The internet is not the anonymous place it used to be. Website owners are tracking our steps and clicks, some countries censor certain websites and others actually spy on their people. If you want to keep your privacy, this article will give you an overview and examples of the most important tools.

Browser Privacy

HTTPS Everywhere

HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension for Firefox or Chrome that encrypts your connection the many major websites using the HTTPS protocol.

Install HTTPS Everywhere

AdBlock Plus & EasyList

AdBlock Plus blocks banners, video ads and pop-ups while browsing the web. It is available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Android devices. EasyList is a filter list for AdBlock plus that includes the majority of advertising networks as well as tracking scripts.

Install AdBlock Plus

Ghostery

Ghostery tracks over 1,400 trackers and displays the ones currently active on a website for you. You can then decide whether to block or not to block these ad networks, behavioural data providers or web publishers. Ghostery is available for all major browsers as well as iOS.

Install Ghostery

NoScript / NotScript

NoScript for Firefox and NotScript for Google Chrome are two extensions that let you decide whether a website can execute JavaScript, Java, Flash or other plugins. This will protect your computer from being harmed by malicious scripts on websites.

Install NoScript for Firefox

Install ScriptSafe for Google Chrome

VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and basically extends a private network via a public network like the internet.

HotspotShield offers a both a free and a paid VPN solution. The VPN software is available for Windows, Mac OS as well as android and iOS. Besides protecting your IP and surfing securely and anonymously, you can also access websites with country restrictions like Netflix.

An alternative to HotspotShield is Hide My Ass (HMA), a huge VPN service that also offers free web proxies. I’ve been using HMA for several months now and I’m very happy with the services offered. Being a paid service, connection speed is very fast and reliable.

Check out HMA Pro VPN

Internet Anonymization

Tor

Tor basically bounces your internet communication through several networks all around the world. So, instead of directly connecting to a certain web service like a website, your computer will first connect to many others around the world and therefore anonymize your connection. Due to this, connection speed can get really slow.

Tor is freely available here and works with Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

Instant Messaging Encryption

Pidgin and Pidgin OTR

Pidgin, in combination with the Pidgin OTR (Off-the-Record) plugin, offers an encrypted instant messaging service. Besides encrypting messages, the Off-the-Record plugin also checks if you are sending the messages to the person intended. Besides its own messaging technology, Pidgin also supports many IM services like MSN, ICQ, Facebook chat and such.

Please be aware that if you use services like Facebook, MSN, and ICQ via Pidgin, your connection won’t be securely encrypted due to the provider being able to see what you’re talking and to whom.

Download Pidgin

Download Pidgin OTR

File & E-Mail Encryption

GPGMail and GPGTools

GPGMail and GPGTools brings encryption, decryption as well as signing for files and emails. Simply define a certain recipient as well as a pass phrase and your e-mails can be sent securely.

Download for Mac OS

Download for Windows

DNS Servers

If your government or internet provider blocks certain websites, you can simply circumvent this by locally changing your DNS (Domain Name System) server. This will give you access to most blocked websites. The most commony used alternative DNS server is OpenDNS.

Final words

There are many ways to make your internet connection secure and keep your privacy. Some of them might cost some money, others can possibly slow down your internet connection. In the end it’s up to you to decide how much privacy is important and how much freedom (in terms of speed and usability) you are willing to give away.

I would personally recommend to use AdBlock Plus, NotScript and HTTPS everywhere in addition to an alternative DNS server. When using a public network make also sure to use a VPN service to stay safe.

Which tools are you using? Do you have any questions? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

Cover Image courtesy of Flickr