Internet Censorship and Surfing Anonymously
By Dark Politricks
Sometimes it feels like the good old days of the Internet and being anonymous have passed – and you would be right.
With restrictive and snooping laws being passed all over the world, firewall filters wrapped around whole countries, Twitter users sued for Re-Tweeting libellous claims and big tech companies working hand in hand with the biggest security forces on the planet there really is no way to escape.
The recent Edward Snowden and PRISM story has got everyone up in arms as they realise that America has basically been spying on all of us for years.
Whether you live in the USA or not the NSA has basically been trawling through our personal data without a warrant for years.
If you watch the recent interview with the prisoner Julian Assange he also claims Google is just a privatised version of the NSA and collects as much information on you as possible.
“It is collecting as much information about people as possible, storing it, indexing it, and using it to create profiles of people and then selling that to advertisers and others.”
“Those are the same procedures that security agencies go through. That is why the NSA has latched on top of what Google is doing.”
Ever since the 90′s the US intelligence agencies have been inserting backdoors into your home computers so that they can bypass secure encryption and access your PC without your knowledge.
This makes the massive privacy and security concerns in their new operating system Windows 10 even more frightening.
You should watch the following video and read this article for more information on all the security holes and privacy concerns that are set on by default when you install Windows 10.
The default settings and applications with Windows 10 have numerous security flaws, privacy problems, keystroke monitors installed and turned on by default.
This video guide will help you fix the problems in a simple way.
With Google taking seed money from the CIA and helping the US intelligence agencies improve their search algorithms and Microsoft buying up Skype, which used to be a way for people to talk securely over VOIP, there are now major doubts about Microsoft’s reasons for buying this loss leading company.
Why build in backdoors to popular applications when you can just buy out the company and have access through the front door to all the traffic and conversations users have by using the application.
However despite the gloom and talk of cut off switches and the blocking of social media in times of trouble, there are ways to minimise your “Internet footprint”.
Remember the saying from those who don’t seem to care about this invasion of privacy
“If you are not a serious criminal or terrorist then you shouldn’t have anything to fear” - A quote by idiots
Do you really want private naked photographs or videos of you and your girlfriend passed around the offices of GCHQ and NSA for everyone to have a giggle. The workers are still human believe it or not. Even if your not into sending pictures of your junk to strangers or partners online you still might have a love note, a private business deal or idea that you want to keep quiet and not intercepted by the NSA.
Who knows what back-doors the big tech companies like Microsoft, Google and Facebook have allowed the US Government to install into their code and do you really want some nerd in Langley delving into all your data and Internet history just because you mentioned words like terrorist or bomb in an email or message?
However if you’re a reporter daring to expose the state crimes of the USA or the axis of war then you’re probably being watched through your webcam right now whilst your iPhone’s microphone is being channeled into GCHQ or Langley for analysing – tough luck!
The best defence against this is a bit of masking tape covering the webcam! If you don’t think they do this then you haven’t read a lot about modern techniques MI5 and others used to trap terrorists by reverse engineering their mobile phones so that they could not only track their movements but listen to their conversations through the microphone speaker on the mobile.
From a users perspective the Internet contains a myriad of security and privacy issues which if the user is not aware of could cause potential problems on all manner of levels.
For the privacy conscious person who wants to be able to surf the net without worrying about someone looking at the content they have visited in real time or at a future date e.g your work, government or Police then there are a number of issues they need to be concerned about.
When even the head of the CIA, America’s most powerful spy, David Petraeus gets sacked due to technical snooping we know that no-one is safe.
However knowing how he was caught is very helpful for everyone. The more ways you know of that help the Government and Corporations spy and sell your data for money the better. You can then decide whether to take the risk or take measures to protect yourself.
This is an update of an older article and with the Internet constantly changing the ways you can be tracked this article will also constantly change as newer technologies come out.
For example with a few lines of code you can find out details that can be used to identify your computer, even down to geo-graphical location.
Visit this page to get the info programmers can easily get from you: Get publicly accessible details from your IP address.
As with most web content if you wanted to be 100% anonymous on the web it will be pretty hard to do.
If you want to stay totally anonymous you should probably move underground somewhere as there is always a satellite up there somewhere and with Google Earth you cannot even escape commercial companies any-more! So moving to the woods to live in a hut without electricity or broadband is not even a safe option, let alone a comfy one!
