[Source: This article was published in proprivacy.com By Douglas Crawford - Uploaded by the Association Member: Edna Thomas]

Using a private search engine such as StartPage or DuckDuckGo is becoming ever more important. These usually leverage the big search engines in order to return results, but proxy search requests so that Google or Yahoo or Microsoft do not know who did the search. In other words, these see only that the search query came from the privacy search engine.

These privacy search engines promise not to log your IP address or any searches you make. Does this sound good to you? Good. The next question, then, is which privacy search engine to use…

Best Private Search Engine

Here are the best private search engines that are anonymous and make a great Google alternative.

Keep reading this guide to learn more about each private search engine in-depth.

What Does Google Know About Me?

The problem with most search engines is that they spy on you. This is their business model – to learn as much about you as possible, to deliver highly targeted advertising directly to your browser window.

Google has even recently dropped its moratorium on combining what it learns by scanning your emails with what it learns about you through your searches. All the better to spy on you. Information typically collected and stored each time you make a search includes:

  • Your IP address
  • Date and time of query
  • Query search terms
  • Cookie ID – this cookie is deposited in your browser’s cookie folder, and uniquely identifies your computer. With it, a search engine provider can trace a search request back to your computer.

This information is usually transmitted to the requested web page, and to the owners of any third party advertising banners displayed on that page. As you surf the internet, advertisers build up a (potentially highly embarrassing) profile of you.

Of course, if Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, etc., know lots about you, this information can be (and often is) handed over to the police and the NSA. So it's a good time to get a Google alternative.

Indeed, it was only recently that evidence emerged showing Yahoo works with hand in glove with the NSA to betray its users to the intelligence service. Naughty, naughty.

Screenshot 1

Google Transparency Report on the number of User Data Requests received, and the number (at least partially) acceded to

The filter bubble: what the internet is hiding from you

An added benefit of using a search engine that does not track you is that it avoids the “filter bubble” effect. Most search engines use your past search terms (and things you “Like” on social networks) to profile you.They can then return results they think will interest you. 

This can result in only receiving search returns that agree with your point of view, and this locks you into a “filter bubble,” where you do not get to see alternative viewpoints and opinions because they have been downgraded in your search results.

Not only does this deny you access to the rich texture and multiplicity of human input, but it can also be hazardous as it can confirm prejudices, and prevent you from seeing the “bigger picture”.

Startpage.com

Startpage2

PROS

  • No logs or tracking
  • Non-targeted ads
  • Can proxy webpages
  • Based in Netherlands
  • Google results

CONS

  • Runs servers in the US (but can you choose non-US servers)

Startpage.com and Ixquick are run by the same company. In the past, Startpage.com returned Google results, while Ixquick returned results from a number of other search engines, but not Google. The two services have now been combined, and both return identical Google results.

Although no longer actively supported, the old Ixquick metasearch engine is still available at Ixquick.eu. Interestingly, despite no longer being actively supported, Startpage.com has recently removed Yahoo results from the legacy search engine. This is in response to news that Yahoo has been helping the NSA spy on its users.

Search results

  • Suggestions are not offered as you type by default, but this can be enabled in settings.
  • Search returns are fast, but perhaps not as fast as those of DuckDuckGo (this is a purely subjective assessment).
  • Presentation of results is very clear.
  • Searches can be only filtered by Web, Images and Video categories. An advanced search option is available that allows you to specify a variety of search parameters, and you can filter results by time.
  • Ads are displayed above the search results. They are clearly marked as ads and are not mixed with the “pure” search results.
  • Video results display an image preview. YouTube cannot be played directly on the Startpage website for privacy reasons and will open in a new tab. 
  • Search results are pulled directly from Google and are therefore very good.

Startpage

Ads are discrete but clearly labeled

How it makes money

Much like DuckDuckGo, Startpage.com makes money from ads and affiliate links. 

These ads are untargeted, clearly marked, and not mixed in with the “real” search returns. They are somewhat more prominently displayed than with DuckDuckGo, however.

Privacy

  • Startpage is based in the Netherlands, which has strong privacy laws.
  • It runs servers collocated in the US. These are owned and controlled by Startpage, and I am assured that they are secure against government snooping. If this worries you, however…
  • It is possible to use non-US servers only (or non-EU servers).
  • Web pages returned from searches can be proxied (see below).
  • Startpage is the only privacy search engine that has been independently audited.
  • Qualys SSL labs security report: A+

Features

Startpage.com’s killer feature is that, rather than visiting a website directly, you can proxy the connection. If you select this option, then a proxy server run by Startpage.com sits between your computer and the website.

 This prevents the website from knowing your true IP address (much like a VPN), and from being able to use web tracking and fingerprinting technologies to identify and track you. It also blocks malicious scripts. 

The downside is that pages load more slowly since StartPage.com must retrieve the contents and re-display them. That said, the newly re-branded and redesigned "Anonymous View" is much faster than was previously the case. It also breaks websites much less because it allows JavaScript "while rewriting and 'redefining' JavaScript primitives to protect your privacy." 

I must say that this is a terrific feature and one that can significantly improve your privacy. Given its downside, however, you probably won’t want to use it all the time.

My thoughts

With its new re-design, StartPage.com matches DuckDuckGo in terms of prettiness and user-friendliness.

But thanks to being based in the Netherlands and having nothing to do with Yahoo, it should be more resistant to NSA spying than its US-based rival (if you specify non-US servers!). And the ability to proxy web pages is an absolute doozy.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo

PROS

  • No logs or tracking
  • Looks great
  • Discrete non-targeted ads
  • Bangs
  • Contextual filters

CONS

  • US company
  • Uses Amazon servers
  • Yahoo results

DuckDuckGo is “The Search Engine that Vows Not to Track You”. Gabriel Weinberg, the CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo, has stated that “if the FBI comes to us, we have nothing to tie back to you.”

It is a US-based company and is the most popular and high-profile of the privacy search engines. Searches are primarily sourced via Yahoo, with whom DuckDuckGo has a strong relationship.

This is very worrying given recent revelations about its ties to the NSA, but DuckDuckGo continues to promise that it does not collect or share personal information.

Search results

  • DuckDuckGo offers search suggestions as you type in a query.
  • Search returns are speedy.
  • This includes image and video search returns.
  • Presentation of results is very clear.
  • Search filter categories include Web, Images, Videos, Products, Meanings, Definition, and News. Displayed filters are adaptive, and DDG will initially show results under the filter category that it feels is most appropriate to the search terms. Depending on the filter selected, DuckDuckGo may display image, video or Wikipedia previews at either the top of the search page or in a box to the right of the results.
  • Ads may also be displayed to the right of search results. Paid ads are clearly marked as such, are discreet, and are never mixed in with the “pure” search returns.
  • Image results, however, can only be filtered by size (Small, Medium. Large).
  • Video results display a thumbnail preview. YouTube videos can be played directly from DDG the website, but a warning alerts you to the fact that these will be tracked by YouTube/Google.
  • Results can also be filtered by country and date (Anytime, Past Day, Past Week or Past Month).
  • Subjectively, I find the quality of DuckDuckGo’s search returns to be very good. I have seen complaints, however, by others who do not find them as good as those from Google. This is one reason why “bangs” are so useful (see below).

DuckDuckGo1

Here we can see both the contextual filter in actual (auto-direct to Products) and DDG's discrete ads

How it makes money

DuchDuckGo displays adsalongside its search results. These are sourced from Yahoo as part of the Yahoo-Microsoft search alliance. By default, when advertisers sign up for a Bing Ads account, their ads automatically enter rotation into all of Bing’s distribution channels, including DuckDuckGo 

Importantly, however, these ads are untargeted (they are displayed based on your search terms). And as already noted, they are clearly marked and are shown separately from the “pure” search returns.

DuckDuckGo is part of the affiliate programs of Amazon and eBay. When you visit those sites through DuckDuckGo and subsequently make a purchase, it receives a small commission. No personally identifiable information is given out in this way, however, and this does not influence search result rankings.

Privacy

DuckDuckGo states that does not collect or share personal information.

