7 USER-FRIENDLY TOOLS TO PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY ONLINE

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass — Image by © Images.com/Corbis

No communication is 100 percent secure. But, activists and journalists can be their own watchdogs when it comes to protecting their privacy online. For the past two weeks I have sought to look into tools which can be used to protect digital surveillance.

Activists in South Africa have raised concerns that state intelligence structures may be monitoring their activities. This is what commentator Jane Duncan terms as the ‘rise of the securocrats’, where South Africa’s security cluster is becoming increasingly powerful, secretive, and involved in political affairs of the country. Secrocrats is also defined as a military or police officer who holds an influential position in the government; an advocate of the close involvement of military and police officers in government.

While they have established instances that this could be happening in the country, civil society is playing a significant role to challenge the government on this matter.

Thanks to Right2Know  for challenging the state on calling for a new Inspector General for Intelligence (IGI) – the public protector of the spies – to be appointed urgently. R2K is a democratic activist driven organization, also known as a umbrella social movement under which are non-governmental organizations addressing issues that affect citizens such as social justice, electricity, labour issues, human rights, etc. Its mandate is to defend and advance the free flow of information necessary to meet people’s social, economic, political and ecological needs.

What does ‘monitoring’ mean?

According to Right2Know monitoring also used interchangeably as ‘surveillance and intelligence gathering’ is when state bodies are collecting information on the activities of an organization or individuals. There are several kinds of surveillance such as monitoring public websites such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook; news media; attending public meetings openly or posing as a member of the public during gatherings, people’s phone calls, electronic mails or Internet usage-sometimes called signals interception or “bugging”.

Nonetheless the list is endless but electronic surveillance is becoming more a popular as many people are establishing communication online more than in person. Electronic surveillance is hard to trance however, it is vital for journalists and activists to have mechanisms to protect their communication.

I have established seven user-friendly applications that can be used to build more private platforms online. These tools are Signal, TextSecure, RedPhone, MiniLock, Meet.Jit.si, Mailvelope and SpiderOak.

Signal

Signal  is a free and open source app that replaces your regular Short Messaging Service (SMS) messenger app, allowing you to send and receive SMS messages as normal, except that when texting other Signal users in your contact list, all messages are automatically encrypted. What does this mean? Encryption and decrypting content requires a complex password- known as a key-for authentication. Very often, this key is held by the company providing services such as email or  web hosting, so they have full access to your data. Governments can compel the company to hand over your information, or try to back into its servers to get direct access.

When texting non-Signal users you are given the option to invite them to Signal, or can simply send a message as normal via (unencrypted) SMS. Note that in the past TextSecure allowed users to send encrypted messages over SMS (as opposed to the internet), but this feature was removed from TextSecure due to lack of interest, and is not present in Signal.) Signal is works like TextSecure and RedPhone as Open Whisper Systems released Signal app for iOS that combines the functionality of TextSecure and RedPhone, making it a compatible app for iPhones.

This means that existing Android users will find TextSecure app automatically updated to Signal, while RedPhone users are advised to uninstall the app (and install Signal instead, if you do not already have it installed).

TextSecure and RedPhone

TextSecure and RedPhone are Android apps developed by security outfit Open Whisper Systems. They provide secure encrypted text chat and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) voice call capabilities respectively. VoIP (voice over IP) is an IP telephony term for a set of facilities used to manage the delivery of voice information over the Internet.It involves sending voice information in digital form in discrete packets rather than by using the traditional circuit-committed protocols of the public switched telephone network. These two tools are regarded among others as the best (and arguably the best) options available for keeping your conversations private on Android.

TextSecure is easy-to-use. It looks like WhatsApp but encrypts texts, pictures, videos and audio. It is an open-source and provides end-to-end encryption. Open source can be defined as the code used to write computer software, usually privately-owned, meaning that whoever developed it has sole access to it. Open-source code is available for anyone to see and analyse. While it might seem counter-intuitive, this is widely considered to be the best way to make software secure. It helps ensure it does not do anything nasty, like providing a ‘back door’ for intelligence agencies, and to be discovered and patched up.

End-to-end encryption means only you know the key, and your communications stay private. To the company transmitting your messages, or anybody trying to intercept them, they will look like a long string of random numbers and letters. Third parties can know who you communicated with, but they cannot see your messages.

RedPhone encrypts all voice calls end-to-end over the internet, so you only pay for the Wi-Fi or data. It is free and open source.

miniLock

MiniLock is a free and open source, web plug-in that lets users encrypt and share files- including videos, email attachments and photos. You upload and send your file using a unique ID, so it can be downloaded by the person you share it with. miniLock uses your email and secret passphrase to generate a miniLock (identity) ID. miniLock IDs are small and easy to share online.  Anyone can use your ID to encrypt files to you, and you can encrypt files to friends using their miniLock IDs. MiniLock uses modern cryptographic primitives to accomplish this securely.