However there are various forms of tracking that you should be aware of so that you can limit the risks to you whilst surfing or using the Internet or phone. These don’t have to be to hide from the Government but could just be to prevent your personal details from being sold to advertisers or having horrible popup boxes show when you close a window.
This is not a comprehensive list but it is a start and it is also one that is constantly changing as technology changes. When I originally wrote this tablets (iPads etc) were not that common. Now they are just another place to accumulate your browsing history and a tool to be used against you if you are ever in that unfortunate position.
This is how the head of the CIA was caught out. He wasn’t sending the emails but he was saving them as a draft under an anonymous Google account and then letting his mistress login and read them.
This way there was no Internet trail as when you send an email the mail is routed from server to server and the IP addresses of the mail servers it traveled through are recorded in the headers of your mail.
Check it yourself. If you use a mail client find the option to “View All Mail headers” and then view an email that has been sent to you. At the top you should see the details of the route that the email took which should show the originating mail server, the receiving mail server and the IP addresses of any it traveled through in-between.
For example here are some of the headers from a spam email sent to me earlier.
Return-Path: <[email protected]> X-Original-To: [email protected] Delivered-To: [email protected] Received: from client-126.96.36.199.speedy.net.pe (unknown [188.8.131.52]) by myserver.domain.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id C488B59538B for <[email protected]>; Mon, 9 Dec 2013 23:48:13 +0000 (GMT) Message-ID: <[email protected]> Date: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:48:01 -0500 From: "Home Lifestyle Report" <[email protected]> User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10.9; rv:24.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/24.1.1 MIME-Version: 1.0 To: [email protected]
So I can still find out some useful information such as (sometimes) the senders real email address if they host their own server and other mail server addresses that the email passed through on the way to your own account.
Usually hackers use email to spread viruses in this day and age by attaching files to the email and tricking you into opening them. If you get an email from your best freind with an attachment, check the headers, it will tell you whether someone else sent the email and just changed the “From” name to one you trust which is easily done.
This is a common trick to try and get you to open files attached to the email that because of your admin privileges (if it’s your computer) could install nasty software on your PC and possibly use your own address book to spread the virus on to others.
Even if your friend HAS sent the email, remember that they themselves might have been hacked, and remember your bank is never going to send you an email requesting you go to a page (that may look exactly like your bank) and ask you to re-enter your PIN code and card number and other personal details that could be used in identity and bank fraud.
Remember every time you visit a website every file that makes that page up (images, HTML, scripts and CSS) is downloaded into temporary files on your own PC before being rebuilt by your web browser into a usable format. This is you browser cache and it makes re-visiting commonly visited sites quicker as if you already have the files it saves time re-downloading them. However the larger this cache gets it can slow down your surfing if you don’t clear these files out regularly.
There is also software out there that takes seconds to rip off any site. I could just point it at the HSBC bank website and it would make me a copy of their client side HTML within minutes. I could then buy a domain with the name HSCBC in it somewhere so it looks “semi” legit and then send spam emails asking people to re-enter (or change) their security details as a “safety” precaution.
Remember any real email from your bank would never ask you to do this and just because the name of your bank is mentioned in the address e.g
www.security-update-hsbc.com (made up site) as opposed to www.hsbc.com (real site) does not mean that the bank OWNS that domain.
Phishing relies on people not checking email headers, or trusting that their friend or bank would never send them dangerous content by email. However you should never rely on that and remember that HSBC will own their own mail servers so would never send you an email from hotmail, gmail or yahoo.
However the head of the CIA was caught out by NOT sending the email. The reason was due to that all invasive “cloud” we keep hearing about that stores everything on multiple servers owned by big companies like Google allowing you to use multiple devices to access the same information without actually having to have the data you want on your machine.