  • An affiliate code may be added to some eCommerce sites (e.g., Amazon & eBay), but this does not include any personally identifiable information.
  • Being based in the US means that DuckDuckGo is subject to government pressure and laws such as FISA and the Patriot Act. This means that the US government could mandate that DuckDuckGo start logging its users’ activities. And prevent the company from alerting users to this fact via a Gag order.
  • DuckDuckGo uses Amazon servers. Again, this is a US company, subject to pressure from the US government.
  • Qualys SSL labs security report: A+

Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGo, has contacted me regarding this article. Please see the Update at the bottom of this page for his answers to some criticisms expressed here.

Features

In addition to its rather nifty contextual filters, the most striking feature of DuckDuckGo is “bangs”. 

These allow you to search other websites quickly and easily. For example, typing !guk before a search query will return Google UK search results, and typing !a will search the Amazon store for you.

Note that bangs take you to the website in question. The searches are not proxied, so you lose an element of privacy if you bang Google directly. Fortunately, there is a solution. You can combine bangs with Startpage.com (see review above) by typing !s or !sp, and because Startpage.com uses Google, you can have the best of both worlds.

My thoughts

DuckDuckGo offers good looking and easy-to-use interface, although some may prefer Google to the primarily Yahoo-based search results.

Bangs are a killer feature, however, and one that goes a long way towards compensating for this issue. Just remember that if you want to query Google and protect your privacy, it makes sense to bang into StartPage.com with the !s or !sp for Google search results in privacy instead of going to Google directly.

It is little surprise, then, that DuckDuckGo is so popular. But the fact that it is a US company should sound a note of caution.

SearX

SearX

PROS

  • Can be self-hosted
  • Choose which search engines to leverage
  • Can proxy webpages
  • No ads

CONS

  • Public instances could be logged

Less well-known, but fast gaining traction with the security community is SearX. Not only is SearX fully open source, but it is easy to set up and to run your own instance of it.

There is an official public SearX instance, or you can use one of many volunteer-run public instances. But what SearX is really about is running your own instance. This makes SearX the only metasearch engine where you can be 100 percent sure that no logs are kept!

Search results

  • By default, SearX leverages results from a large number of search engines.

Search results

In Preferences, users can change which search engines are used

  • Search suggestions are not offered
  • Searches can be filtered by the following categories: General, Files, Images, IT, Map (using OpenStreetMap), Music, News, Science, Social Media, and Videos. They can also be filtered by time.
  • There are no ads.
  • Wikipedia entries are displayed to the right of search results.
  • There are no additional filters for Images, although a preview is displayed when they are clicked on.
  • Video results display a thumbnail preview. Clicking on a video takes you to the website it is hosted on (for example YouTube or Vimeo).
  • Search results can be downloaded as a .csv, .json., or rss file.
  • As with Startpage, search results can be viewed proxied. This will “break” many websites, but does allow for a very high level of privacy.
  • Search results are as good as the engine’s selected. The official instance uses Google, Bing, Wikipedia, and a host of other first-rate engines by default, so the results are excellent.

Search results 2

The are no ads, search suggestions are listed to the right, and as with Startpage, you can proxy webpages

How it makes money

SearX is an open source project run by volunteers. On the official instance, there is no on-site advertising and no affiliate marketing.

Because it is open source, individual operators of public SearX instances are free to introduce their own finance models. But I have yet to find a single instance that is not 100 percent ad and affiliate-free.

Privacy

  • There is no way to know if a public SearX instance operator is logging your searches. And this includes the official instance.
  • That being said, there is no way to guarantee that DDG, Startpage, or any other “private” search engines are not logging your searches either…
  • If you are serious about privacy, therefore, you should set up your own SearX instance. In fact, setting up your own SearX instance on a server that only you directly control is the only way currently available to guarantee that your searches are not logged.
  • This makes self-hosted SearX instances by far the most secure search engines available. Documentation for installing your own SearX instance is available here.
  • For the casual user, public SearX instances are unlikely to log your searches and are much less likely to be monitored by the likes of the NSA than the other services mentioned here.
  • Just remember, though, that there is no way to be sure of this.
  • Qualys SSL labs security report for searx.me (the official instance): A. Note that each SearX instance (public or private) is different in this respect.

Features

As with Startpage, the ability to proxy websitesis a killer feature if you can live with it breaking many websites that you visit. 

 

My thoughts

For serious tech-savvy privacy-heads, a self-hosted SearX instance is the way to go. Simply put, nothing else is in the same league when it comes to knowing for certain that your searches are not logged.

More casual users may also be surprised at how well the software works on public instances. My personal feelings are that these are much less likely to log your searches or be spied on by the US and other governments than DuckDuckGo, Startpage or Disconnect. But this is purely speculation.

Disconnect Search

PROS

  • No logs or tracking
  • No ads
  • Choice of search engines

CONS

  • US company (so beware the NSA)
  • Uses Amazon servers (so beware the NSA)

Before writing a Disconnect review, we knew the US-based company had made a name for itself with some excellent open source privacy-oriented browser extensions. One of these is the open-source Disconnect Search add-on for Firefox and Chrome (a non-open source Android app is also available).

This browser add-on is still the primary way to use Disconnect Search, although a JavaScript web app is available. This mimics the browser extension, and allow you to perform web searches from the Disconnect Search web page.

Disconnect also markets a Premium VPN and online security app, with Disconnect Search functionality built-in. Please see my Disconnect review for more details on this.

Search results

  • Searches are usually made from the browser add-on.
  • You can select which of three search engines to query: Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo (default).
  • Unlike the other privacy metasearch engines discussing this article, Disconnect does not display search returns on its own website. Results are simply routed through Disconnect’s servers to hide their origin and are then opened in the selected search engine’s webpage.
  • Incognito mode searches are supported.

The browser extension

The browser extension

How it makes money

Disconnect markets a Premium product, but the Disconnect Search browser extension is free. It hides your IP when doing searchesbut then sends you directly to the selected search engine. 

This means that Disconnect performs no advertising or affiliate marketing of its own when doing a search.

Privacy

  • Disconnect is a US company and is therefore not a good choice for the more NSA-phobic out there.
  • The browser extension is open source, but search requests can still be logged by Disconnect, as they are made through its servers.
  • Disconnect hosts its service on Amazon servers.
  • Qualys SSL labs security report: A (this is for the Disconnect.me website).

My thoughts

The Disconnect Search browser extension provides a quick and easy way to hide your true identity while doing searches using your favorite search engine. The fact that Disconnect is US-based, however, is a major issue. 

Honorary mention: Peekier

Peekier is a new no-logs search engine. There is not enough information about this service currently available for me to give it a proper assessment. It is worth mentioning, however, because of the attractive and innovative way that it displays search results.

search

In a field were where, if we are honest, most search engines look pretty similar, it is great to see a different approach. I, therefore, think it worth flagging up Peekier and keeping an eye on the service to see how it develops.

Privacy Search Engines Conclusion

Using any of these services engines will significantly improve your search privacy. Crucially, your searches will not be recorded to help build a profile that is used to sell you stuff. All the search engines I looked at in this article are easy to use and return good results.

Will these services protect your searches from government surveillance (and the NSA in particular)? In the case of US companies, it is safest to assume not. But unless you are doing something very illegal, this may not concern you (although it should).

Startpage is non-US based, has been independently audited, and allows you to access websites with a great deal of privacy thanks to its proxy feature. It is, therefore, a much better choice for privacy-heads than DuckDuckGo.

Public SearX instances are less likely to be monitored than other higher-profile search engines, but they may be. It is also likely that you will know nothing about their operators. Running your own SearX instance on hardware directly under your control, however, is an extremely secure and private solution. And is therefore only one that I can recommend to serious privacy fanatics.

The fact the SearX has a great interface and returns on-the-button results from all the major search engines is the icing on the cake.

 

Categorized in Search Engine

[Source: This article was published in infosecurity-magazine.com By Liv Rowley - Uploaded by the Association Member: Jasper Solander]

The surface web poses many threats to organizations, but the deep and dark web has gained notoriety over the years as more and more cyber-criminals make use of underground forums and marketplaces to buy and sell goods such as stolen credentials and personally identifiable information (PII).

Various anonymizing features and a lack of state-based governance has allowed cybercrime to flourish in this relatively safe space. 

