Irwin Electronics Weekly Digest
Who’s tracking you?
by David Irwin on February 5th
Okay, so you have Anti-virus and Anti-malware software installed, that’s great. Assuming, of course, your running Windows or OSx. These help to protect you from hackers around the world that want to break into your PC and steal your identity. But what about companies like Google and Microsoft?
At least Google tells you they collect data, what they collect, and how they use that data:
Some people refuse to use Google because of this, yet they’re using Microsoft Windows and possibly the Edge browser. By default Microsoft collects much of the same data, and more. Google is an advertising company after all. The more information they know about you, the more relevant the ads you will see displayed. Companies pay Google big bucks to get their ads in front of people that may be interested in their products. Ever search for a pair of shoes, then check your favorite news site and see an ad for the same shoes you were just looking at? That’s that company’s advertising dollars at work.
So you say you only use a secure browser like Comodo or Tor, and Duck Duck Go is your search engine? More on these later. But you’re running Microsoft Windows. Microsoft has been quietly building a profile on you for years. They know more about you than you could imagine, and until recently they didn’t even tell you they collect data, what they collect, and what they do with it! Check out this story from The Verge:
Here’s what Microsoft has to say:
And just a little more from BGR if you’re interested:
Mac users think you’re safe? Think again:
Linux is all about Open Source, built by a global community, and the various distributions clearly state they do not collect data. So, Linux users are safe, right? By default, yes. But did you install the Chrome browser? Do you have Google set as the default search engine in Firefox? Google has many ways to git ya. With that in mind, I’d much rather see an ad for AMD’s latest Ryzen CPU than a feminine hygiene product. But then again, I don’t see ads in my browsers.
Let’s briefly discuss Windows 10’s privacy concerns. Microsoft has been heavily criticized for their lack of privacy in Windows 10 as you read above. Most of the privacy settings are there, but by default are set to report everything to Microsoft. How do we put a stop to this? I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. These are
I want to talk about browsers and search engines, as these affect every computer, every operating system, everyone.
The big two browsers, outside of Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer and Edge, are Chrome and Firefox. Nearly every 3rd party browser is based on one of these. Comodo has a browser based on each with additional tools installed to increase the security. Comodo Dragon is based on Chromium and Comodo Ice Dragon is Firefox based. Wait, what’s that Chromium? Chromium is the Open Source browser upon which Google Chrome is based. It’s the same browser as Chrome, and supports the same extensions. It simply does not have any Google installs. Love Chrome, but not Google? Chromium would be the browser for you. If you’re really concerned about the security of your browser, Comodo’s browsers would also be fine choices.
For those wanting extreme privacy protection, the Tor browser would be the answer. Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays all around the world. It prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.
So we’ve seen the Windows Operating System Gives Micro$oft your information, and how to prevent that. Next we see the web browsers themselves report on you, and have given a few alternatives. You’ve got that locked down, great. Now you type something to search in your new secure browser. If Google is your search engine, you guessed it, they got ya.
Google does provide an opt out option. Check out this story from The Onion:
I did say it was from The Onion did I not?
In all seriousness, there are other search engines which promise to not collect data. The most notable is Duck Duck Go. Although personally I find nothing beats Google for the most relevant search results. Yes Google, I bow to your supreme power, and come before you on bended knee. I can’t help it. I use Gmail for my business and personal email. I use Google Voice for my VoIP phone. At some point I have used every Google product available. They make powerful tools available for free. If it helps my customers find Irwin Electronics, I’m all for it!
Another option to help maintain privacy is a VPN connection. While some are available for free, such as Windscribe, most charge monthly or annual subscriptions. As they should. When you use a VPN service, you establish a secure, encrypted, tunnel connection to one of your VPN providers secure servers. All Internet traffic is sent through that server to the net. Anyone trying to trace back to you will get no further than that server. Tech Radar has an excellent review on the best VPN Providers:
Yes, you can use any web browser and search engine you choose with a VPN connection. You can even use it to access websites that may otherwise be unavailable. Say, for example, you’re traveling abroad and want to watch your favorite TV show on Hulu. You may find Hulu is not available in that country. Once connected to your VPN, you can select a U.S. based server and you will have access.
Hopefully I’ve raised a little awareness, answered some questions, and given you some direction to maintain your privacy online. As always, if you have further questions, or need assistance, we are only a phone call away at 480-382-4761.