When people use this draft save only technique they are trying to avoid this trail. However you are defeating yourself in the first instance by:
a) Using an online mail server such as Gmail or Hotmail. All the data including drafts are saved on THEIR servers i.e “in the cloud” so if they disable your account, or are served with a warrant there is a good chance your draft emails will be accessed and read along with your sent, read and junk emails.
b) If you don’t hide your origin when signing up for a throwaway Gmail or Hotmail account (you have to fill in a form to get one in the first place) then they will still get your IP address unless you have gone through known secure Proxy servers or used someone else’s computer without their knowledge (e.g an open Wi-Fi router). Do a scan on your PC / Phone now and see if there are any around you. Open ones won’t have a lock symbol next to them.
c) Remember that Microsoft computers store all deleted emails, web history and other files even when you think they have been deleted on your computer. Here is a very old article from 2000 which shows even back then Microsoft was hiding emails, web searches and other files from users. The scripts and batch files you might find if you search for “Microsofts Really Hidden Files” probably won’t work anymore but they probably have no need for such old methods especially when people are buying computers and defaulting them to backup everything to the cloud.
How to bypass
Don’t use “cloud based” systems that are well-known to have links with the US security services (Microsoft and Google have – as I have shown and both these mega companies are actively helping the US spy agencies with their own huge database).
Read this article on why we are sleep walking into a surveillance society by consent. Then ask yourself whether using any of these big Internet companies software is safe, especially as they seem to gobble up smaller companies by the minute.
It may pain you but by using any Internet-based email service it means recording the data as it leaves the device you write your message on, storing it on a computer system you have no control over and by signing the Terms and Conditions you have allowed them to “own” your data and use it for advertising and God knows what else.
Plus nothing leaves the Internet, you can view cached versions of Google (or any site) all the way back to the 90′s on this site: http://archive.org/web/web.php
If you don’t want your own website to appear on this search engine that archives everything forever then they are pretty good about obeying the robots.txt directives so you can put this in your robots.txt file (read about it here) to prevent that site indexing your site.
# alexa archiver User-agent: ia_archiver Disallow: /
To be really sure you can block the IP 184.108.40.206 in your .htaccess file or at your firewall if you wanted to stop them crawling your robots.txt file at all.
Also use throwaway email addresses if you can or even create your own with some basic scripting (not hard if you can be bothered) and put it on a server in another “more freedom friendly country” and use proper proxies to access the webpage front end to send your emails (the part about proxies come later on).
The need for these disposable email systems sprung out of the need for a quick email address to sign up to a site or set up an anonymous blog or anything else that you don’t want all the spam emails that follows. I also have found with some basic hacking you actually use them to send AND receive email – it all depends on how good the programmer is.
Either do a search for “Disposable Email Addresses” to find the latest ones or check out guerrillamail.com or Mailinator however a word of warning – there are lots of disposable email accounts out there who knows who really owns them? If you do use them make sure their URL starts with https:// (this means data is encrypted from your PC to their server).
As for Internet files you can use “cleaner” tools like CCleaner to remove cookies, old registry files, old programs, start up applications and Internet history easily. Plus you should never use Internet Explorer anyway, as there are a myriad of more security conscious browsers such as FireFox out there which are much better on the privacy front as they are not tied into the operating system of your computer.
Using the Cloud to backup your “Secure” data
Storing anything on anyone else’s computer means you don’t have control over it. Therefore cloud based storage systems should be avoided for anything personal or secure. Even phones nowadays have settings to automatically back up your numbers, texts, photos and videos to iCloud or other cloud servers.
It might be good if you ever lose your computer or phone but remember that if the cloud based backup server is in the USA then they are probably sniffing everything inputted into it anyway.
This is the same for Facebook, Google, Tumblr and any other social media site. As soon as you put anything on that site THEY own it and if they are served a subpoena or warrant to hand the data over there is nothing you can do.
How to bypass
It may pain you but just don’t use Facebook, Google, Twitter or any other social media system if you are going to put anything dodgy on it.
The same goes for dropbox and any other web based storage center that may have to hand over your data to the authorities one day.
If you must keep files secret then keep a portable external hard drive at home and backup all your files to that device before hiding it. At least that way you have control and ownership over the backed up data and you are the only person who knows where it is located.
Using your computer hardware to spy on you
There have been many cases lately where computers and phones have been used against their owners to spy on them.
Last year there was a big outcry about iPhones “secret” database that logged all the GPS positions you had been to with your phone. Even without GPS they can use phone mast triangulation to find a near enough point that your phone pinged the mast.
Also we had the case of cops using tools to download this data as they pulled motorists over or arrested people and then illegally accessed this database of locations to find out where you had been.