Stolen information, illegal services and other illicit offerings and activity can be observed with unnerving regularity on the deep and dark web. Goods can be put together or sold as packages alongside other Cybercrime-as-a-Service (CaaS) offerings, thereby lowering the barrier to entry for novice cyber-criminals and allowing veterans to outsource parts of their operations. 

Dare to delve?

Whilst the darknet is complicated to navigate, it is far from impossible to penetrate. There are public Tor indexers available – such as Torch and Grams – though they are often clunky to use and not comprehensive in their reach.

Threat intelligence companies may offer cybersecurity modules that crawl the darknet, indexing content and providing search engine-like capabilities to defenders who purchase these services. Forums, however, may need to be infiltrated first in the same way as you would a real-world criminal organization.

However, organizations must first determine whether the risks associated with this type of hands-on research are worth it. These risks include the possibility of being unwittingly or unintentionally infected with malware or otherwise exposing yourself to those with malicious intentions. A strong understanding of operational security and acceptance of the risks associated with this type of research is key. In many cases, organizations may find it more prudent to enlist the help of threat intelligence vendors, whose professional expertise may come in useful.

Threat actors utilize Tor, I2P and other darknet browsing software to access hidden forums and marketplaces, while others lurk on the deep web behind password-protected or invitation-only closed forums or groups on Telegram, WhatsApp and other chat platforms. Some expect you to prove technical knowledge to gain entrance to a forum or to actively participate in a cyber-criminal community in order to maintain access. In other cases, you may need to be invited or recommended by a trusted relationship to gain access. 

Keep your enemies close

Organizations looking to conduct dark web research are setting out on a challenging task; dark web research can be similar to knowing that a party is taking place, but not knowing the address. Analysts need to be ready to hunt, dig and immerse themselves in the underground in order to find the action. In doing so, analysts are exposed to the myriad products and conversations surrounding cybercrime in these spaces, training their eye to be able to filter and identify the real threat.

This in turn allows organizations to better understand what they need to defend themselves against. In order to assess a threat actor’s credibility and the legitimacy of a particular threat, researchers may look at factors such as a threat actor’s reputation or length of time on the darknet.

Companies should prioritize monitoring for data related to their organization, such as proactively searching the dark web to find stolen credentials. Doing so at an early stage can massively reduce the risk or impact of an attack.

Detecting them using threat intelligence services can not only prevent additional breaches but also force IT security teams to locate the sources of the initial attacks and fix existing problems so attacks cannot occur again through that vector.

Stay alert and keep watch

In addition to looking for stolen credentials, it is also wise to monitor (using defined search terms) for documents or PII which might have been stolen or unintentionally leaked. Stricter data protection regulations mean that data leaks can have an even larger impact on an organization’s bottom line, as well as its reputation. In the event of a GDPR penalty, a company that can demonstrate robust detection capabilities can vastly reduce its liabilities.

A network of crawlers and sensors can alert organizations when their credentials have been offered for sale on the dark web – if you know what’s been stolen, it’s easier to block and mitigate damage. Good cyber threat intelligence is crucial to providing this feedback of information to build stronger defenses around any business.

Tracking for crimeware kits, malware, threat actors and TTPs that could target their sector more generally can also help security teams strengthen their security posture, broaden their situational awareness and put in place appropriate defense measures before adversaries can strike. 

The best way to fight cybercrime on the darknet is to operate in much the same way as the bad guys. If you understand the scope of what’s available to criminals, it’s a lot easier to rationalize how to defend against cyber-attacks and enable others to do the same. Collaboration and intelligence sharing is crucial in the fight against cybercrime.

Categorized in Deep Web

[Source: This article was published in fbi.gov - Uploaded by the Association Member: Carol R. Venuti]

Operation SaboTor, a multi-agency law enforcement action between January and March 2019 that targeted opioid sales on the Darknet, included this search of a vehicle and a residence in California. The search was the result of an eight-month investigation that led to five arrests.

When Knoxville first responders found a man dead in his home, there was clear evidence on the scene of the heroin that caused his overdose. Also nearby were clues to how the deadly drugs had reached him. Investigators found a padded manila envelope with postage and markings that provided them another link back to the online drug sellers who have proliferated on the Darknet in recent years.

Drug traffickers are increasingly using anonymous online networks to sell narcotics, including potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl, to buyers who can order and receive the drugs without ever leaving home. What can appear to be a regular e-commerce transaction is one of the delivery channels fueling a deadly nationwide epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that drug overdose deaths have been on an upward climb for several years, across the United States and across all demographic groups. In 2017 alone, 70,237 people in this country died of a drug overdose; two-thirds of those deaths involved an opioid.

As part of a government-wide effort to address the epidemic, the Department of Justice created the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team in 2018 to leverage the power of federal and international partnerships to combat the complex and deadly threat of online drug sales.

Now in its second year, J-CODE is delivering results through coordinated efforts and the commitment of the nation’s law enforcement agencies to address opioid sales on the Darknet. Building on the success of last year’s Operation Disarray, the J-CODE team led Operation SaboTor between January and March of this year. These concentrated operations in the United States and abroad led to 61 arrests and shut down 50 Darknet accounts used for illegal activity. Agents executed 65 search warrants, seizing more than 299 kilograms of drugs, 51 firearms, and more than $7 million ($4.504 million in cryptocurrency, $2.485 million in cash, and $40,000 in gold).

“This is a new and evolving threat, and we found that no one agency can do it alone.”

Maggie Blanton, special agent, FBI Hi-Tech Organized Crime Unit

J-CODE joins the efforts of the FBI with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Defense (DOD). As many of these markets cross borders, Europol is also an invaluable international partner in J-CODE’s efforts to make a global impact on Darknet drug trafficking.

“This is a new and evolving threat, and we found that no one agency can do it alone,” said FBI Special Agent Maggie Blanton of the Hi-Tech Organized Crime Unit at FBI Headquarters. “The FBI may get information from local law enforcement after an overdose or arrest. Through that tip, we can work with our federal partners with the Postal Inspection Service, because so often the drugs are moving through the mail. Our Customs and Border Protection partners are a great resource on understanding trends and preventing drugs from coming into the country from abroad, and our partnership with DEA is critical because of their experience and expertise with drug cases.”

The evidence gathered from that overdose death in Knoxville, for example, was shared with local law enforcement and then with USPIS, the FBI, and other partners. The eight-month investigation led to the arrest of five suspects in the Los Angeles area in March 2019 who are believed to be behind at least two online drug sites that shipped out an estimated 1,500 parcels each month. Search warrants carried out on a residence rented by the suspects and two of their vehicles uncovered drugs, a loaded gun, mailing supplies, computers, cell phones, and transaction receipts.

FBI Special Agent Nathan Cocklin said members of his Hi-Tech Organized Crime squad from the Los Angeles Field Office, along with USPIS inspectors, interviewed the suspects as they were brought into custody. He said the suspects claimed they were just running a business, making money, and not considering the impact of their online sales. “It’s a transaction only,” Cocklin said of the Darknet marketplaces. “They don’t even know each other’s real names.” He said the suspects never considered that a package dropped in a mailbox in Southern California could mean the loss of a life in eastern Tennessee.

Drugs uncovered in a March 2019 search in California of a residence and vehicle involved in a Darknet drug investigation by the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team.
Members of the J-CODE team conduct a search of a residence and vehicle in California in March 2019, where drugs were among the items seized.

A Multi-Agency, Multi-Layered Approach

The Darknet is a part of the Internet accessed through a specialized browser called Tor. Tor allows users to better hide who they are, where they are, and what they are doing online. Darknet marketplaces offer illicit goods that range from hacked bank accounts and stolen credit card information to guns and drugs.

“It’s become easier to get onto the Darknet marketplaces—all you need is a smartphone or computer,” said Chris Oksala, a supervisory special agent with DEA. “There are multiple ways to pay for the drug—from cryptocurrencies to Western Union transfers—and there are multiple ways to shield your identity.”

But on the other side of the seeming ease and anonymity of buying and selling on the Darknet is the hard work being done by law enforcement, in concert, to combat the illegal activity occurring online—from targeting the marketplaces and the sellers to reaching out to those buying illegal wares online.

