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Internet Privacy

One of the biggest threats to individual freedom is the threat to the privacy of our communication. Unscrupulous individuals, private agencies and government agencies are seeking to invade our privacy on every level, from identity theft to government intrusion into our private email. Whether our communication is business or personal, what individuals communicate to each other is no one else's business.

As individualists we do not rely on any other individual or agency to provide what we want or need, and this includes the privacy of our communication. The first step in maintaining your privacy is a privacy attitude. Your life is yours, and your personal life is no one else's business and if you want to keep it private, you should not share it with anyone other than those you know will respect your privacy and honor the dignity of your person. If you share your privacy with just anyone, you have no right to expect anyone else to honor your desire for privacy.

Resources for Internet Privacy

Everything you do on the Internet is available for anyone with the resources to monitor or even record. There is no way to prevent what you do on the Internet from being available to anyone's observation. Where you go on the Internet, what you read or download there, or write or post to any site, all your email, both what you send and what you receive, and all your business transactions are vulnerable surveillance.

[Some of the very real threats against your privacy are described in this article: "The Invasion of Your Privacy: By Almost Everyone."]

There are methods for protecting all of your Internet activity, but you have to take the measures yourself. Here are resources for protecting the privacy of all your Internet activity. Some of these resources are free, but obviously will require more work on your part. Some of the "pay-for" resources are excellent, but require you to reveal personal information about yourself, which is itself a potential compromise of your privacy.

[At the end of this article is a list of many resources available for maintaining your privacy on the Internet. The Independent Individualist is not associated with any of these resources in any way.]

Private Surfing—Proxy Servers

Proxy servers offer a means of accessing WEB pages anonymously. Using a proxy server, when you enter a URL of a WEB page, or click a link on a WEB page, the URL of the page you want to access is encrypted and sent to the proxy server. The proxy server decrypts the url and fetches the page. Some proxy servers will encrypt the fetched page (or offer a choice) before sending it back to the user's browser.

In addition to your browsing information being available on the WEB, your IP address and Host name are available to every server (WEB site) you visit. Since you never actually visit a site using a proxy server, that information is not available to any WEB server.

Proxy servers are used for many purposes. They are used extensively by people trying to access WEB pages in countries where the government blocks URLs. They can also be used to access pages that would otherwise be blocked or filtered by a firewall, for example. Here, we will emphasize their use as a means of maintaining the privacy of your Internet use.

The most secure proxy servers use SSL (Secure Socket Layer) which in addition to encrypting the URL and the WEB page content (if they do) encrypts everything else. SSL is used by all secure pages that involve financial transactions for example. You can tell if a WEB page uses SSL by looking at the URL which begins with "https..." and not the usual "http." Most browsers display some kind of symbol indicating the current page is protected with SSL, usually in the lower right-had corner.

There are literally hundreds of free proxy servers on the Internet. You can find most of them by simply doing a search for proxy server in any search engine. Here are some pages that continually search and list proxy servers:

Public Proxy Servers — Continually tests and lists proxy servers and lists them by domain, rating, country, access time, % of uptime, online time, and latest testing.

Proxy 4 Free — Continually tests and lists proxy servers and lists them by domain, rating, country, access time, % of uptime, online time, and latest testing. [Note: Apparently the same list as precious, but no connection is noted.]

fastproxynetwork.com — Quick list of active free proxies.

Stay invisible — A daily update list.

Free Proxy Risks

There are some risks with using free proxy servers. Some unscrupulous individuals and some government agencies will set up free proxies called "honey pots." They are used to gather information about people, especially those who use proxy servers. This is rare, but if you are using free proxies, it is a good idea to change the one you use frequently.

Email

No aspect of your Internet use is more vulnerable to privacy violation than your email. Not only can your email be viewed by anyone with the resources, which is just about any software programmer in the world, but you email address is available to spammers and a host of others who might be interested in your personal information. Email is also the most common source of computer viruses and other computer corrupting programs. Here, we are going to emphasize keeping your email, especially the content, private on the Internet.