As for computers we had a school in Lower Merion school district in Philadelphia that was accused of spying on students in their bedrooms via school issued laptops and the webcams built into them. Would you want a headmaster in his office alone at night watching your kids in their bedroom?
How to bypass
Take the battery out of your phone whenever you don’t want to be tracked. If you have a smart phone that makes it very hard to do this then the next best thing is to turn GPS off or turn on “Flight Mode” so no signals are sent out or received. If you are really paranoid a lunchbox wrapped in tinfoil is a good container to prevent strong signals from escaping.
It’s what shoplifters do to bypass door scanners as the foil prevents the alarms going off. Just owning a bag lined with tin foil is an offence in the UK called “going equipped”.
As the earlier report shows cellphone triangulation tracking takes less power than GPS tracking and even when your phone is turned off a tiny amount of battery charge is available to the phone which is enough to log your presence at a nearby tower and then log your presence down to the nearest 100 metres or so. Either that or use pay phones (if you can find any) or pay passers-by to use their phone when you need to make a call when your phone is unavailable.
On your computer turn off the microphone and webcam with your settings e.g on Windows it’s in Control Panel. On Windows 7 it will be under Speech Recognition and Audio Devices. To be extra safe wrap masking tape over the webcam when you don’t want to use it as well as the speaker (blue-tack or something else that would muffle the sound). Anything that can be useful to you can be useful to someone with control of your computer.
To test if your microphone is working either go into your computers settings e.g control panel or go to the old Google Search Engine (if it’s still available at http://www.google.com/webhp?hl=all ) hit the microphone symbol in the input box and talk.
If you see the blocks under the microphone move up and down and then a result similar to what you said appear in the box – the microphone is still on. If it’s off it will say so.
How to bypass
Similar to urchins these are little images, usually so small they cannot be seen, that point back to a web server and run some code whenever the image is loaded by a client. They tend to be used by email marketing tools and are embedded within HTML emails so that they can record who has actually opened the email and track the email if its forwarded it on.
They can also exist on web pages or within desktop applications and as the image is hosted remotely and whenever it is loaded it records the location of the application or user who is loading it.
How to bypass
Many email clients if they don’t do it automatically have the option to display emails as plain text which would prevent these webbugs from working.
I use Thunderbird which is free and you can set to ask you first whether to load any remote content at all whether they are images, scripts or anything not already embedded within the email. In Browsers you can disable images easily with the Web Developer toolbar, Google Chromes privacy settings or by using a text browser like Lynx.
Server Side logging by the page
Most pages on the web nowadays are more than pure HTML/CSS and contain code that runs server side e.g .asp, .php, .jsp, .aspx etc.
When the page is requested the web server parses the page and runs any code before returning the generated HTML to the client. This code has access to a lot of information about the client requesting the page such as IP address which can be used for GEO tagging, User-agent details, accepted file types and other information contained within the headers. They could choose to log this information to a database or file if they wanted to even if the IIS or Apache web server had its own logging disabled.
For example if you got to whatsmyip.org you will see all the information that is passed to each webpage you request including geo-location information, details about the type of computer you are using and much more. Whilst not totally accurate they can pinpoint the last location of the computer used to access a webpage which could be your own PC or could be someone else’s (if you use a proxy – see below).
How to bypass
Please read the guide under the following section about web server logging as it applies to both.
Logging by the Web Server
Every time you make an HTTP request e.g access a web page, a record is made on the web server that hosts that page to a log file. Each separate file contained within that web page is logged so every image, CSS file and script is logged along with your IP address, the method e.g POST or GET, the URL, bytes sent and received and much more.
How to bypass
As you must assume that the web servers you are visiting sites on have logging enabled then the only way to not get tracked is to go through proxy servers or use tools like the FireFox add-ons Modify Headers or Tamper Data which allow you to change the headers sent from your PC to the webserver in question and act as a mini proxy on your own PC. They cannot however change the REMOTE_ADDR header which holds the IP address of the PC making the request.
You can however make it difficult for the trackers by modifying as many X-Forwarded-For, Forwarded-For, HTTP-VIA, X-FORWARDED, HTTP_XPROXY and many more as you can, all giving them different IP addresses from different countries. This will make it look to anyone analysing a log file that you have bounced your traffic through multiple proxy servers even if you haven’t.