“These are very complex and time-consuming cases for one agency,” said Kyle Rau, USPIS program manager for Darkweb investigations. “The ‘one government’ approach allows us to tap into each agency’s strength and allows each agency to focus on a particular task.”

The FBI and its law enforcement partners in the United States and abroad have had tremendous success in recent years taking down some of the largest and most profitable Darknet marketplaces. In 2017, law enforcement seized the AlphaBay marketplace, believed to be the largest Darknet market at the time. That seizure was followed by a takedown of Hansa market, another major player.

“It is harder to get the infrastructure up,” stressed Cocklin. “To compare it to a normal drug organization, a dealer is easier to replace than the head of the organization. If you take out a marketplace, you have to rebuild. It takes money and time and undermines trust. Did taking out AlphaBay and Hansa stop everything? No. Did it make an impact? Absolutely.”

The next-level target is the Darknet drug trafficking organizations. The goal of Operation Disarray and Operation SaboTor, along with the ongoing work of J-CODE partners, is to identify and arrest those behind the online sales.

“It takes work, but the FBI, USPIS, DEA, and others are laser-focused on tackling the opioid epidemic on the web.”

Nathan Cocklin, special agent, FBI Los Angeles

The final prong of the J-CODE effort is educating the public on the dangers of opioids by contacting individuals who are known to have purchased drugs online. Sometimes the message arrives too late. In locating and contacting buyers, the J-CODE team often comes across death notices and obituaries. In some cases, agents learn from buyers that they had survived an overdose; in other cases, agents learn from family members that a buyer did not. Oksala stressed that many of the drugs being sold online carry the added danger of unknown, powerful chemicals. “People are making thousands of pills at a time, doing the formulation without any scientific training,” he said.

The agents arrive with information on addiction and treatment, and their very presence challenges the anonymous nature of the Darknet. “If they know someone is looking, people lose faith in the marketplace,” said Rich Sheehan, USPIS assistant inspector in charge. “We’ve proven time and time again that they are not anonymous.”

”We are able to identify people,” said Cocklin. “It takes work, but the FBI, USPIS, DEA, and others are laser-focused on tackling the opioid epidemic on the web.”

Categorized in Internet Privacy

[Source: This article was Published in techworld.com BY Laurie Clarke - Uploaded by the Association Member: Issac Avila] 

Threat intelligence firm Recorded Future has published new research examining the dark 

The dark web. It’s a name that evokes the damp and dingy crevices of the internet; breeding grounds for a virulent strain of depravity. But is the hype justified? Threat intelligence agency Recorded Future has published research that attempts to demystify our concept of this subterranean section of the web.

The organisation has close ties to In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s investment arm and Google Ventures, after receiving a substantial suffusion of cash from both shortly after being founded in 2009. According to its website, it provides threat intelligence to 91 percent of the Fortune 100, including GSK, Raytheon and Morgan Stanley. 

“The term dark web kind of has a Hollywood aura or mystique around it,” says Garth Griffin, director of data science at Recorded Future. “We wanted to make it more concrete, more specific, and measure what we could about what the dark web really is.”

To conduct the research, the team looked specifically at 'onion sites': those accessible through the Tor (The Onion Router) browser, which is generally seen as the gateway into the dark web. 

One of the team's first findings was the relatively small size of the dark web compared to the clear web. They discovered just 55,000 domains, of which only 8,400 were actually serving a website - a tiny fraction of the millions of domains supported by the clear web.

The instability and unreliability of dark web sites also became apparent, of which uptime is an incisive indicator. “The gold standard on clear websites is the ‘five nines’ - you know, 99.999% uptime,” says Griffin. The uptime on a Tor site generally hovers closer to 90%. Although this doesn’t suggest a radical difference, Griffin says that even the small step between four nines and five nines is noticeable in the user experience on the clear web. 

“This is again counter to the image of the onion network as a sort of metropolis of bustling criminal activity,” says Griffin. “It’s actually kind of hard to use and disorganised.”

Recorded Future found that the dark web is more homogeneous than the clear web in terms of the languages used. Eighty-six percent of the language is English, while this is closer to 54 percent on the clear web.  

Among the criminal sites on Tor, those home to the darkest shades of criminal activity is more concealed than others. The research quantified the visibility of these sites by counting the number of inbound links, that is, other sites hyperlinking back to them. They found that for popular markets on the site which are fairly visible, these numbered around 3,500 links. “Then we had this handful of sites that in our view represent top-tier criminal sites, where there is really scary criminal activity,” says Griffin. “These had a maximum of just 15 inbound links.”

By comparison, a popular site on a clear web like Wikipedia might count millions and millions of inbound links. These findings indicate the tiny scale of the slice of the dark web dealing in severe criminal activity. But even criminal users adept enough to worm their way into the dark web's fetid undercarriage aren’t immune - scams running to catch out criminals abound, including typosquatting, and fake sites that promise to deliver goods or carry out actions they never will. 

Griffin says the company has been harvesting from onion sites on the dark web for a very long time, but this research was novel in its wide-ranging view of the entire dark web, rather than just the explicitly criminal elements. Griffin says their clients are all in the security space, looking to protect their organisations from a variety of cyberthreats. “It gets a lot of attention focused on it by virtue of the Hollywood aura that surrounds it,” says Griffin. “In our view, the dark web is relevant, but it's far from the only thing that matters.” 

But is the dark web the safe haven for rampant, unchecked criminality it's made out to be? Tor was set up by the US army agency, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and was solely funded by US government agencies for much of its existence, even at the height of the Edward Snowden leaks (that were orchestrated with the help of Tor).

Today, it still counts a number of US government agencies, or beneficiaries of US government money, among its donors that include the Open Technology Fund, the US Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and DARPA via the University of Pennsylvania.

That the very site portrayed as a secure space impenetrable to law enforcement agencies was also founded and funded by them should be enough to give most criminals pause. High profile takedowns of criminal users of the dark web, including most notably the founder of Silk Road, and Playpen, the child pornography site, have proved that it’s not beyond the reach of the law. In fact, some commentators have suggested that while Tor was founded by the US government primarily as a place where their operatives could act unseen, it also successfully acts as a honey pot that attracts criminals to congregate usefully in one place.

Griffin concurs: “It's clearly not a silver bullet for the criminal community, because law enforcement has successfully taken down markets and carried out infiltration. It certainly does not prevent law enforcement from successfully disrupting criminal activity.”

This could explain why today there is still more criminal activity taking place on the clear web than through onion sites.

Categorized in Deep Web

[Source: This article was Published in ca.news.yahoo.com BY Bree Fowler - Uploaded by the Association Member: James Gill]

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

We’ve all been there. You talk on the phone with a friend about something, say sneakers, and then a little later see an ad for the latest Nike shoes in your Facebook feed.

It’s almost like your phone, or one of the apps installed on it is listening to everything you say.

Could that be true? Or is it just a modern myth?

Well, it’s technically possible for phones and apps to secretly record what you say. And lots of people sure seem to think they do.

According to a nationally representative phone survey of 1,006 U.S. adults conducted by Consumer Reports in May 2019, 43 percent of Americans who own a smartphone believe their phone is recording conversations without their permission.

But, to date, researchers have failed to find any evidence of such snooping.

The scary thing, according to security experts, is that there are much more efficient ways to learn all about you without ever having to eavesdrop on that never-ending conversation with your mom.

Possible, But Not Practical

During the 2017-18 school year, researchers led by Northeastern University computer science professor David Choffnes set out to see whether they could catch a smartphone spying on what they said.

Using an automated test program, they analyzed more than 17,000 popular apps on the Android operating system and did not find a single instance where an app activated a phone’s microphone and leaked audio data.

Michael Covington, a vice president at Wandera, a mobile security company, says his researchers performed a similar study, focusing on high-profile apps known for large-scale data collection, including Amazon, Chrome, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

They too found no evidence of secret recordings.

In the end, given current technology, Choffnes explains, recording audio just isn’t a very practical way to gather market intelligence, because accurately translating that audio into text for analysis would require massive amounts of computing power, especially if done on a large scale.

If snooping of that volume was going on, undetected by researchers, he adds, it would probably involve state-sponsored hackers, who hunt for fish much bigger than the average consumer.

While that all makes perfect sense, it still doesn’t explain why so many people believe they're getting ads inspired by private conversations, Covington says.