Encryption

Email encryption is the easiest way to secure the privacy of your email content. There is free email encryption software available that provides the same kind of security that SSL (Secure Socket Layer) does for WEB pages. One company offering free (for personal use) SSL encryption and verification is COMODO.

This kind of email encryption involves two aspects of security. The first is a digital "signature" which verifies to receivers that the email is truly from you. The second aspect is encryption of the email content.

The kind of encryption COMODO, and other SSL type encryption schemes use is called Public Key Infrastructure or PKI—you may be familiar with the method as PGP. This kind of encryption involves two keys, your public key, which anyone who wishes to send you an encrypted message must use, and a private key, which you must keep secret and use to decrypt any messages encrypted using your private key and sent to you.

Notice, in order to send an encrypted email, your recipient must also have the encryption software and you must know their public key. While very difficult, it is possible to break key type encryption if there is determination to do so, and there is always the possibility that a private key could be compromised.

Still, we highly recommend email encryption if no other privacy methods are used.

There are some other free email encryption methods, such a A-LOCK, which requires both senders and receives to have the program. There is a free version to try. (They also have other encryption software.)

Send is an online encrypted email utility. Accounts are free, and both the sender and receiver must have an account. Set up is very easy. It is very simple to use, but may have problems in some email clients. Send is an SSL site.

Crypto Anywhere is a feature-rich free email encryption service and software package. May be difficult to set-up in some environments.

If you are a "techy," you can download free versions of PGP here.

Commercial Privacy Packages

The following are all software packages or services that offer various Internet privacy and security features. The advantages of buying are they are usually easier to use, come with some support, and are more thorough. Some of these services offer a "free" version, which usually means there will be advertising.

EnigmaGram — EnigmaGram is a totally unique messaging and Internet privacy service. It is not email, and uses a proprietary encryption method that does not use keys and is unbreakable. Received messages can be accessed at any time, but are never stored on the users computer, and never exist on the Internet or any server except in encrypted form. The messaging service offers a wide range of features and is very simple to use.

No personal information of any kind is required either to open or register an account, and their servers are offshore. No special software is required. The service works perfectly in most modern WEB browsers. You can use the service free for a month. Prices for registered accounts range from $20 a year, with minimum storage to $100 for 3 years with maximum storage. EnigmaGram is an SSL site. [Note: EnigmaGram is absolutely advertisement-, pop-up-, spam- and virus-free.]

Hushmail — Hushmail is an online email service, (like Yahoo or Gmail) with total encryption. Hushmail offers four grades of service. A limited free version; Premium $34.99/yr; Desktop $49.98/yr; and Webmaster $84.97/yr. Hushmail is an SSL site.

Secure Tunnel — Secure Tunnel offers several different privacy/security packages in price ranges $9.95 a month (99.95/yr) to $17.95 a month (179.95/yr). Has full support. Secure Tunnel is an SSL site.

SafeMessage Primarily designed for corporate use, Safemessage provides complete control of email message privacy and security. Price is $99.95 per year for individuals; corporate rates vary.

Ultimate Privacy — Ultimate Privacy offers a number of plans: $24 - 3 Months; $36 - 6 Months; $48 - One Year; $58 LIFETIME. You have access to all their products so long as your subscription lasts. Their products include: Anonymous E-mail, Anonymous Web Surfing, Proxy Management, Proxy Leecher, Hidden Folders, Private Chat, File Encryption, Usenet Tunnel, Secured File Storage, Disposable NYMS, Cleanse your PC, and Anonymous Snail Mail.

There are many other resources available for securing your privacy and security on the Internet. These seemed some of the best and most reasonably priced.

Resource List

The following is a comprehensive list, though not an exhaustive one, of additional privacy resources available on the WEB.

