5 easily installed utilities for improving your online privacy

You can't go far in the world of tech news without running into a headline about data breaches or hacks. Shore up your defenses by installing these five apps.

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We write a lot about security at TechRepublic, and with good reason: Hacks, leaks, and breaches are a constant threat. As security firms patch holes new ones emerge, meaning it's only a matter of time before your information is leaked on the web through no fault of your own.

When we wrote about privacy protection software in 2015 the internet was a vastly different place. Less than two years later we've seen a massive rise in cybercrime that is unlikely to slow down, making protecting yourself more important than ever.

Staying safe on the internet means defending yourself against any and all scripts, plugins, applets, and pop ups that may appear. Here are five apps that can do just that.


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Everything you do online is tracked--that's just the way of the modern web. Sites use tracking to target ads, generate analytics, and track users in the name of a better UX, but they also result in a long, detailed paper trail of all your online activity.

SEE: Why EU watchdogs say Windows 10 is still a major privacy concern (TechRepublic)

Ghostery is a browser plugin that disables tracking functionality of most any kind and it's super simple to use. It's even available on Android and iOS as a standalone browser.

If you want to be sure targeted ads, location data, personal info, and other details are inaccessible to the places you visit Ghostery is for you.

Tor browser

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When it comes to anonymity on the web there's no better tool than the Tor browser. This self-contained browser uses The Onion Router, a secure way to redirect web traffic to a number of sources before routing it to its final destination. The end result is completely anonymized traffic--think of it as the money laundering of the data packet world.

You don't need to be a nefarious hacker, government dissident, or drug smuggler to make good use of Tor. Installing the browser is a good idea for anyone who requires complete anonymity from time to time.

You don't need to be tethered to your desktop for this level of privacy either. Tor offers browsers for iOS and Android too.


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While most tech professionals know better than to click on a banner ad, that wisdom isn't universal to all computer users. It doesn't matter which camp you're in--installing an adblocker is a good idea if you want to maintain your privacy and anonymity.

Ad blockers like Adblock and Adblock Plus are both able to sift through the junk, but be warned: Many sites have developed tools to detect adblockers and block traffic unless the site is whitelisted. Ad blocking isn't a catch-all solution for privacy but it is a way to minimize the clutter. You just have to use your judgement on who to block.

Privacy Badger

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Privacy Badger is the Electronic Freedom Foundation's take on a web privacy browser plugin. It's actually based on Adblock Plus's code, but is designed to go further by automating the whole blocking and filtering process.

SEE: Big data privacy is a bigger issue than you think (TechRepublic)

When you install Privacy Badger it starts building a log of all the domains that feed you content on a particular website. If it starts to see similar ones popping up, which indicates tracking, it blocks them automatically. The more you use it the cleaner your browsing experience will be, at least in a perfect world.

HTTPS Everywhere

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Also from the EFF, HTTPS Everywhere forces secure connections on any website which has the capability. HTTPS is almost necessary on the modern internet, but many sites which support it still default to unencrypted HTTP.

HTTPS Everywhere will add one more layer of security to your browsing experience, and all it takes is a couple clicks to install.

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