“What we’ve done is provide some insight into what advertising platforms aren’t doing,” he argues. “But, they clearly are doing something that’s allowing them to target those ads so well.” 

If Not With a Microphone, How?

When it comes to collecting data on consumers, there’s no shortage of effective options. Companies from Google on down to the tiniest developer of time-wasting games routinely record personal info—names, birthdates, credit card info—simply by asking for it.

Many also track your location throughout the day using your phone's GPS and nearby cell towers or web beacons.

And Facebook monitors your browsing habits beyond the confines of its own platform, thanks to a tiny, transparent image file known as a Facebook Pixel that's placed on websites across the internet to track what you watch and read and place in your shopping cart.

In Choffnes’ study, the researchers also found that 9,000 Android apps were secretly taking screenshots or recording videos of smartphone activity and sending them to third parties. In one case, a food-delivery app recorded video of the user’s activity and shared it with a data-analytics firm.

One screenshot captured ZIP codes. Imagine if others revealed usernames, passwords, or credit card information.

Clay Miller, chief technology officer for the mobile security firm SyncDog, says that while apps are designed to be "sandboxed," meaning they withold user data from other apps, data can sometimes cross over through a phone’s operating system.

Still, it's more likely that, at some point, you paused to admire those sneakers you were discussing with your friend online, Miller notes. And perhaps didn't realize—as few people do—that companies like Google combine data from their many free apps, creating a profile for ad targeting purposes.

So, if you were to do a Google search for a particular kind of sneaker and use Google Maps to drive to a shoe store and your Gmail account to sign up for a shoe store’s mailing list, you can bet you’re going to get ads for sneakers in your Chrome browser.

And, thanks to all that data-tracking software tied to Facebook, you'll probably see the same ads in your Facebook feed, too. 

If that weirds you out, try to limit the access those companies have to your browsing history by not using the universal sign-on features offered by Google and Facebook and by not signing into the Chrome browser, Miller says.

Keep an eye on the permissions granted to your apps, too, Covington adds. If you don’t think that gaming app needs access to the camera or microphone on your phone, revoke it.

To see exactly what permissions you've given to each app on an iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > and then scroll down to a category such as Camera. There you'll find a list of apps with permission to use your camera along with toggle switches to withdraw that access.

On an Android phone, go to Settings > Apps > and scroll down and click on a specific app. The next screen will show you what permissions that app has and allow you to turn them on or off.

“A lot of people might not connect the dots and realize that they’re trading their data and privacy for a free service, but that’s the world we live in,” Covington says.

 

Categorized in Internet Privacy

[Source: This article was Published in exchangewire.com By Mathew Broughton - Uploaded by the Association Member: Eric Beaudoin]

Talk about Google, along with their domination of the digital ad ecosystem, would not be on the lips of those in ad tech were it not for their original product: the Google Search engine.

Despite negative press coverage and EU fines, some estimates suggest the behemoth continues to enjoy a market share of just under 90% in the UK search market. However, there have been rumblings of discontent from publishers, which populate the results pages, about how they have been treated by the California-based giant.

This anger, combined with concerns over GDPR and copyright law violations, has prompted the launch of new ‘disruptive’ search engines designed to address these concerns. But will these have any effect on Google’s stranglehold on the global search industry? ExchangeWire details the problems publishers are experiencing with Google along with some of the new players in the search market, what effect they have had thus far, and how advertisers could capitalize on privacy-focused competition in the search market.

Google vs publishers

Publishers have experienced margin squeezes for years, whilst Google’s sales have simultaneously skyrocketed, with parent company Alphabet’s revenue reaching USD$36.3bn (£28.7bn) in the first quarter of 2019 alone. Many content producers also feel dismay towards Google’s ‘enhanced search listings’, as these essentially scrape content from their sites and show it in their search results, eliminating the need for users to visit their site, and in turn their monetization opportunity.

Recent changes to the design of the search results page, at least on mobile devices, which are seemingly aimed at making the differences between ads and organic listings even more subtle (an effect which is particularly noticeable on local listings) will also prove perturbing for the publishers which do not use Google paid search listings.

DuckDuckGo: The quack grows louder

Perhaps the best-known disruptive search engine is DuckDuckGo, which markets itself on protecting user privacy whilst also refining results by excluding low-quality sources such as content mills. In an attempt to battle against privacy concerns, and in recognition of anti-competitive investigations, Google has added DuckDuckGo to Chrome as a default search option in over 60 markets including the UK, US, Australia and South Africa. Further reflecting their increased presence in the search market: DuckDuckGo’s quack has become louder recently, adding momentum to the recent calls to transform the toothless ‘Do Not Track’ option into giving more meaningful protections to user privacy, as originally intended.

Qwant: Local search engines fighting Google

Qwant is a France-based search engine which, similar to DuckDuckGo, preserves user privacy by not tracking their queries. Several similar locally-based engines have been rolled out across Europe, including Mojeek (UK) and Unbubble (Germany). Whilst they currently only occupy a small percentage (~6%) of the French search market, Qwant’s market share has grown consistently year-on-year since their launch in 2013, to the extent that they are now challenging established players such as Yahoo! in the country. In recognition of their desire to increase their growth across Europe, whilst continuing to operate in a privacy-focused manner, Qwant has recently partnered with Microsoft to leverage their various tech solutions. A further sign of their growing level of gravitas is the French government’s decision to eschew Chrome in favour of their engine.

Ahrefs: The 90/10 profit share model

A respected provider of performance-monitoring tools within search, Ahrefs is now working on directly competing with Google with their own engine, according to a series of tweets from founder & CEO Dmitry Gerasimenko. Whilst a commitment to privacy will please users, content creators will be more interested in the proposed profit-share model, whereby 90% of the prospective search revenue will be given to the publisher. Though there is every change that this tweet-stage idea will never come to fruition, the Singapore-based firm already has impressive crawling capabilities which are easily transferable for indexing, so it is worth examining in the future.

Opportunity for advertisers

With the launch of Google privacy tools, along with stricter forms of intelligent tracking prevention (ITP) on the Safari and Firefox browsers, discussions have abounded within the advertising industry on whether budgets will be realigned away from display and video towards fully contextual methods such as keyword-based search. Stricter implementation of GDPR and the prospective launch of similar privacy legislation across the globe will further the argument that advertisers need to examine privacy-focused solutions.

Naturally, these factors will compromise advertisers who rely on third-party targeting methods and tracking user activity across the internet, meaning they need to identify ways of diversifying their offering. Though they have a comparatively tiny market share, disruptive search engines represent a potential opportunity for brands and advertisers to experiment with privacy-compliant search advertising.

Categorized in Search Engine

[Source: This article was Published in ibvpn.com By IBVPN TEAM - Uploaded by the Association Member: Alex Gray] 

Since when are you an Internet user? For quite a while, right?

How many times have you asked yourself which are the dangers that might hide at the other side of your connection and how a VPN software can help you? You’re about to read this article which means you’ve asked yourself this question at least once.

This article will give you all the information you need to know about the advantages of VPN plus a list of tips and tricks that will make your life easier.

Are you ready?

By the way, if you are aware of the benefits a VPN brings, it’s time to start using it!

Get ibVPN!

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The VPN (Virtual Private Network) technology came as an answer to individuals’ request to protect their online activities and to maintain their online confidentiality.

Besides this functionality, the technology helps internet users access restricted content from anywhere in the world, with just a click of a mouse.

Therefore, we can say that a VPN is a secure solution that allows its users to send and receive data via the internet while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of their data, based on its encryption level. The cherry on top is that a VPN will unblock the internet, by providing you the most-wanted Internet freedom that you deserve.

It’s obvious that because of people’s security need and especially because of the need for sending encrypted data over a network, the VPN technology has been developed. But besides the role of creating a “private scope of computer communications,” VPN technology has many other advantages:

  1. Enhanced security. When you connect to the network through a VPN, the data is kept secured and encrypted. In this way, the information is away from the hackers’ eyes.

  2. Remote control. In the case of a company, the great advantage of having a VPN is that the information can be accessed remotely even from home or from any other place. That’s why a VPN can increase productivity within a company.

