The world is a different place now; we need to protect our privacy. Not just political candidates. All of us. And we can keep our online identities from being stolen and misused—at little to no cost.
Here are some tips to help secure your identity while online.
Most of your online identity is tied to an email address. Often the same address is used for password reset requests, communications, and to validate your identity when you create accounts.
Protecting your email address and the passwords that are associated with it is the key to protecting your identity.
If data is stolen from a business or social media entity that you have subscribed to, your email address and the password you used for that service will be sold on the black market.
Criminals who obtain email address-password pairs from a data breach will use this information to attempt to log on—as you—to your bank, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, etc. You can imagine the resulting damage.
For this reason it is very important never to reuse passwords, and to use passwords that can’t easily be “cracked”.
Rule of thumb: if you can remember the password it is not secure enough!
Unfortunately, almost any password you can remember can be cracked. A password manager such as LastPass enables you to create one master password that unlocks your “vault,” where you can safely store secure passwords that the program will generate for you.
We suggest using at least 16 characters and include all character types (letters, upper and lowercase, numbers, and symbols) for your passwords. Dashlane is another great option.
Programs like LastPass and Dashlane work and communicate across all platforms.
The next step is to use an encrypted email service for any private or sensitive communications and for account logins. Email content that is encrypted before being sent in an encrypted form can not be read by an intruder who gains access to a mail server.
A good and free way to accomplish this is by setting up a free account through ProtonMail. The free accounts have their limitations but will cover many people’s needs. ProtonMail is encrypted end to end, and is based in Switzerland, protecting you with Swiss privacy law.
In order for this program to work and provide end-to-end encryption, you need to have both the sender and recipient using the platform.
Text and Voice Communications
For phone calls, text messaging, video chats, end-to-end encryption is also important to make sure no one is listening in. Wire seems to be have the best features for most users.
Wire allows locking the app separately from the rest of the device and phone calls generally have greater call quality and reliability. If Wire doesn’t suit your needs, Signal is another great option.
Social Media and Online Memberships
For social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook, use two-step or two-factor authentication. This means that a second identifying step needs to be taken when logging into a social media account. This is typically done via sending a code over text message to your phone number.
We also recommend not using security questions. If someone knows you well enough, they may know the answers.
We suggest using WPA2-PSK (AES) protocol. It is very important to change the user name and login on your router. Both of them. Do not use the manufacturer defaults! Use the password manager mentioned above to generate a secure password.
Another thing you want to keep private are your browsing habits. Your online life is nobody’s business but yours, but unless you use a VPN (virtual private network), it is very easy for a third party to monitor your internet use.
A VPN encrypts your data as it moves through the internet, and hides your IP address and other identifying information. ExpressVPN is a good option.
For added security, ProtonVPN offers a feature called Secure Core, where data is moved through their data center a second time, having already been encrypted.
If you are worried about your phone number being compromised as you are doing work and have a need to talk with people you may not know or trust, there is a solution.
Google Voice will allow you to get a phone number in the area code that you desire and point it to your regular number. It works seamlessly. And, should that phone number become compromised, you can remove it and assign a new number while protecting your regular phone number.
If you are using a Mac there is one more suggestion. A program called Little Snitch. Once setup, it will block and notify you of any unusual inbound traffic. It will not let the traffic through unless you approve.
For little or no cost, you’ve just vastly improved your safety online.
It’s certainly cheaper than a stolen identity, and it’s always easier to address security upfront than it is on the back-end if you experience a breach.
Finally, if you are involved in any political work—for a candidate or as an activist, these steps aren’t just for your protection. They are necessary to protect your friends and allies. You don’t want a compromise on your end to hurt them. So stay safe and stay protected.
Written by Unhackthevote