Remember a proxy is just an intermediate server that sits between you and the web server you want to access. If someone was tracking you they would only see your request to the proxy server and not the actual content that the proxy server requests on your behalf.
There are various forms of proxy server, some that are anonymous and others that pass your IP address along in the HTTP_FORWARDED_FOR, HTTP_X_FORWARDED_FOR or any number of other headers. You can also use code or tools to fill these headers with random IP addresses to make it harder for a tracker to find you as it will look like you have bounced round a lot of proxies when in fact you haven’t.
There is also a form of proxy known as an “anonymizer”, which is called this because it hides all the users identifying information such as headers that hold the IP and user-agent. There are lots online for you to use.
Anonymizers are not entirely secure. If an anonymizer keeps logs of incoming and outgoing connections and the anonymizer is physically located in a country where it is subjected to warrant searches then there is a potential risk that government officials can reverse engineer and identify all users who used the anonymizer and how they used it.
Most anonymizers state they do not keep logs but there is currently no way to confirm that. However, if the user used another anonymizer to connect to the exposed anonymizer, that user is still anonymous. This is sometimes called daisy-chaining. The safest way therefore is to use a chain of proxy servers to make your requests or use a specialist service like TOR which is designed to make it hard to track Internet usage.
Search Engines – e.g Google
Search engines such as Google make their money by selling targeted adverts to their users. To target their advertising more accurately they scan your search terms and emails (gmail) for words and then pass them along as you go to provide adverts that match your “needs”.
If you ever run a search in Google and look in the address bar you will see your search terms e.g if you search for “Dark Politricks” you might see this
Even though Google themselves are passing the data through a secure HTTPS port they still have control and full knowledge over your searching habits. Also as the request is a GET request (the details are passed in the URL address) then any company server or gateway will be able to log your searching habits in log files.
How to bypass
Use one of the many private search engines that are about.
I used to run one myself that went through a number of anonymous proxies and if you can code it is not hard to obtain a list of proxies and use a chain to pass Google/BING searches through them to get your own search results. However as they keep changing their source code my own super search engine no longer works but there are many still about even if the most famous one Scroogle has been shut down.
These pass all your searches through HTTPS so that the content is encrypted and not readable by log files. They also claim not to set or pass cookies or other identifying information about you or your PC around to the sites you visit. I prefer www.startpage.com as you can see that your search is carried out by a POST not a GET request (e.g your search terms are not in the address bar) so it’s an added extra bit of safety.
Browser finger printing
Even if your browser has plugins installed to stop cookies, using secure HTTPS if the site offers it and you have other advert or flash blocking settings or tools enabled it is still possible to uniquely identify your browser by looking at all the information that your computer passes along when it makes HTTP requests.
For example by looking at all the plugins you have installed, your user-agent, your screen size, your IP address, whether you have cookies enabled and which fonts you have installed a clever coder could log them and create a “browser fingerprint”.
The following site panopticlick.eff.org will let you test your own browser for it’s “uniqueness” and it will give you a result of how unique it is compared to all other browsers it has tested so far. So far around 83% of all browsers have a unique fingerprint from their statistics.
How to bypass
You can also still use proxies, VPN’s, private search engines and anonymisers to hide your true location and user-agent switchers but instead of changing your whole Browser e.g from FireFox to IE you would just constantly change other parts of the user-agent such as the version number and any plugin support.
E.g if you are using FireFox: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:21.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/21.0
You could constantly change the numbers within the string between visits but not the main identifying section e.g Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:21.1) Gecko/21100100 Firefox/21.1
The more frequently you change these without changing the actual Browser name (FireFox) it will reduce browser fingerprinting.
People use torrents to download films, music and other software. Sometimes these are illegally obtained copies or pirated software.
The Pirate Bay was one of the most famous sites that people used to obtain torrents and the people behind it are currently involved in legal action as the US movie industry is trying to sue them for facilitating the illegal download of copyrighted material.
Even though they are just a search engine on the same lines as Google or BING (and you can find torrents on those search engines as well!) – it is pretty unfair as the Pirate Bay are not uploading the films themselves they are just a search engine that lists files of a certain type.
