Essential Privacy Tools to Safeguard Your Devices

Essential Privacy Tools to Safeguard Your Devices

Being proactive about safeguarding our devices and privacy not only brings peace of mind but also protects us from potential threats.

In the ever-expanding digital era, protecting sensitive information and ensuring data security has become paramount. According to a recent study conducted by MAGNA’s Media Trials unit and data governance platform Ketch, a staggering 74 percent of individuals say that data privacy is one of their top concerns. This concern is pervasive across all age groups, demonstrating that consumers consistently value data privacy more than other ethical issues like equality and sustainability.

In this article, we will explore some essential privacy tools that can help fortify the security of our devices, ensuring our online activities remain private and secure. Whether you’re concerned about your smartphone, computer or other devices, incorporating these tools can significantly enhance digital privacy and protect sensitive data.

Password manager

If you’ve clicked on “Forgot password” more times than you can remember, you’re not alone. That’s where a password manager comes in handy. A password manager is a highly valuable tool that can enhance the security of your online accounts. It provides a secure storage solution for your login information across different websites and online services. With a password manager, you no longer need to struggle with remembering numerous usernames and passwords. It automatically fills in your credentials, making the login process seamless and convenient. Your password database is encrypted and protected by a single master password, which is the only one you need to remember.

Several highly regarded password managers are available that offer robust features and strong security measures, such as multi-platform support for convenience and usability, a powerful password generator, hassle-free device synchronization, secure cloud storage and automatic password autofill capabilities. Some popular ones include LastPass, 1Password, Bitwarden and KeePass, among many others.

Browser extension

If you are a writer or student, you probably have the Grammarly extension on your browser, helping you edit across tabs and windows. A browser extension is a compact software application that extends the capabilities and functionality of a web browser. These extensions enhance and customize browser functionalities.

While extensions are commonly used to enhance the functionality of websites, they can also eliminate undesirable elements on websites. For example, they can remove bothersome pop-up ads or disable auto-play for online videos.

Using a browser extension like uBlock Origin blocks ads, prevents data collection and stops malware. It also allows you to disable ad blocking for secure sites. Combining it with another extension called Privacy Badger, which blocks trackers, reduces the persistence of ads following you.

Encryption software

Encryption software is a special security program that keeps your information safe. It converts your data into a secret code, making it unreadable to anyone without the correct key. This code protects your files, messages and other essential data from unauthorized access, both when it’s stored and when it’s being sent. With encryption software, you can ensure that your information remains secure and private, even if someone tries to intercept or view it without permission.

Encryption software is commonly used for various purposes, including file, email, disk and network encryption. Some well-known encryption software tools are VeraCrypt, AxCrypt, IBM Guardium and many others.

Private Messenger

Encryption does not just keep your files safe but your conversations, too. Private messaging apps provide a secure means of communication by utilizing encryption techniques to safeguard the confidentiality of your messages. Messaging app Signal, in particular, has gained a reputation for its strong commitment to security and privacy. Its prominent feature revolves around its ability to send fully encrypted messages to individuals and groups, encompassing various media types such as text, video, audio and pictures.

Signal App Image courtesy of Signal

In Signal, every contact has a unique security code consisting of 60 digits. To verify the end-to-end encryption with a contact, you can compare and match these two sets of 60-digit codes. Alternatively, you can simplify the process by using a QR code for verification. This verification process can be done through either in-person meetings or messaging exchanges. 

If you are physically present with the other person, you can scan the QR code on their phone by selecting “Scan Code” at the bottom of your screen. After scanning the QR code, Signal will notify you if the code is a match. If it is, you have the option to designate the contact as verified by selecting the “Mark as Verified” feature.

Since Signal does not have any advertising, it lacks the motivation to track its users’ activities. Instead, it relies on funding from grants and private investors, including notable contributions from Twitter’s former CEO, Jack Dorsey. In a blog post in December 2022, Dorsey announced his commitment to providing a grant of US$1 million per year to Signal. This grant is part of his broader initiative to support open internet development through a series of planned grants.

In addition to its strong encryption, it offers features like app-specific locks, blank notification pop-ups, face-blurring tools and disappearing messages.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Data loss prevention (DLP) is a security measure designed to detect and prevent unauthorized or improper sharing, transfer or utilization of sensitive data. It allows organizations to keep an eye on and protect important information across different systems, cloud services and devices. It also helps ensure compliance with regulations like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which are designed to protect data privacy and security.

The market offers a wide range of data loss prevention tools that can effectively safeguard your valuable data. Among the most reputable options are Symantec Data Loss Prevention, Digital Guardian, Forcepoint DLP and several other noteworthy solutions. 

Firewall

A firewall is a security device, computer hardware or software designed to protect a network from unauthorized access. It analyzes incoming and outgoing network traffic and applies predefined rules to identify and block any potential threats or unauthorized connections. Essentially, the firewall acts as a gatekeeper, ensuring that only legitimate and safe network traffic can pass through while keeping out any malicious or unauthorized activities.

Several reputable firewall solutions are known for their effectiveness in network security. A few examples of well-regarded firewall options are Palo Alto Networks, Cisco Secure, Check Point and many more. 

Ultimately, implementing these privacy measures acts as a powerful shield, effectively safeguarding our devices against unauthorized intrusion and preserving the confidentiality of our personal information. Furthermore, it is essential to stay on top of software updates, even if they may seem annoying at times. These updates play a pivotal role in fortifying our devices by addressing vulnerabilities and rectifying security flaws. By proactively adopting these measures, we create a safer environment to interact with the online world. 

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