Complete Privacy and Security with Michael Bazzell

I am proud to announce that I am currently co-writing a book with well-known author and privacy expert Michael Bazzell.  Michael is the author of several privacy- and security-related works including Hiding from the Internet and Personal Digital Security: Protecting Yourself from Online Crime, as well as the immensely popular Open Source Intelligence Techniques.  The idea for this project has been a long time coming and we are well underway with the process.

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The working title is currently The Complete Privacy and Security Desk Reference.  This 600+ page work is intended to a be an all-inclusive privacy and security resource for law enforcement, special operations and intelligence personnel, victims of identity theft and domestic violence, and those with an avid interest in privacy and security.  The book will draw from our collective experiences and previous writings and will contain a myriad of new material and techniques.  Our intent is to provide the reader with a book that will 

“explain how to be digitally invisible. You will make your communications private, internet connections anonymous, computers hardened, identity guarded, purchases secret, accounts secured, and home address hidden. You will remove all personal details from public view and will reclaim your right to privacy. You will no longer give away your intimate details and you will remove yourself from the system. When taken to the extreme, you will be impossible to compromise.”

The Complete Privacy and Security Desk Reference is due for release in January 2016.  An accompanying five-day live training course with Justin Carroll and Michael Bazzell will also be available beginning in 2016.

 

Tutanota Encrypted Email

I love encrypted email, and I love writing about it.  In researching the next book in the Your Ultimate Security Guide series, Your Ultimate Security Guide: iOS, I decided to give Tutanota a try and I’m glad I did.

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The name “Tutanota” comes from the Latin words “tuta” (secure) and “nota” (message).  Tutanota offers free, end-to-end encrypted email accounts.  No personal information at all is required to create an account, and account creation is allowed through the Tor network.  Tutanota encrypts your message including the subject line, and any attachments and stores all of your emails in an encrypted state.  When you log in with your username and password, an encrypted version of your password is stored on Tutanota’s servers for the duration of your session.  If you lose your password it cannot be reset.  Tutanota also allows you to send encrypted emails to non-Tutanota users

Tutanota is incredibly streamlined and user-friendly and Tutanota apps are available for both iOS and Android, and Tutanota also offers a premium level of service for €1 per month.  Premium accounts offers some expanded functionality including the ability to create and use up to five aliases (alternate email addresses), unlimited outgoing emails (free accounts are capped at 100 per day), and the option to use your own domain.  Both free and paid accounts offer only 1Gb of storage but more (up to 1Tb) will be available for purchase soon.

Unfortunately Tutanota lacks several features that most of us have come to expect in an email service.  First, it does not allow you to save drafts (and as a result does not have a “Drafts” folder).  It also lacks a search function and the ability to assign labels (an important feature for email power-users).  Because of this I see it being used only for exchanging encrypted emails and not a day-to-day, Gmail-replacement system.

Though I am a fan of Protonmail and have been using it much longer, I do like the look and feel of Tutanota and will work it into my daily email routine.

AxCrypt – File Encryption Made Simple

Immediately after finishing Your Ultimate Security Guide: Windows 7 Edition a close friend who’d bought the book called me and asked why I hadn’t included AxCrypt.  The answer I gave him was that I was unfamiliar with the program.  After looking into it and testing it for a few weeks I’m sorry that I didn’t include it; it will definitely be included in Your Ultimate Security Guide: Windows 10.

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AxCrypt uses the AES encryption algorithm (128-bit) and operates entirely from the right-click context menu.  When you want to encrypt a file right-click it, find AxCrypt in the context menu, and hover until the flyout appears.  The flyout menu allows you the option to Encrypt, Encrypt a Copy, and Enrypt to .EXE, among several other options.  Encrypt does exactly what you would think – it encrypts the file.  Encrypt a copy creates a new, encrypted copy of the file and leaves the original unencrypted.  Encrypt to .EXE allows you to create an executable file that can be opened on a computer that does not have AxCrypt installed.  AxCrypt also offers you the ability to use keyfiles in addition to a password, though it restricts the types of files that may be used to keyfiles generated by AxCrypt.  If you’ve read Your Ultimate Security Guide: Windows 7 Edition,  you know I’m a fan of keyfiles.

