A VPN or Virtual Private Network allows a user to connect to the internet through a third party. Your connection to the third party is encrypted and your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will only see a connection only to the third party. Your internet is not encrypted after leaving the third party unless the website uses https. Most commercial VPN’s keep logs of where you visit and will bow down to law enforcement.
We recommend Riseup’s VPN but in no way guarantee your safety on the net. Riseup has been true to their word thus far, activist friendly and has been around a long time. It is our understanding that they do not keep internet logs and do not work with the authorities ever.
If you want something a bit more private, then there is Tor and the Tor Project. Tor acts like a multilayered VPN with more levels of encryption. Instead of relying on one entity to secure your privacy, you are directed through three; two of which do not know who you are and the other not knowing what you are sending or receiving.
Tor encrypts your connection to the internet. The first person in the network – Party (A) – receives your request but cannot read it because your connection is encrypted (under several layers like an onion). Party (A) can see your IP address but doesn’t know what site you are visiting or any information you are inputting. Party (A) then sends the “information packet” to the next person in the chain – Party (B). Party (B) has no idea who you are because they do not receive your IP address. Party (B) is instructed to give the anonymous and encrypted information packet to Party (C). Party (C) is the “Exit Node” to the internet. Party (C) does not know who you are nor do they know the identity of Party (A). Party (C) takes the information packet from Party (B) and removes the final layer of encryption. Party (C) then sends the anonymous information openly across the internet.
Here is a summary of Tor’s network:
Your Computer –> Your ISP sees your connection to Party (A) [encrypted]
Party A – Knows who and where you are but not what you are sending or receiving.
Party B – Doesn’t know who you are, where or what it is sending or receiving for you.
Party C – Doesn’t know you or Party A or your locations but as the final “Exit Node” they know what you are sending and receiving across the internet.
From here your information is open on the internet as it travels around and connects to the website. The website you are visiting doesn’t know your identity (unless you tell them i.e. login). The website only sees Party (C) visiting their site.
In addition to Tor, we recommend a FireFox plugin called Https Everywhere. This plugin was put together and made possible by the respected activist group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). If a website you are visiting uses https encryption, the plugin finds the encrypted pages so you will connect to https everytime. Sometimes these pages are hard to find or intentionally hidden on a website, which is one of the reasons the Https plugin is important. With Https Everywhere you are fully encrypted (end to end) and the plugin can be used with Tor in the Tor Browser Bundle (plugin included). End to end encryption means that Party (C) the “Exit Node”, anyone snooping in between the connections, and/or the website you are visiting will only see an encrypted message.
If you like Tor, you may like Tails. Tails is an “amnesic” program which works independently of a computer’s operating system. Tails does not use the computer’s hard drive, which allows a person to use a computer without leaving a trace of any sensitive documents, browsing history and eliminates the possibility of data recovery after shut down. For more information visit:
PGP or Pretty Good Privacy is an encryption program used primarily for email and whole disk encryption. Commercially, many companies use PGP to protect trademark secrets. PGP costs around $200 for a life time license. It is our understanding that some cracked PGP versions have been found on the internet. PGP 6.5.8 can sometimes be found for free and used for non-commercial purposes. It is a very old and light version that cannot handle some large but standard encryption keys used today. PGP encryption has never been cracked even in activist court cases.
GNUPG – is the free open source version of PGP and is trusted by many activists. GnuPG keys work with PGP keys and vice versa.
PGP and GnuPG may take some getting used to but should be used for encrypting ALL email. PGP offers a whole disk encryption for your computer also.