Yahoo just had a breach which affected 500 million users and their private data. Numerous hacks, leaks, and breaches have become everyday news.
This got me thinking:
- How can I, as an everyday user of several platforms, devices, services, and storage options, find a way to be more secure when using apps and services of different companies?
I, like most of us, want to retain a certain amount of privacy. This means that I wouldn’t want others to gain access to my texts, my daily activities on the internet, or any of my several thousand photos. (We all remember that one in 2014 which rhymes with ‘The Happening,’ right?)
This applies to both companies (like Apple, Facebook, Google, etc.) as well as governments. The possibility of a hack is pretty high in many cases. At present, Evernote just released information of a hack as well. It is believed to have affected around 50 million users.
This simply proves that a solution other than cloud storage needs to be instituted.
Luckily, there are already a large number of different apps out there that let you gain control of your online behavior and storage possibilities.
This post will introduce you to three options in the following categories:
- Browser Usage
- Photo Storage
1. Messaging – Signal
Since WhatsApp changed its course from championing user privacy to sharing user data with Facebook, several apps have tried to set themselves up as the new standard including apps like Wickr, Gilph, and ChatSecure.
For getting started with online privacy, the mobile app Signal by Open Whisper Systems is a really good way to find an easy and manageable introduction into the world of privacy.
The endorsement by Edward Snowden is also worth mentioning.
Free and available for both iOS and Android, Signal lets its users send high-quality texts which are safe from watchful eyes through their end-to-end encryption as well as the ability to delete messages at specified intervals.
It even allows multi-platform usage, letting you move from mobile to stationary messaging by linking your app to a desktop client.
The downside of Signal is its dependency that everyone around you uses it as well, as you won’t be able to message friends who have not yet downloaded the app. This is not only restricted to the Signal app but is a problem with private messaging apps as a whole.
Converting friends and family to use Signal will, therefore, be a necessity, but it shouldn’t be too hard if major leaks keep happening every week as is currently the norm.
2. Browser – Aloha
Another hot topic regarding online privacy is, of course, browser usage.
More specifically: Which browser should use if you want to get rid of the ever-looming danger of surveillance?
Some browsers store info about your activities online which could end up in the wrong hands of companies, governments, and hackers.
That’s why it is important to make use of a secure and private browser. By doing so, it allows for a good night’s sleep knowing that you’ve made life harder for those wanting to get ahold of your data.
Aloha is a secure browser that comes with a free built-in VPN service. VPN can, for some, be quite a hassle to set up and ensure it’s working properly. But Aloha takes care of this by doing it automatically.
VPN is a tool that helps redirect traffic from your device to any given website through tunneling protocols and encryption. This makes it a lot harder to gain information about your online activity.
Aloha also lets users ‘lock’ certain tabs with password or TouchID. This way you’re not only safe when surfing online in a digital manner, but you’re also safe if someone gets ahold of your phone wanting to gather information in a physical manner.
Aloha doesn’t store any of your activity and wouldn’t be able to share any as “there isn’t anything to share.”
Aloha is currently only available on iPhone (for free) through the App Store. An Android app is under development.
Before we get to #3…
Clouds have become a necessity.
Storage is an area which I think is often overlooked with regards to privacy. I have a need for my photos to remain within a sphere of privacy. As is standard today, most photos simply move to the cloud for storage. This happens because mobile phones can’t handle the huge amounts of data storage that is needed today.
Especially in this age of Instagram, memes, and everyday camera usage, clouds have become a necessity for the proper functioning of our daily lives, but we’ve seen them fall victim to scandalous hacks, leaks, and breaches.
Several people have been exposed: Celebrities as well as every-day citizens. But cloud usage hasn’t declined; part of that reason is due to its integration into mobile devices.
This is in part because of mobile pricing. Most people with a 16gb iPhone are desperately struggling for a means to free up storage space. Even the 32GB iPhone has trouble with providing enough storage. That makes the cloud a requisite that’s hard to avoid.
In that respect, I’ve found an app that serves my need of providing storage space as well as avoiding cloud usage.
3. Photo Storage – Planky
Planky is an offline, real-time photo compression tool.
It provides high-quality photos at low storage and claims to reduce file size of up to 95%. This basically translates to A LOT more photo storage available.
It requires no cloud connections as everything is stored locally on your own device. This means you save the cost of upgrading your cloud subscription when it exceeds the free limit.
You also avoid the thought of not knowing who is possibly using your data. And, if you want to share those precious photos, Planky uses a lot fewer data to upload and send photos. It has an easy-to-use interface, which makes a somewhat tedious and confusing task very user-friendly.
The only downside to this app is the photo batch size when compressing if you are in desperate need of storage. This issue does resolve itself, though, as more and more photos get compressed, batch size increases exponentially.
Planky is free for iPhone and iPad on the App Store. Unfortunately, it has no immediate solution for Android users.
These are three apps to help you get started with online privacy. There are tons of more apps out there, each with their ups and downs. A common denominator is that they’re trying to make you and your data safer in this world of technology.
If you have any tips, tricks, apps, or anything similar for staying private and secure on the internet, please feel free to share with me in the comments below.
Here are few hand-picked articles that you should read next:
- How do Hackers Hack your Passwords?
- 3 Ways to Check if Your Gmail Account Has Been Hacked
- Online Virtual KeyBoard: Secure Passwords from Keyloggers