Security secrets

There are a million things you need to look after when it comes to security, and a security suite is just the beginning. Here are our top tips for things to keep you secure:

Use a VPN

Yep, you’ve probably heard this one a lot, so we won’t labour the point here, except to remind you that when it comes to privacy (as well as passing geo-blockers), VPNs are good for what ails ya.

Even your ISP won’t be able to tell what you’re doing online.

Wireless hotspots are dangerous. Encrypt your data

One of the things about public WiFi hotspots is that they’re a great place for hackers to work. Anybody on the same public WiFi network as you can technically listen in on the data you’re broadcasting to the WiFi access point.

The way to stop this is to encrypt all your data before it’s sent using a VPN. Not only will a VPN service foil geo-blocking and activity monitoring, it will also stop eavesdroppers.

Encrypt your texts and your mobile voice chats end-to-end

Signal iOSIf you don’t want even the government snooping on your mobile communications, there are apps that provide end-to-end encryption with no middle man.

On Android, grab Jitsi (video), TextSecure or ChatSecure (text) and RedPhone (voice) from Google Play, all free and excellent. WhatsApp also uses the TextSecure protocol (on Android only).

On iOS, use Signal – Private Messenger or ChatSecure.

Use restricted profiles on Android

If you have a device with Android 4.3 or later, you should check out Restricted Profiles. In settings, head to Users > Add user or profile and add a different profile for each person who uses the tablet.

Not only does each user get their own unique collection of apps and documents (much like on Windows), it lets you lock things like in-app purchases and mature content away from kids.

Enable device tracking and anti-theft on your mobile and tablet

Find My iphoneThere are plenty of apps for device tracking and anti-theft (Prey Anti Theft, Lookout, the many security suits for mobiles), but even if you don’t want to use them you should use the anti-theft services provided by Apple and Google.

On iOS, get Find My iPhone on the App Store, then login here to see where your device is at any time, and lock it if it gets stolen.

On Android, go here and register your device using your Google ID. After that you can return to that page at any time to locate or lock the device.

For almost completely anonymous browsing, use Tor

When it comes to privacy, not even a VPN can beat Tor.

Tor routes your connections through several other computers on the internet, completely obscuring your location from your ISP, the government and the sites you visit.

You can get the Tor-enabled web browser (based on Mozilla) for PC here. Android users can use Orweb: Private Web Browser, available on Google Play.

Filter out nasty sites using DNS

The easiest way to stop your kids from accessing objectionable material, and anybody from accessing malicious web sites, is to use a secure DNS service. You can configure it on individual devices, or on your router to cover all your devices. It works for all your devices.

The most flexible secure DNS options is OpenDNS, which will give you a customisable “feed” – you can choose by category what sites you want to restrict. If you want something simpler, however, we really like Norton ConnectSafe.

You don’t need Enterprise software to encrypt your hard drives

VeraCryptUnless you have an Ultimate or Enterprise edition of Windows, you probably don’t have BitLocker on your system. But there are great free alternatives available that let you encrypt specific files and folders or even your entire drive.

If you have anything sensitive, you should use them. The best is probably VeraCrypt.

AxCrypt is pretty great as well, with simple Windows/File Explorer integration.

Get two-factor authentication for all your apps

Two factor authentification is becoming a real necessity, and you should enable it in every app that lets you – LastPass, Gmail, Facebook, Dropbox, you name it. The downside of doing that, of course, is that you’ll possibly have a whole slew of different authenticators installed.

For iOS, Android and PC, however, we really like Authy which is a great way to consolidate your authentication needs across multiple platforms and apps.

You can even use it on your PC (so you don’t need to grab your mobile whenever you need authentication), and it will sync your authentication tokens across the cloud.

Roll your own VPN with Hamachi or DD-WRT

If encrypted communications when you’re away from home is your goal, you can actually create your own VPN at home and dial back to it when your away.

The best way to create your own VPN is to have a router that supports it. Some routers (like new Asus routers) have it built in, but on other your might have to install third-party firmware like DD-WRT. If you don’t want to mess with your router’s firmware, we really like Hamachi as an easy to use VPN tool.

Stop online tracking easily with browser add-ons

Lots of sites try to track your online activity. Facebook and many ad services are notorious for it. There are great browser add-ons to stop that, however. The best is Disconnect. Install it. Right now.

Audit your Android apps

CluefulApp permissions are something that most of us just ignore. It’s too hard to bother checking. That’s why you should download a tool to do it for you.

Our favourite is Clueful from BitDefender, available from Google Play. It checks your app permissions as well as lists suspect apps based on an online database of known shady apps.

Backup to a cloud sync drive using everyday backup tools

While there are dedicated cloud backup services like Carbonite and Mozy, it’s also possible to make cloud sync drives like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive into viable backup destinations.

It’s actually pretty easy – you install the local app for Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive. This creates a local directory for that service in your User directory. Anything you copy into that directory is uploaded to the cloud drive.

Then you just go to your chosen backup tool and set the backup target as that directory.

Create your own free cloud backup service with CrashPlan

One of our very favourite backup tools is CrashPlan, for one simple reason: it lets you set other PCs (either owned by you or someone else) as the backup destination.

You and your friends and family can create your own cloud network where you backup your most important files to each others’ PCs. Your data never gets placed on a stranger’s server, yet you still enjoy the security of a cloud backup system.

Create a recovery disk easily

One of the most annoying things about new PCs now is that they don’t come with recovery media on a physical disk.

Often there’s a hidden recovery partition, but if you upgrade your OS, it becomes useless. Your best bet is to make a recovery disk yourself, ready for the inevitable crash.

On Windows 8.x, there’s the Recovery Media Creator; just open the Charms bar and do a search for ‘recovery drive’.

One Windows 7, there’s the Create a system repair disc tool, hidden in the Backup and Restore section of the Control Panel.

  • I have been looking for this for months.

    Thank you so much for this great list!!!