. It has the capacity to send incorrect information to traditional trackers without completely stopping their actions, unlike other active Do Not Track systems. However, unlike some competitors, it does not provide any additional privacy-protection measures.
Safe Me is a free mobile app that improves the privacy and security of your Android or iOS smartphone in three ways. It searches the dark web for sensitive data, instructs you on how to fix any security configuration issues, and guides you through dozens of security awareness courses.
Your progress toward enhanced security is represented by a conspicuous Safe Me Score. Your score rises as you work through the dark web exposure instances, replacing compromised passwords and reporting the issue as resolved. Using the product’s security settings instructions will also help you improve your score.
Each of the more than two dozen security awareness courses includes a brief movie (about three minutes) followed by a series of four or five exam questions. You pass if you miss no more than one question. And each course you pass adds to your total. Running through the activities of this app might assist any smartphone user.
Do you need to submit a travel expense receipt? Simply take a picture with your phone and send it. Do you want to tell your lover about your passport? A picture is useful once more. However, if you leave those photos on your phone, you risk losing confidential information. SafePic, a Norton Labs iOS software, attempts to keep those private photos safe from prying eyes while still allowing you, the authorized owner, to access them.
SafePic scans all of your photos and identifies any that appear to contain sensitive information. It stores the discovered images in encrypted storage and replaces them with a blurred version. You can temporarily un-blur the image for viewing by authenticating with a system like Face ID or Touch ID. The best part is that it’s completely free.