People know how to keep their property safe and secure; they have locks on the doors to their homes and on their cars, they have PINs to help protect their money and banks to store it securely. However, not many people know how to keep their information safe online. Many people do not consider how easy it can be for others to track their private data, from Facebook messages, to Google searches, to shopping transactions. Internet users feel they are anonymous because their interactions are virtual. That may be true on the surface, but in reality all usage of the internet is recorded.
A program called HTTPS Everywhere is available as an extension for browsers that encrypts the user’s information like their username and password. It is a simple plug-in for Firefox, Opera, and Chrome, and is even available for Firefox on Android, it is easy to use and is almost unnoticeable when operating (cnet.com). HTTPS Everywhere “provides a baseline of safety” for users of the internet (EFF.org). It was developed by the Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to fix websites that use unencrypted and unsecure HTTP to call websites and information from the internet to the computer (EFF.org). It is not an end-all solution, however, as not all sites can be rerouted through HTTPS leaving them still unsecured.
A more complete way to protect one’s online data is with HTTPS Everywhere and another program called TOR (The Onion Router), which was developed by the U.S. Navy to provide secure digital communications. Now, it is used by average citizens, journalists, and law enforcement alike. TOR works by using relays to bounce the user’s information, thus hiding the information and adding layers of privacy (EFF.org). These relays rely on volunteers’ computers to act as a relay point, which anyone can do. TOR can work with standard browsers but it also has its own specially-developed browser to run TOR most effectively and simply. TOR, like all encryption, is better when more people are using it, as it is easier to hide in a forest full of trees than it is in to hide in a garden. However, some people are concerned about TOR slowing down their internet, because of the amount of relays the information goes through. Others worry about NSA and hackers breaking through TOR’s encryptions, but most problems have been identified as user error or the use of the TOR plug-in instead of the TOR Bundle.
These are just two of the most popular systems for internet privacy online, and have the best reputation with experts and users alike (digitaltrends.com, howtogeek.com). New developments have also been added to the table, such as the portable operating system Tails, which will encrypt data from a USB or even SD card when connected to a computer. Tails wipes all data the user puts onto the internet. As internet users want a safer browsing experience, developers will continue to create better and better tools to protect online privacy and anonymity.