Some other commercial offerings:

AltME Safeworld.
Have to install software.
There is a free version (commercial version planned) or server version:
Small 20 users $20/mo
Medium 50 users $40/mo
Large 100 users $75/mo

VitalLock
Primarily for storage.
"$24.95 a year for life????"

Lockbin
Free, but it's email uses codeword encryption.

Privacy Harbor
"Secure" email service.
Private servers, so only others using those servers can send messages.
SSL is the only encryption.
Free, $4.95/mo, 9.95/mo

KeptPrivate.com
Private email server.
$9.95 for 3 months, 100MB (store), SSL.
Can use Blowfish encryption as well--requires password transfer.

MUTEMAIL
(expensive, but better than some.)
Private server, SSL, offshore.
50 Mb of disk space:
- US $9.95/month (billed monthly)
- US $49.95 for 6 month subscription (15% discount)
- US $69.95 for one year subscription (40% discount)
50 Mb of disk space for each (5) email account (250 MB total):
- US $29.95/month (billed monthly)
- US $169 for 6 month subscription (5% discount)
- US $299 for one year subscription (10% discount)

OneTimeMessage In development. Email server highly encrypted.
Presently "free."
Registration gathers some personal info.

Connectinprivate
Offshore private email server.
"Keep your mail private by enabling email encryption.
Options range from commercial to military grade encryption (4096 bit) for outgoing secure email messages. Secure email messages can be automatically signed with your public encryption key, allowing others to send encrypted email messages to you."
[Apparently not SSL]
$12.95/mo (Personal), 24.95/mo (Professional)

elephantdrive
Backup/share files.
SSL & encryption.
Requires software installation.
Requires lots of personal info.
$4.95/mo to 299.95/mo

mymail
SSL is only encryption, apparently.
Free, personal $9.99/mo, business $???/mo.

Anonymous Internet:

Perfect Privacy
Totally encrypted proxied Internet use. Not cheap but excellent.
Monthly Payment (1 month): Standard Price $24.95.
Quarterly Payment (3 months): Standard Price $49.95.
Semi-annual Payment (6 months): Standard Price $89.95.
Yearly Payment (12 Months): Standard Price $149.95.
Two years' Payment (24 months): Standard Price $249.95.

Anonymizer
Enjoys excellent reputation. There are three products.
Software must be installed.
Anonymizer Total Net Shield? 1 Year Subscription 99.95
Anonymizer Anonymous Surfing? 1 Year Subscription 29.95
Anonymizer Nyms? 1 Year Subscription 19.95 (Only protects email.)

The-Cloak
Free and pay-for version for addition features.

AnonyMouse
Free proxy server. (Has fairly unobtrusive popups with every link.)

PROXIFY
Free proxy server. (Pay for version removes adds, provides more features.)

Anonymous Web Browser
Free and pay-for subscriber version.
1.99 for the first month followed by a charge of 19.99 each other month of active subscription.
Each subscription is active for 12 months unless canceled.
[Not sure what the USD amount would be.]

ShadowSurf
Free proxy server.

Guardster
Free proxy server. Can subscribe to get additional SSL protection and no adds.
$7.99-1 month
$19.99-3 months
$39.99-6 month
$69.99-1 year

HideMyAss
Free proxy web browsing. Also offers special VPN, which literally encrypts all internet use, including email.
Servers worldwide. Prices for VPN:
$11.99-1 month
$50.66-6 month
$78.66-1 year

megaproxy A different kind of proxy called Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Is also SSL.
Individual account $9.95 (USD) for a 90 day subscription (Non-commercial use only)
Business LICENSES SUBSCRIPTION COST
10 $299.50 / 12 months subscription
25 $723.75 / 12 months subscription
50 $1397.50 / 12 months subscription
100 $2695 / 12 months subscription
150 $3892.50 / 12 months subscription
200 $4990 / 12 months subscription
250 $5987.50 / 12 months subscription
500 $9975 / 12 months subscription

Private Proxy
$9.95 a month or $24.95 for 3 months.

—Reginald Firehammer (01/29/10)