  3. Share files. A VPN service can be used if you have a group that needs to share data for an extended period.

  4. Online anonymity. Through a VPN you can browse the web in complete anonymity. Compared to hide IP software or web proxies, the advantage of a VPN service is that it allows you to access both web applications and websites in complete anonymity.

  5. Unblock websites & bypass filters. VPNs are great for accessing blocked websites or for bypassing Internet filters. This is why there is an increased number of VPN services used in countries where Internet censorship is applied.

  6. Change IP address. If you need an IP address from another country, then a VPN can provide you this.

  7. Better performance. Bandwidth and efficiency of the network can generally be increased once a VPN solution is implemented.

  8. Reduce costs. Once a VPN network is created, the maintenance cost is very low. More than that, if you opt for a service provider, the network setup and surveillance is no more a concern.

Here is how your connection looks while using a VPN!

Advantages of VPN_your connection

Other things you need to know:

The advantages and benefits of a VPN are clear, let’s find out how to choose your VPN service and your new VPN service provider.

As a future VPN user, keep something in mind: the process of choosing and buying a VPN service should work the same as the process of doing a regular purchase.

Public networks are a real threat. The private networks are not very safe either because your internet service provider can throw an eye on anything you do. You can never be sure if you’re about to connect to a secured network unless you keep your internet activity safe.

So, no matter if you are looking for a VPN to encrypt your traffic while browsing the internet, to bypass geo-restrictions or you’re just the kind of person who likes to save some bucks while buying plane tickets, here’s what you future VPN should provide:

  • Free VPN Trial. Yes, maybe you’ve done some research on your own and saw those Five Best VPN articles all around the web. These articles are useful because are providing you information about VPN services at affordable prices, their performance, and features. When you can test these services by yourself, the experience is even better. That’s why is important to choose a VPN that provides you with a Free VPN Trial.

  • Speed. Do you have the patience to wait tons of seconds for your page to load while using a VPN? No, who has? Always look for the VPN that improves your internet connectivity, not slows it down!

  • Connectivity and reliability. Before buying a VPN service, you have to make sure that it assures you a safe/without drops connection.

  • The number of servers. The number of servers is an important thing for you to look into a VPN service. Before subscribing to a VPN provider, make sure it provides you a large number of servers around the globe.

  • Apps is compatible with various operating systems. I’m sure about one thing – you have more than one device you use to surf the web. There’s a significant probability for your devices do have different operating systems. An important thing that you should keep in mind is that your VPN provider should be able to meet your need by providing you with apps compatible with as many operating systems as possible.

  • The number of simultaneous connections. We are (almost) always online from more than one device, that’s why the number of concurrent connection is important.

  • Customer support. Not all of us are tech-savvy and, from time to time, even the experienced ones need help and guidance. Choosing a VPN provider with outstanding customer support is mandatory. Look for a VPN that allows you to contact the support via e-mail, support ticket systems and live chat. You will thank us later for this tip! ?

  • Privacy policy. One of the primary purposes of a VPN is to keep your online activities away from the curious eyes of any third party. If you don’t allow your ISP to spy on you, why would you let your VPN service provider do it? Choose a VPN service that has a transparent way of saying and doing things and make sure it won’t keep any connection logs. So, always check their Privacy Policy first, before subscribing!

  • Check their reviews page. We were mentioning above some things about the VPN reviews websites. Those websites are doing their reviews based on some tests. Wouldn’t be awesome to be able to find out what the actual customers of a VPN provider have to say about the service and its performance? Here’s a tip: if your future VPN service provider has its own reviews page, throw an eye on it.

Are you ready for some action?

Now that you know which are the advantages of a VPN, their value, and how you should choose one, it’s time for some action.

If you’re curious to test on your own the benefits of a VPN, you can do it for free, right now.
ibVPN is the perfect choice for those who care about their online privacy and freedom.

What do you have to do? It’s easy:

  1. Create a trial account – no credit card required

  2. Download a suitable app for your device(s)

  3. Enjoy a secure and open internet by connecting to one of the 180+ servers we are providing.

If you’re happy with the performance of our service, you can always subscribe to one of our premium plans.

Go Premium!

Keep in mind that a VPN has its limitations too!

Just like any other thing in this world, a VPN service has its advantages and disadvantages.

So, if you’re not an experienced technician or if you’re trying a security solution aka a VPN for the very first time, make sure you won’t dig that deep into the VPN’s settings. Before doing advanced settings into your app, please make sure you know what you’re doing otherwise, you might risk having leaks or your activity exposed.

Another thing that you should know if that, from time to time, a VPN can have connection drops. These drops are perfectly normal, that’s why you should make sure you’re connecting to a server that’s not overloaded.

Tips and tricks.

We want to make sure you make the most out of your VPN service, that’s why we have a list of tips and tricks which will help you a lot.

We have over 15 years of experience in providing our customers with security solutions so, listen to the old ones this time. ?

  1. KillSwitch. To assure the safety of your network connection, a VPN offers (or it should provide) features that enhance your level of security. One of these features is the KillSwitch. If you have never heard about it before, this feature assures your safety in case of connection drops. There are two kinds of KillSwitches: The Internet KillSwitch which will block your internet traffic in case of VPN drops and the Application Killswitch which ensures you that a list of selected apps will be closed, in case your VPN connection drops. So, for a secure connection, always use the KillSwitch!

  2. Use P2P servers. Some of you might use a VPN service to download torrents safely. To avoid any problems with your ISP, use only the P2P server for such activities!

  3. Use Double VPN. If you’re lucky enough to have Double VPN servers in your list, make sure you use them. Double VPN technology allows you to browse anonymously by connecting to a chain of VPN servers. In simple words: VPN on top of VPN (or VPN tunnel inside another VPN tunnel). Double VPN is all about VPN tunnels and levels of security and encryption. Isn’t it awesome?

  4. Use Stealth VPN or SSTP protocols. If you’re living in a country with a high censorship level and your connection gets blocked even if you use a VPN, make sure you change the protocol and try to use Stealth VPN or SSTP. These two VPN protocols are high-speed and secure and, for example, Stealth VPNwill mask your VPN traffic and will make it look like regular web traffic. In this way, you can bypass any restriction or firewall.

  5. Use VPN + Tor. Since Tor is used to mask very sensitive information, the frequent use of this browser might light the bulb of your ISP and mark you for surveillance. That’s why the safe way is to connect to a VPN server while using the Tor browser.

  6. Leak protection. Check your VPN app’s settings and, if it allows you, make sure you check all the options that keep you away from any leak (DNS leaks, IPv6 leak protection, etc.).

  7. Use the VPN on your mobile devices too. It’s not enough to keep it safe only when you use a laptop. Public wifis are real threats that’s why you should always be connected to a VPN.

  8. Test the server network before connecting. Why are we saying this? Well, this practice assures you that you will connect to the fastest server for you. And who doesn’t love a fast server?

  9. Use browser extensions. A browser extension is a super useful tool. There are cases when you need to change your IP fast and easy and to open your app, entering your details and choosing the desired server is somehow complicated, and it takes time. If your VPN provider provides you not only VPN clients compatible with different operating systems but browser extensions too, make sure you use them…

  10. Smart DNS. This neat and useful technology allows you to access blocked streaming channels, regardless of your region. If your VPN provider has such an option, make sure you use it to watch your favorite media content while you’re far away from home.

  11. Save money by using a VPN. Who doesn’t like traveling? Here’s a piece of advice: search online for a flight, compare the prices and then go back to the page you have initially accessed. There are 80% chances that the rates have been increased. If you’re wondering how this is even possible, let us explain. Some online ticket agencies have preferential prices for different countries. Save some extra bucks using a VPN!

Are you still here?

As you can see, the discussion about VPN technology and its advantages is so complicated. We could talk about it for days.

What you should keep in mind after reading this article is that no matter if you’re looking for the best option to browse anonymously, to unblock your favorite online content, to download torrents or to watch for the cheapest plane tickets, a VPN can always help you.

Besides its disadvantages, a VPN has tons of advantages, and it allows you to keep your personal information safe in the first place.

There are lots of fishes in the sea, make sure you choose the one that meets your needs.

Always browse safely!

