In order to stay safe online, you must first protect your privacy. It may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.
Here are five free privacy tools you can use on any platform and sync across different devices.
If you want to stay safe online, you absolutely must use a secure and private browser. Consumer apps like Edge and Chrome just aren’t up to standard. Brave is though.
An open-source Chromium-based browser, Brave has a ton of built-in privacy features. For starters, it automatically blocks trackers, ads, and cross-site cookies that are used to monitor your online activities. Brave also blocks fingerprinting, which prevents advertisers and data collectors from identifying and tracking you.
Additionally, Brave changes all connections to HTTPS. It’s a secure protocol (more secure than HTTP) that uses strong encryption, making it harder for hackers to target your device. The browser also automatically bypasses privacy-invading AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) sites, or rather unAMPs each page.
Unlike some proprietary software, Brave has no performance issues. In fact, it’s faster than the vast majority of browsers. And because it’s Chromium-based, it can easily integrate any extension available in the Chrome Web Store.
Moreover, it is very easy to sync Brave across different devices. When using the app on the desktop, tap the three small bars in the upper right corner, select To sychronize from the drop-down menu, and scan the QR code with your smartphone.
To download: Brave for Windows | Mac | Android | iOS
You can’t expect to maintain your privacy if you use ordinary messaging apps because they collect a staggering amount of data. For example, Facebook Messenger collects information about your location, contacts, purchase history, device data, and more.
But you can keep your privacy if you ditch your favorite instant messenger for Signal, an open-source app developed by the nonprofit Signal Foundation. All communications made through this software are end-to-end encrypted with the powerful Signal protocol, and user privacy is protected at all times.
Signal does not use invasive scripts, trackers or anything like that. In fact, the application does not collect any data. He knows nothing about you; it just needs your phone number to work. In short, Signal is as secure and private as it gets.
Other than that, Signal works like any other messaging app. You can use it to send text messages and disappearing messages, call other people (you can make video and audio calls), share images and videos, etc.
To sync the mobile version of Signal with the desktop version, open the app on your smartphone and go to Signal Settings > Paired Devices. After that, tap the plus sign, or Pair a new deviceand scan the desktop QR code with your phone.
To download: Signal for Windows | Mac | Android | iOS
No privacy model is complete without a good virtual private network (VPN). But there are several problems with VPNs. First, there are so many providers that it is difficult to choose the right service. On top of that, the best VPNs are paid, and the free ones aren’t good enough or can’t be used on multiple devices.
Windscribe is probably the only VPN service that ticks all the important security and privacy boxes, while being free to use on multiple devices (10GB of data per month if you confirm your email address, which is good enough).
Basically, this VPN software has quite a large network of servers in dozens of different countries and cities, uses military-grade AES-256 encryption, does not track or identify users in any meaningful way, has a port forwarding feature and can block domains and IP addresses.
Windscribe’s clients are minimalist and very intuitive, so even people who have never used a similar application should have no problem getting used to it. All you have to do when you want to turn on the VPN is choose a server location, hit the “on” button, and that’s about it.
To download: Windscribe for Windows | Mac | Android | iOS
4. Avira Password Manager
If you use the same password everywhere, a single breach is enough to compromise all your accounts. At the same time, no one should expect to remember dozens of different passwords. This is exactly where password managers come in.
A free password manager that you can use on any platform was made by Avira, the German cybersecurity company known for its antivirus software. Avira’s password manager can be synced across different devices, generate strong passwords on its own, and store user data both locally and in the cloud.
Avira’s product has several powerful privacy-enhancing features, such as touch and face ID, two-factor authentication, and bank-grade encryption. It has rather strict data policies, which means that the company never sells your information to third parties. It should be noted that there is also a paid version of the product, but the free version has all the important features anyway.
Avira Password Manager offers dedicated apps for Android and iOS platforms. It doesn’t have a proper desktop client, but it has extensions for all major browsers. So, if you download Brave as recommended, you can add Avira to the browser through the Chrome Web Store.
To download: Avira Password Manager for Android | iOS | Chrome | firefox | Edge | Opera
We are all being watched in one way or another, whether by Big Tech or the government. Some people have no problem with this, but those who do realize how important it is to use a secure email provider, instead of relying on Gmail, Yahoo Mail and other similar services.
ProtonMail is one of the best secure email providers. With the free version, you get an email address, 1 GB of storage, and can receive up to 150 messages per day. That should be more than enough for most people. If you receive more than 150 emails per day, you should probably unsubscribe from a few newsletters or change some app settings.
But what separates ProtonMail from other email providers? All messages are end-to-end encrypted, the platform uses a zero-trust security model, has two-factor authentication with hardware security keys, and has built-in PGP support. Additionally, ProtonMail is based in Switzerland, which has some of the strictest privacy laws in the world.
More importantly, you can use ProtonMail on any device. There are apps for both major mobile platforms and a web client that you can access from any browser.
To download: ProtonMail for Android | iOS | the Web
Boost your privacy to stay safe
In order to implement an appropriate online privacy strategy, you need to take a multi-pronged approach; one that works on different devices and platforms.
A secure browser and email application, with the right password manager and encrypted email provider, can serve as the basis for this strategy. Add a good VPN into the mix, and you become nearly impossible to track.
In the meantime, be sure to familiarize yourself with common online privacy myths and why they can be so detrimental to your overall security.