Opening a file encrypted with AxCrypt is even easier – just double-click and enter the password (and keyfile if necessary).  The file will open where you may view and edit it; closing the file will revert it back to its encrypted state.  If you wish to decrypt the file permanently, right click on it, hover on AxCrypt, and select Decrypt from the flyout.  After you enter the correct password the file will be decrypted and written in plain text to your hard drive.

AxCrypt also has a “Secure Delete” function that overwrites files with a single, pseudo-random pass.   After speaking to Axantum Software founder Svante Seleborg I also learned that it can be configured to do a seven-pass overwrite via the registry, but I will  stick to using Eraser for my data erasure needs due to its flexibility and convenience.

If you are looking for a simple, painless application for encrypting individual files AxCrypt is definitely worth considering.  AxCrypt is free and available from http://www.axantum.com/AxCrypt/.

Blur: The One-Stop Privacy Shop

As any of my readers know I hesitate to give out any personal information.  Using the same physical address, email address, phone number, and credit card number helps data marketers build very thorough profiles about us and I do everything I can to undermine this.  A service that is relatively new (at least to me) helps to make it much easier to avoid giving out this information.  This service is called Blur.

Before moving on it should be pointed out that Blur is a paid service.  Though there is a free version available, its functionality is very limited.  Blur Premium costs a very reasonable $39/year with discounts for purchasing multiple years ($59/2 years and $79/3 years).  For the features Blur provides the cost is totally worth it, and most of the features described below require a premium subscription.

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Blur helps to protect your privacy through a number of features including Masked Emails, Masked Phones, and Masked Cards.  The Masked Emails function works similarly to services like notsharingmy.info and 33mail.  When you create a masked email, Blur will give you a randomly-generated email address that will forward your mail to your real account.  You can create as many masked email addresses as you like, allowing you to have unique usernames on your accounts and protect your real address.  Masked Emails even protect your email address when you reply, a feature not currently offered by notsharingmy.info and only offered as a paid feature in 33mail.  Blur allows you to cancel forwarding to any masked email at any time, so if you sign up for a service that is bombarding you with junk mail you can simply login to your account and toggle forwarding to “off”, or delete the address entirely.

Blur also has a built-in username and password generator.  When you sign up for a new account or service and generate a username with Blur it will be a masked email address.  Unfortunately the passwords generated by Blur are only 12 characters long (though they are complex) and I have found no way to change this.  Masked Phone is another interesting feature that allows you to generate a phone number through Blur that will forward calls and text messages to your phone.  Unfortunately you can only have one Masked Number at a time, and the cost to change your masked number is $7; additionally there is a $.01 charge for each incoming call, for each minute used, and for each incoming text.  At this time you cannot send outgoing text messages from your masked number.

Blur’s most exciting feature by far is Masked Cards.  Blur allows you to create masked credit cards for online purchasing.  When you wish to make an online purchase you log into Blur and create a new masked card.  The amount of purchase will be charged to your “real” card, and the masked card works much like a pre-paid gift card.  Blur will give you a credit card number, expiration date, CCV, and billing address, and you can choose the name and shipping address.  This limits the amount of information that retailers, credit card companies, and third-parties can accumulate about your purchases, the benefits of which are obvious.  It also limits the exposure of your real credit card number on the internet.

With the ability to obscure your email address and phone number, create masked credit cards, generate unique, complex usernames and passwords, and manage it all in one place, Blur is almost a one-stop-privacy solution.  Your Blur account can be protected with very strong passwords (I haven’t found a length limit yet) and two-factor authentication and can be accessed through your browser, Blur’s add-on for Firefox/Chrome, or their Android/iOS app.