Categorized in Internet Privacy

[This article is originally published in popsci.com written by David Nield - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Joshua Simon]

BROWSING HISTORY

Many sites keep tabs on your past searches.

rawpixel via Pixabay

Every time you run a search online, the websites where you maintain an account can record that information. This data—collected and stored by search engines like Google, social media networks like Facebook, and retail giants like Amazon—won't disappear when you erase your browser's search history.

Ostensibly, these sites use your search history to assemble a profile of you, allowing them to show you content or products that will appeal to your interests. Conveniently for these tech companies, better understanding your preferences also lets them serve you targeted advertisements. On the bright side, a service can only collect this information while you're logged into your account for that site. Still, if you're uncomfortable with this record of your past searches, or you don't want them to influence your future browsing (maybe you've run a lot of queries for camping accessories but no longer want to see ads for related products), you can scrub them from existence.

To do so, you'll have to go through your accounts one by one. Here's how to purge your search history on some of the biggest and most popular search engines, social media networks, and retail websites.

Google

When you search for something in one of Google's services—which include email, mapping, calendars, messaging, file storage, video, and more—the service logs all of that information. Your search history helps the tech company tailor your search results. For example, if you rarely look up sports-related terms, a new search for "dolphins" is more likely to relate to the aquatic mammals rather than Miami's NFL team. Your data also tells Google which ads are more likely to get you to click.

To erase this information, head to Google's My Account page and log in. Among the many options, you'll find pages on account privacy, data logging, and security. Click Go to my activity followed by Filter by date & product. Here, you can view your search history, which appears on a separate page for each Google product. For example, one page lets you view your search engine history, another displays YouTube searches, and you can even check out your spoken Google Home queries.

Pick one of these categories—we recommend that you start with the main Google search engine, accessed by choosing Search. Next, highlight the results you'd like to erase and click the menu button (three dots) to the top right of the list. Finally, hit Delete results. When a confirmation screen pops up, click Delete again, and Google will erase the information you've highlighted. To delete individual entries, look for the smaller menu buttons next to each item on the list. From this menu, you can delete an entry directly.

Bing

Not everyone relies on Google to search the web. If you use Microsoft's Bing search engine instead, you can still clear your history.

First, head to the website and click Sign in. Then click the menu button (three horizontal lines) on the top right, followed by Search history and then View and delete search history. This will take you to a new privacy page on the Microsoft website. Click View and clear search historyClear activity, and then Clear. If you'd rather remove entries from the list one by one, click on any individual Delete button.

This page also lets Microsoft Edge users delete their web browser history. Microsoft stores your browsing history online, as well as within the Edge application on your computer, to make it easier to sync your activity across multiple devices. To erase this information as well, go back to the main menu, select Browse from the list on the left, and then hit Clear activity followed by Clear.

Facebook

While you're poking around Facebook, you may search for a page that interests you, a friend's name, or an event. To view all of your recent queries, open the Facebook website and click on the search box at the top of the page. If you'd like to erase these searches, click the Edit button to the right of the results.

This will bring up a screen that shows a complete log of everything you've ever looked up on Facebook. To remove one entry, click the Edit icon (the no-entry symbol) on the right of the entry, then choose Delete and confirm by hitting Remove search.

To blitz everything in your Facebook search history at once, click Clear Searches on the top right. Then confirm by choosing Clear Searches again on the pop-up window that appears. This will erase all your past queries from Facebook's servers.

Twitter

Like Facebook, Twitter records your recent searches so you can easily access them again. It also lets you delete them.

Visit the Twitter website and click the Search Twitter box at the top of the page. This will pull up your most recent queries, as well as your saved searches—keywords you've told Twitter to save in case you want to run them multiple times. To save a current search, click the three vertical dots to its right and hit Save this search.

However, if you'd prefer to clear your searches, the process is easy. Simply click the Xbutton to the right of any recent or saved search to remove it from the list, no confirmation screen needed. To erase all recent searches in one go, click Clear All. However, this only deletes your recently-run searches—your saved searches will remain untouched.

Amazon

Unlike the other sites on this list, Amazon doesn't keep a log of your search terms—at least, not one you can scroll through and examine. Instead, it records every item you look at on the site. This record influences your recommendations, as well as the ads that appear.

To see everything you've clicked on the site, head to the Amazon website, look at the toolbar at the top of the page, and click Browsing History followed by Your Browsing History. The results will appear in reverse chronological order, from the most recent to the oldest.

Now, to erase them. Click Remove next to any item to, well, remove it. This can help you get rid of one-off purchases that you don't want to receive any more ads about. You can also go nuclear and clear everything at once: Click Manage history followed by Remove all items. When the confirmation screen appears, choose to Remove all items again.

If you'd prefer to have Amazon stop tracking your browsing history, look under the Manage history heading. Then turn off the toggle switch.

Categorized in Search Techniques

[This article is originally published in cointelegraph.com written by Connor Blenkinsop - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Deborah Tannen]

cryptocurrency exchange says it is prioritizing the privacy of its users — eliminating the “tedious” registration steps imposed by other websites.

BitConvert argues that some rival platforms ask for too many personal details when they are bringing new users on board and says this can make consumers uncomfortable when they are in pursuit of absolute anonymity.

The company also claims such excessive registration procedures actively undermine the purpose of coins that were designed to deliver privacy.

According to BitConvert, its users have the ability to “instantly exchange coins” without being required to register an account with the website. At present, it supports the exchange of Bitcoin and ZCash (ZEC).

ZCash — which, at the time of writing, is the 22nd-largest cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalization, according to CoinMarketCap — describes itself as a “privacy protecting digital currency built on strong science.” The coin’s founders say that its infrastructure ensures personal details remain completely confidential — all without compromising transaction data being posted to a public blockchain. “Selective disclosure features” also enable consumers to share transaction details for audit or compliance purposes.

BitConvert says that it plans to support more cryptocurrencies in the not-too-distant future, all while remaining loyal to its mantra of “anonymous, fast, safe.” Ethereum — along with Monero, another coin that places an emphasis on privacy — are specifically named as two coins that are in the pipeline.

Quick transactions

The privacy-led exchange says that most transactions can be fully completed and confirmed within an hour — and in many cases, execution times can be as little as five to 30 minutes. While two block confirmations are required for Bitcoin, a total of five are needed for ZCash.

BitConvert stresses that its rationale behind eliminating the need for creating a user account is to “fully protect privacy” — and to this end, no personal information is collected when a transaction is taking place, including IP addresses. The company says that it promises these features will not change “so long as our platform is operating,” in an attempt to build trust among users. Data such as the transaction hash, address and amount are kept on record — but this is only to ensure that support can be provided to the consumer in the event there is a complication with a payment.

The company says it hopes to blend anonymity with simplicity. It monitors the best rates for Bitcoin and ZCash on a plethora of other platforms, such as Binance and Bitfinex, to ensure its users get the best deal.

Given how BitConvert users do not have their own account, the platform says it has taken a strong stance on security — making sure that its services are protected using strong security protocols, while also striking partnerships with dependable trading platforms.

Send and go

BitConvert sets out the procedure for using its exchange in three simple steps. Firstly, users select the crypto trading pair they wish to use (at present, it is limited to Bitcoin and ZCash). From here, they set out how much crypto they wish to convert along with their wallet address. Finally, the user can send their funds to BitConvert and complete the exchange. When it comes to the destination for converted coins, the company recommends its clients “only use trusted services in order to avoid losing their funds.”

Privacy has long been a buzzword in the crypto world — and contrary to popular belief, Bitcoin does not necessarily offer its users the anonymity they might expect. Instead, the leading cryptocurrency delivers something known as “pseudonymity,” meaning that consumers only have the opportunity to obfuscate their real identities rather than hide them altogether.

Categorized in Internet Privacy

[This article is originally published in fastcompany.com written by KATHARINE SCHWAB - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Wushe Zhiyang]

You’re probably sick of hearing about data and privacy by now–especially because, if you live in the United States, you might feel like there’s very little you can do to protect yourself from giant corporations feeding off your time, interests, and personal information.