When you download torrents you use special software such as uTorrent or Deluge to download all the tiny pieces of the file you want. The idea is that because you are not downloading a whole file from one location but rather tiny bits it from lots of locations you are not really breaking the law.
When you download you are a “leecher” and when you upload you are a “seeder“.
The software simplifies all this by allowing you to download a film and it connects all the tiny bits up for you so you don’t have to worry about where they are coming from. As you download you are also uploading the bits you have already downloaded so other people can obtain those parts of the object you are obtaining. You can change your settings to prevent the uploading part of this if you want to.
A detailed explanation (from a comment) would be:
A torrent file consists of only metadata; data about the file or files to be downloaded. The file names, sizes, and data that is used to check the accuracy of downloaded files are stored in the .torrent file, along with a list of ‘trackers’ – servers whose function is to make introduction between users who have the files, and those who wish to download them.
A large portion of the downloaded data -will- come from peers who -do- have the entire file (or files); not a collection of people or servers holding different pieces.
-Some- of the data will come from other peers who don’t have all the data, but that is because they are in the process of downloading it themselves, and the protocol is designed to encourage peers to download different sections of the data from those who have it all first, so as to reduce the bandwidth load on the ‘seeds’ who hold the complete data, as well as so in the event all the seeds go offline the full thing can be reconstructed by those with incomplete data downloading from each other.
The Pirate Bay was the biggest site on-line which is why it is being targeted and if you try accessing www.thepiratebay.org in your browser now I bet you it will be blocked by your ISP.
How to bypass
There are many proxies for the Pirate Bay which will allow you to access the site from a different URL. Just search for “Pirate bay proxies” and then pick one either that or download The Pirate Bay browser that uses TOR and allows you to access Torrent Sites including The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and BitSnoop from a different IP address than your own.
You might find an advert at the top of the page counting down – this is a way to access the site once the count is down to 0. Ignore the main part of the page and click on the “view” button that might appear after the countdown in the top right corner which should take you to the pirate bay proxy.
You might have to try a few out first but I use https://piratereverse.info. As soon as the ISP shuts one down another one will pop up (just like the thousands of people who pointed domains at WikiLeaks when it was blocked) so you will always be able to find a site to get them from whether it’s the Pirate Bay or a User Group or discussion board.
If your ISP is blocking all your Pirate Bay Proxies then you should download the Pirate Bay Browser which uses TOR to give you an identity that allows you access to a number of Pirate Bay mirror sites. You should read this article of mine on how to use the browser and P2P software to download torrents.
Also beware that many torrent tools will be flagged as Trojan down-loaders (even when they are not) and also that ISP’s and other government organisations insert their own trackers that log the IP addresses of people downloading the torrents so that they can contact/blacklist/reduce your bandwidth etc. Therefore be careful and pick a good one and read up about trackers before engaging in torrent downloading.
To make the chance of being caught a lot less you can should change your torrent tool settings to go through a proxy server - preferably HTTPS (encrypted) or use any option that forces encryption when transferring files
You should also change the port used by the tool in your settings from a random number to 80 or 8080 as these are common webserver ports and make it hard for ISP’s to tell what kind of traffic is being transferred.
If possible use a “block list” that will mean that all the data packets sent to or from you will bypass known ISP routers where they can be sniffed and identified. More and more ISP’s are doing this so this is wise to prevent yourself from being caught.
Read these articles to help you install a torrent down-loader and set-up measures to prevent yourself being blocked.
Cookies are small text files that are stored on the clients computer and contain very small pieces of text. They are mainly used by websites to store flags that enable the site to know whether you have previously been to their site or not. Advertisers also use them to track the type of sites you visit so that they can deliver targeted advertising the biggest offender being Google which uses their domination of the market to track the sites users visit so they can target content specific adverts to the user.
Another type of cookie is a session variable which is used by many sites to store a unique ID that refers to a visit on the site. The ID is generated by the web server and the session cookie only stores this ID so that on each request to the server the system knows that the visitors requests belong to one visit.
How to bypass
If you are concerned about tracker cookies then you easily disable site related cookies in your browser but if you disable all cookies then Session variables won’t work and you will most likely find yourself getting logged out of member only areas of websites or not being able to login in the first place. The best option is to disable 3rd party cookies (those set by advertisers) and to delete non essential cookies after using the internet (Incognito mode in Chrome).