Meet.Jit.si

Meet.Jit.si helps secure video calls and instant messaging. It secures voice and video calls, video conferences, instant messages and file transfers. It runs directly in your browser, encrypting calls and chats end-to-end. For a desktop version, try Jitsi for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and Android. It is free and open-source (reference).

Mailvelope

This is a web browser add-on online privacy tool, providing end-to-end email encryption. Mailvelope  can be configured for almost any web-based email provider, including Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook. It is free and open-source.

SpiderOak  

SpiderOak was SpiderOak was founded by Ethan Oberman and Alan Fairless as a zero knowledge private backup program. In 2013, SpiderOak began developing Crypton, “a JavaScript framework for building applications where the server doesn’t know the contents it’s storing on behalf of users”.

SpiderOak is a US based cloud sharing and storage tool. Like Meet.Jit.si, SpiderOak is also accessible through an app for Windows, Mac and Linux computer platforms, and Android, N900 Maemo and iOS mobile platforms. Unfortunately it is not an open-source but, some components of it are. But, it assists users to back-up files, sync between devices and share files privately. It fully encrypts your data end-to-end, so even the company cannot see your documents. SpiderOak costs US $12 a month (approximately R150- R200).  In a July 2014 interview, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden recommended SpiderOak over Dropbox, citing its better protection against government surveillance.

As intelligent agencies intrude on people’s information and communication, especially online, it is worth noting that it is hard to detect electronic surveillance. But, using available applications to protect your privacy online is better than no protection at all.

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MY BUCKET LIST (My list in a bucket)

Bucket list

Where have I been all this time, considering that I have not really thought about making a bucket list?

Well, I have been inspired by so much to start creating one. Perhaps to mention, my friends: Kimon, Paul, Florian and Thomas, who are also my German teachers are doing a lot more to inspire me, if not to influence me.

We have been talking about travel for the last few weeks and great places and a lot of possibilities when it comes to exploring as young people. Who does not really want to play a little at their early 20’s?  I want to. Maybe a little bit of fun can do.

Our conversations are shifting to many things at once and, I have been doing a lot of thinking. I guess I am up for a challenge and I have a few in mind.

First things first, I love travelling, learning, exploring and being adventurous. A little bit of elevation really makes me feel good.

Here is  my initial first bucket list:

And oh! just for clarity purposes, a bucket list, that is according to google, is a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.

  1. Probably and most probably, the first achievement I would like to accomplish and  to put into my bucket list is to graduate as a Doctoral student one day. PhD
  2. Travel has got to make it in my list. I would like to travel to the the following cities: Tokyo, Lagos, Beijing, Toronto, Harare, New York, London, Berlin, Amsterdam and  Paris; at least in a few coming years of my life. travel
  3. My mind is aligned to writing. I do not only want to write. I want to be a great writer. And, it takes patience, passion and hard work to nurture this craft. I do a lot of writing  in my mind but that has to change because I would like to write a book one day and this I add to my bucket list. books
  4. I am already living my life but I want to live it to the fullest because life is worth living. But how would I achieve this? I roger doing all the thinks I love like skating, hahaha, teaching subjects I love like English and Mathematics, serving my community through giving back and making a good impact in so many people’s lives; writing until my ink runs out and being the best I can be! life
  5. The list is endless. I think its important not to spoil it and not to break my bucket.

Next think you know, I will be making my “anti-bucket” list inspired by a friend of mine by the name of Tin on My Scribbled Journey. Many thanks for such funny thoughts and great blogging ideas. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

MY WORLDVIEW (MEIN WELTBILD)

So think as if your every thought were to be etched in fire upon the sky for all and everything to see, for so, in truth, it is. –Book of Mirdad.

worldview

 

Thanks to John Kehoe for making me realise the ability the brain has in his book titled MIND POWER into the 21st century.

The discovery was amazing.

I may not know all the greatest theories in the world but, what I know for sure is that: A single unaided thought hasn’t much power, through repetition the thought can become concentrated and directed, and its force can be magnified many times. The more the thought is repeated the more the energy and power it generates, and the more readily it is able to manifest itself.

You probably are wondering how it applies in reality. Kehoe points out an illustration: “picture magnifying glass through which the sun’s rays pass. If the magnifying glass is moved about from spot to spot, the power of sun’s rays is diffused and not apparent. If, however, the magnifying glass is held still and focused correctly at the proper height, those same rays become concentrated, and that diffused light suddenly becomes a powerful force enough to ignite a fire”.

So it is with our thoughts.

Pay attention to your thoughts and direct them accordingly. Your life is entirely of your own making, so look at how you are living.

You claim you want financial abundance, yet you are constantly bemoaning your lack of money and how expensive things are.

Perhaps you want change, it will not happen because you want it badly or simply by working hard. Hoping for something different will not have any effect.

You will always remain where you are unless- and it’s a big unless you- you change your thinking.

Your mind creates your reality.