The internet isn’t what it used to be. Of course, it’s 2019, so the internet is an indispensable tool for everything from serious work and research all the way down to playing video games with friends, but there’s no doubting that as time has passed, our freedom online has been sacrificed almost completely.
Today, web traffic is tracked by hundreds of companies interested in selling our information to advertisers, ISPs create logs of the websites that we visit and, in some cases, governments lock out our access to certain portions of the web.
Interference is coming from all sides, and for believers in a free and open web, that’s something which causes pretty significant alarm.
More than that though, the internet has, increasingly, become home to sophisticated hacking attempts, enabled by the light security measures that most people take when going online.
Fixing these issues might sound like a headache, but in reality, it’s as simple as downloading a couple of extensions for your browser of choice and firing up some software.
In this guide, we’re going to share with you the completely free ways you can enjoy a safer, more secure and sometimes faster internet. Let’s go!
Download a Free VPN
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are fast becoming an utterly essential part of the way people access the internet. At present, 25% of all internet users make use of a VPN every single month, and it’s a percentage which is only growing year on year. But what is a VPN?
VPNs are, effectively, a secure, anonymous pipe to the internet. By routing your traffic through different servers and IP addresses around the world, it becomes exceptionally difficult to track and snoop on your browsing habits.
For this reason, VPNs are used for everything from accessing geo-locked content like the BBC iPlayer or Hulu to downloading free software through blocked websites. For more general purposes though, a VPN allows you to enjoy the internet free from government and ISP (Internet Service Provider) spying, as well as protecting you from web-based hacking attempts.
The best free VPN at the moment is arguably HotSpot Sheild. With over 650 million users, it supports Mac, iOS, PC and Android, boasts excellent speeds, has a responsive customer service department and offers 500MB of data free per day. Quite simply, it’s a no-brainer.
Install Anti-Tracking Extensions
Have you ever noticed those eerily specific adverts that you get online? No, your phone isn’t listening to you as you sit around, talking to your friends. Instead, every aspect of your life online is being tracked and analyzed, before being shared with advertisers who target you directly.
A prime example of this kind of data collection is Facebook, which has algorithms which track what you do, what you watch, what you like, how long you hover over a button and so much more. In total, Facebook can classify roughly 52,000 traits of its users. Spooky, right?
It doesn’t end when you leave Facebook either, because tracking cookies will then follow you from website to website, collecting information on what you’re browsing. Oh, and did we mention that almost every website employs these tracking cookies?
Needless to say, it’s pretty worrying stuff, which is why we recommend you take the time to download an anti-tracking extension for your web browser.
These extensions will block any tracking cookies as you make your way around the web, effectively making your invisible to advertisers. No more eerily accurate advertising and no file on you sitting somewhere with more detail in it than even your loved ones know.
The best examples of anti-tracking extensions are Privacy Badger, which was developed by the Electronic-Frontier Foundation, and Ghostery, which shows you the trackers following you and allows you to opt in, should you so wish. Both anti-tracking extensions are free for Chrome, Opera or Firefox users, so you’re certain to find it on whatever bit of software you use.
Switch to a Privacy-Focused Search Engine
Ever wondered how Google manages to offer all of its amazing software for free? The answer is because you, the customer, are the product. The real customer is advertisers, who helped Google turn over $39.27 billion in Q4 of 2018 alone.
Your search data and activity online are logged by search engines like Google to sell on to advertisers. Yes, every search you’ve ever made by Google is noted down somewhere. It’s a scary thought, and reason enough to jump ship.
Recent years have seen alternative, less invasive search engines launch. The best of these is DuckDuckGo, which boasts a detailed and transparent security policy and saves no personal data, so your search histories can never be traced back to you. It’s a simple, easy change you can make which can help ensure a less invasive web browsing experience.
Got any tips for making the web more secure? Let us know in the comments below.