Flash, ActiveX, Java Applets
3rd party components such as Flash, ActiveX controls and Java applets come with their own security concerns. There have been numerous security vulnerabilities reported with these types of component as due to their complexity and power they have more access to the clients computer than a normal web page. They should be seen as mini applications rather than just a fancy banner, game or helpful utility to enable you to upload files to Facebook more quickly.
You shouldn’t install these types of application unless you are totally sure they are safe as they could have a lot more control over your computer than you realise. There have even been hacks that have enabled remote users to video and record a user through their webcam without them knowing.
How to bypass
You should also regularly check your PC for viruses and spyware. One of the first things modern Trojans do nowadays is download good anti-virus software so that they don’t get overwritten by another spyware app!
They also try to disguise themselves as virus checkers to avoid detection. Even the best off the shelf virus checkers don’t catch all forms of spyware especially those that have to regularly download virus definition patterns as it means new viruses don’t get caught until they have been identified, a pattern created and downloaded by the client.
Virus payloads can also be modified randomly to avoid pattern detection so tools that don’t use pattern matching such as hijackthis.exe which runs an analysis of all currently running processes looking for odd behaviour are good tools to use. This tool will generate a report which can then be analysed by members of the special Hijackthis.exe message board for signs of infection.
One of the best removers of Trojans I have found is a tool called SDFix.exe which managed to detect and remove a Trojan that four other tools including an off the shelf app didn’t detect. There are also a number of good free products such as MalwareBytests Anti-Malware and AdAware anti adware and spyware software which can be run regularly to check your PC for spyware and viruses.
However keyloggers that are based around hardware such as cable extensions that you don’t notice that have been inserted by your employer are undetectable unless you know what you are looking for and will store every key pressed on your PC whilst enabled. Check your cables that come out your computer to see if anything strange is connecting two parts of a wire together.
If you are caught out by such a tool make sure your employer has followed the law by informing you of all anti-privacy measures such as monitoring your PC and web usage in your contract, as if they haven’t then you have a good legal case to sue.
Article 8 of the Human Rights Act that is used in the UK has been successfully used in previous cases by employees who have been sacked due to unknown spying by their employers and should be used by anyone taking their employer to court if they have been sacked due to such technological spying.
Tools to use to aid privacy on the web Firefox Add-Ons
- Flashblock disables flash movies until you enable them. Allows creation of a white-list of allowed sites.
- FoxyProxy manage your proxies with an easy to use tool.
- Tamperdata or Modify Headers acts like a proxy and allows you to modify HTTP requests as they are made from your client.
- HTTP Fox, Firebug and even the Chrome developer toolbar allows you to see all the data your PC send to websites and the data sent back by the webserver you are accessing. It also shows any redirects or code loaded in that you might not be aware of.
- Use Incognito browsing to prevent browser and search history and cookies from being stored.
- Enable the DNT (Do Not Track) option – many sites don’t support it but people hope they will soon.
- Turn off all options for using 3rd party tools to help you complete searches, navigation errors and automatically send crash reports to Google.
- Firefox and IE9 also have privacy modes that can be used to remove cookies and reduce your internet footprint but I would not trust anything Microsoft as it’s hooked into the computers main system and parts of the browser are shared with other non Internet based software.
- De-activate 3rd party cookies used by trackers, advertisers and sites wanting to keep track of you as move around the web such as Google Analytics.
- If you share a PC Clear your cache, autocomplete, download list and history regularly – use CCleaner, AdAware etc.
If you need more details about the various forms of Internet Censorship and how to bypass it then check out the following article that contains a lot of details about the various methods used and how to bypass them.
How to bypass Internet Censorship If you are looking for an up to date list of available proxy servers then you can check out the following links:
The following page has an index where you can find more proxy lists http://www.dmoz.org/Computers/Internet/Proxying_and_Filtering/Hosted_Proxy_Services/Free/Proxy_Lists/
If you want to quickly access some web based proxies you can pick from the following list or you can read my guide on creating your own web proxy which comes with an example and some code you can use to get running. It’s just something I knocked up in a hour or two so don’t expect it to be a fully functional proxy server however it shows how even minimal coding skills can be used to generate your own web proxy.