So how do you walk the line between taking advantage of the internet’s many benefits while protecting yourself from the corporate interests that aim to use your data for gain? This is the push-and-pull I’ve had with myself over the past year, as I’ve grappled with the revelations that Cambridge Analytica has the personal data of more than 50 million Americans, courtesy of Facebook, and used it to manipulate people in the 2016 elections. I’ve watched companies shut down their European branches because Europe’s data privacy regulations invalidate their business models. And given the number of data breaches that have occurred over the past decade, there’s a good chance that malicious hackers have my info–and if they don’t, it’s only a matter of time.

Mozilla

While the amount of data about me may not have caused harm in my life yet–as far as I know–I don’t want to be the victim of monopolistic internet oligarchs as they continue to cash in on surveillance-based business models. What’s a concerned citizen of the internet to do? Here’s one no-brainer: Stop using Chrome and switch to Firefox.

Google already runs a lot of my online life–it’s my email, my calendar, my go-to map, and all my documents. I use Duck Duck Go as my primary search engine because I’m aware of how much information about myself I voluntarily give to Google in so many other ways. I can’t even remember why I decided to use Chrome in the first place. The browser has become such a default for American internet users that I never even questioned it. Chrome has about 60% of the browser market, and Firefox has only 10%. But why should I continue to use the company’s browser, which acts as literally the window through which I experience much of the internet, when its incentives–to learn a lot about me so it can sell advertisements–don’t align with mine?

Firefox launched in 2004. It’s not a new option among internet privacy wonks. But I only remembered it existed recently while reporting on data privacy. Unlike Chrome, Firefox is run by Mozilla, a nonprofit organization that advocates for a “healthy” internet. Its mission is to help build an internet in an open-source manner that’s accessible to everyone–and where privacy and security are built in. Contrast that to Chrome’s privacy policy, which states that it stores your browsing data locally unless you are signed in to your Google account, which enables the browser to send that information back to Google. The policy also states that Chrome allows third-party websites to access your IP address and any information that the site has tracked using cookies. If you care about privacy at all, you should ditch the browser that supports a company using data to sell advertisements and enabling other companies to track your online movements for one that does not use your data at all.

Though Mozilla itself is a nonprofit, Firefox is developed within a corporation owned by the nonprofit. This enables the Mozilla Corporation to collect revenue to support its development of Firefox and other internet services. Ironically, Mozilla supports its developers using revenue from Google, which pays the nonprofit to have Google Search as Firefox’s default search engine. That’s not its sole revenue: Mozilla also has other agreements with search engines around the world, like Baidu in China, to be the default search engine in particular locations. But because it relies on these agreements rather than gathering user data so it can sell advertisements, the Mozilla Corporation has a fundamentally different business model than Google. Internet service providers pay Mozilla, rather than Mozilla having to create revenue out of its user base. It’s more of a subscription model than a surveillance model, and users always have the choice to change their search engine to whichever they prefer.

I spoke to Madhava Enros, the senior director of Firefox UX, and Peter Dolanjski, a product manager for Firefox, to learn more about how Mozilla’s browser builds privacy into its architecture. Core to their philosophy? Privacy and convenience don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Instead, Firefox’s designers and developers try to make the best decision on behalf of the user, while always leaning toward privacy first. “We put the user first in terms of privacy,” Dolanjski says. “We do not collect personally identifiable data, not what you do or what websites you go to.”

That’s not just lip service like it often is when companies like Facebook claim that users are in control of their data. For instance, Firefox protects you from being tracked by advertising networks across websites, which has the lovely side effect of making sites load faster. “As you move from website to website, advertising networks essentially follow you so they can see what you’re doing so they can serve you targeted advertisements,” Dolanjski says. “Firefox is the only [major] browser out of the box that prevents that from happening.” The browser’s Tracking Protection feature automatically blocks a list of common trackers in private browsing mode and can be enabled to run all the time, something you need a specific, third-party browser extension to do on Chrome.

The “out of the box” element of Firefox’s privacy protection is crucial. Chrome does give you many privacy controls, but the default for most of them is to allow Google to collect the greatest amount of information about you as possible. For instance, Google Chrome gives users the option to tell every website you go to not to track you, but it’s not automatically turned on. Firefox offers the same function to add a “Do Not Track” tag to every site you visit–but when I downloaded the browser, the default was set to “always.”

Firefoxs privacy protection

Because Chrome settings that don’t encourage privacy are the default, users are encouraged to leave them as they are from the get-go, and likely don’t understand what data Google vacuums up. Even if you do care, reading through Google Chrome’s 13,500-word privacy white paper, which uses a lot of technical jargon and obfuscates exactly what data the browser is tracking, isn’t helpful either. When I reached out to Google with questions about what data Chrome tracks, the company sent me that white paper but didn’t answer any of my specific questions.

One downside to using Firefox is that many browser extensions are built primarily for Chrome–my password manager luckily has a Firefox extension but it often causes the browser to crash. However, Mozilla also builds extensions you can use exclusively on Firefox. After the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica firestorm, Firefox released an extension called the Facebook Container, which allows you to browse Facebook or Instagram normally, but prevents Facebook from tracking where you went when you left the site–and thus stops the company from tracking you around the web and using that information to build out a more robust personal profile of you.

Mozilla Firefox released an extension called the Facebook Container

Firefox isn’t even Mozilla’s most private browser. The nonprofit also has a mobile-only browser called Firefox Focus that basically turns Firefox’s private browsing mode (akin to incognito browsing on Chrome, but with much less data leakage) into a full-fledged browser on its own. Privacy is built right into Focus’s UX: There’s a large “erase” button on every screen that lets you delete all of your histories with a single tap.

Firefox’s private browsing mode also has a feature called “origin referrer trimming,” where the browser automatically deletes the information about which site you’re coming from when you land on the next page. Focus also blocks any analytics services that would take this information. “The user doesn’t need to think about that,” Dolanjski says. “It’s not heavily advertised, but it’s the little decisions we make along the way that meant the user doesn’t have to make the choice”–or even know what origin referrer trimming is in the first place.

Firefoxs private browsing mode

Many of these decisions, both in Firefox and in Focus, are to guard against what Enros calls the “uncanny valley” of internet browsing–when ads follow you around the internet for weeks. “I buy a toaster, and now it feels like the internet has decided I’m a toaster enthusiast and I want to hear about toasters for the rest of my life,” he says. “It’s not a scary thing. I’m not scared of toasters, but it’s in an uncanny valley in which I wonder what kinds of decisions they’re making about me.”

Ultimately, Firefox’s designers have the leeway to make these privacy-first decisions because Mozilla’s motivations are fundamentally different from Google’s. Mozilla is a nonprofit with a mission, and Google is a for-profit corporation with an advertising-based business model. To a large degree, Google’s business model relies on users giving up their data, making it incompatible with the kind of internet that Firefox is mission-bound to build. It comes back to money: While Firefox and Chrome ultimately perform the same service, the browsers’ developers approached their design in a radically different way because one organization has to serve a bottom line, and the other doesn’t.

That also means Firefox’s mission is aligned with its users. The browser is explicitly designed to help people like me navigate the convenience versus privacy conundrum. “To a great degree, people like us need solutions that aren’t going to detrimentally impact our convenience. This is where privacy is often difficult online,” Dolanjski says. “People say, go install this VPN, do this and do that, and add all these layers of complexity. The average user or even tech-savvy user that doesn’t have the time to do all these things will choose convenience over privacy. We try to make meaningful decisions on behalf of the user so we don’t need to put something else in front of them.”

When GDPR, the most sweeping privacy law in recent years, went into effect last week, we saw firsthand how much work companies were requiring users to do–just think of all those opt-in emails. Those emails are certainly a step toward raising people’s awareness about privacy, but I deleted almost all of them without reading them, and you probably did, too. Mozilla’s approach is to make the best decision for users’ privacy in the first place, without requiring so much effort on the users’ part.

Because who really spends any time in their privacy settings? Settings pages aren’t a good UX solution to providing clear information about how data is used, which is now required in Europe because of GDPR. “Control can’t mean the responsibility to scrutinize every possible option to keep yourself safe,” Enros says. “We assume a position to keep you safe, and then introducing more controls for experts.”

Firefox doesn’t always work better than Chrome–sometimes it’ll freeze on my older work computer, and I do need to clear my history more frequently so the browser doesn’t get too slow. But these are easy trade-offs to make, knowing that by using Firefox, my data is safe with me.

Categorized in Internet Privacy
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