Here’s the world according to Mac360’s staff of experienced Apple customers and technology dissidents. If everyone is out to get you, paranoia is the right attitude to have. And these days, yes, indeed, everyone is out to get you.
Search for padlocks on Google; browse around to different websites that sell padlocks, search Amazon for padlocks. Over the course of the next couple of weeks you will be stalked and tracked across the interwebs with ads for… insert drum roll here… padlocks. If you’re not fully paranoid, what can you do?
VPN vs. Tor
One of the problems many of us who browse throughout the interwebs have is our identity is known to all those who would track the unsuspecting minions and members of the general browser group of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, et al. We’re being tracked to the point of stalking and one way that is accomplished is via our IP address.
A virtual private network, a VPN, can help obfuscate who you are to all those advertisers tracking you incessantly while you browse. It’s not just the IP address, though. Cross site tracking cookies abound, despite Apple’s desire to curtail them in Safari for macOS High Sierra. What helps is a good browser ad blocker which can also block most of the tracking scripts.
Tor is good. Tor is a free bundle of utilities and an open– albeit somewhat slow– network that helps to hide you from traffic analysis employed by Google, Amazon, and others (but not Mac360; we do not use ad trackers, analytics trackers, or even a cookie; we’re that clean). Tor has a whole bunch of useful utilities to help you traverse the interwebs without being tracked. Or, at least, not easily tracked.
The Tor Browser Bundle is the place to start. It features access to Tor, Vidalia, Torbutton, and a version of Firefox preconfigured to work with the aforementioned tools to help prevent trackers from, well, tracking you.
The Tor network is a group of volunteer-operated servers that allows people to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Tor’s users employ this network by connecting through a series of virtual tunnels rather than making a direct connection, thus allowing both organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy. Along the same line, Tor is an effective censorship circumvention tool, allowing its users to reach otherwise blocked destinations or content.
Obviously, Tor isn’t on the Chinese government’s list of approved browsing options. The way Tor works is straightforward. You connect to the Tor network through an app and browser, then your connection is bounced around various anonymous, distributed networks to get where you want to go. Those steps make it difficult for you to be tracked by anyone thanks to multiple layers of anonymity.
This is Tor, but describe another way.
Tor is free software for enabling anonymous communication. The name is derived from an acronym for the original software project name “The Onion Router”. Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network consisting of more than seven thousand relays to conceal a user’s location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. Using Tor makes it more difficult for Internet activity to be traced back to the user: this includes “visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms”. Tor’s use is intended to protect the personal privacy of users, as well as their freedom and ability to conduct confidential communication by keeping their Internet activities from being monitored.
Tor. The Onion Router.
Tor is free and works on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Mac users merely need to download Tor to get started, but the organization has other tools which can help obfuscate your online presence even more. What about iPhone and iPad? There are options. Search ‘tor’ in the iOS App Store search section and you’ll see more than a few. iOS has plenty of ad blockers and VPN options, too. I recommend starting with the Onion Browser on iOS. It doesn’t have all the same features as the Mac package, but it’s a good start.
Remember the basics. First, everyone is out to get you and your personal information. Second, if everyone is out to get you, paranoia is the right attitude to have. Tor helps to reduce the tracking, therefore reduces paranoia.