Updated: October 11, 2018

This is a privacy post about my efforts to regain control of my digital privacy. I won’t answer why, you can derive that from my opening statement, but I will reference a mountain of documentation on steps you can take to enhance your digital privacy. More than anything the work outlined in all this highlights my attempt to limit the data I share with companies like: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Verizon, ATT, etc… all while remaining minimally engaged with their services.

First off, I highly recommend stepping through privacytools.io and Restore Privacy. Their content is very informative and approachable by providing actionable steps, recommendations as replacements for services we’re all expected to use everyday (“let me google that for you…”).

Let’s jump into my posture and recommendations…

Global Considerations

  • Keep devices locked at all times whenever you’re not present.
  • Keep all systems up-to-date with security patches, OS upgrades, etc…
  • Enable network-wide adblocking via the pi-hole project. Use a low-power, always-on device like a Raspberry PI to run pi-hole and configure your home router’s DHCP settings to hand out a static address to the RPI running pi-hole. Customize the DHCP settings to direct all clients on the network to use the pi-hole for their DNS queries. This allows pi-hole to keep stats on your network requests, use block lists to flat out ban requests to ad-serving content providers, and otherwise further secure your network.
  • Use encrypted DNS servers, ideally those that don’t track you, to protect the privacy of the domains you request. DNS queries, different than the traffic itself, is generally unencrypted and allows ISPs, governments, etc… to keep a log book of what systems a device talks to (unless those too are encrypted). Read more about that topic here. I use Quad9 for unencrypted DNS queries and okturtles for encrypted DNS traffic. See this CSV for a list of dns resolvers. (Alphabet’s Jigsaw just released an app to prevent this for mobile users, specifically in countries with governments that engage in censorship.)
  • Enable disk and cloud encryption of everything, preferably in a way where you manage your own keys. See this comparison of software options.
  • Use absolutely no OAuth to cloud providers like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter. Read this to fully understand what information is shared when you authorize an application or service to authenticate via OAuth.
  • Use DuckDuckGo as default search platform, or similar.
  • Enable two factor authentication for all the sites/apps/systems you use that support it!
  • Leverage password management via 1Password, bitwarden, LastPass, Keepass, etc… with the strongest possible passwords for each site and absolutely zero password re-use.
  • Leverage secure messaging platforms like Keybase, Signal, and Telegram wherever possible.

iOS

  • Use a complicated pin to unlock your device
  • Understand how to engage the “lock out mode” on your device without looking at it; while it’s in your pocket, for example (by tapping the side button 5 times, with the proper minimum version of iOS)
  • Limit app permissions for camera, location, contact, background processing tailoring the permissions to your usage of any individual app
  • Use an ad-blocker with Safari content blocking integration like AdGuard Pro In addition to content blocking, AdGuard Pro also has a local, pass through VPN which aims to achieve something similar to the aforementioned Jigsaw’s Intra app. With the VPN enabled; all traffic flows through the app which uses configurable blacklists to block outbound DNS requests (similar to pi-hole). Also similar to pi-hole, AdGuard Pro enables custom upstream DNS support enabling you to pick DNS endpoints for your device (encrypted or non-encrypted). I use just domains as the basis for the majority of my block lists.
  • Use Firefox Focus for super sensitive queries
  • Use VPN services like encrypt.me to provide LTE and WiFi VPN connectivity on untrusted networks.
  • For more tips read through iOSPriSec (Useful tips on how to maximize and balance security and privacy on iOS)

MacOS

  • MacOS Mojave added many privacy-focused features including permission prompts for audio and video input. In addition to these features, I use Micro Snitch to keep tabs of what and when apps request mic access.
  • MacOS has a built in firewall which you should enable.
  • Use Little Snitch to keep tabs of what connections applications are making outbound and create open, closed, or policies somewhere in the middle.
  • FileVault should be enabled without iCloud recovery enabled, using the only the generated recovery code as fallback (don’t lose it!).
  • Don’t use Find / Locate my Mac and or the remote wipe functionality.
  • Use Firefox for primary browsing hardened security settings including most of those referenced here. Many of the recommendations in the aforementioned article and more can be dropped in by default with this amazing tool, ffprofile. The specific list of Firefox add-ons I use includes:
  • Make use of Multi-Account Containers to group and separate sessions. My default container isn’t authenticated with Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc… I do use more global services/sites that I have fewer if any privacy or tracking concerns about, like “github.com”, within the default container. I tend to break up session sharing into the following categories:
    • personal google
    • work google
    • commerce
    • finance
    • social (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc…)
  • Occasional usage of Safari for sites that are uncooperative with Firefox.
  • Chrome usage for things like Drive, Google Cloud, Hangouts, when appropriate.
  • Both Safari and Chrome have the aforementioned list of applicable plugins installed/configured if available (mainly in the case of Safari).
  • Crashplan cloud backup with self-managed encryption keys.
  • For more tips read through drduh’s macOS security and privacy guide

Cloud Considerations

  • Personal, custom mail/calendar/contacts infrastructure via sovereign or, even easier mailinabox.email. I use sovereign but my fork is highly customized.
  • Encrypt any sensitive data at rest and transit – do not trust Box or Dropbox with unencrypted data.
  • Limit use of cloud applications like those in G suite, or do so via paid accounts with differing terms from free accounts
  • Always read terms of service, terms of use.

Application Engineering Considerations

  • Stay up to date with recommendations and publications by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).
  • Prefer portable encryption solutions (vault) over those offered by cloud providers (google or aws)
  • Run applications using the fewest privileges possible, particularly in cloud scenarios.
  • Run regular metasploit scans of your infrastructure and applications.
  • Use a bug bounty program like those offered by hackerone.

Closing Remarks

Many large, open source projects exist only by the time and resources of individuals who care deeply about its mission. Consider donating your time or resources to the projects you use most to keep those projects alive and well for a continued open and free internet.

See Also

This document will be updated with useful information as I find stumble upon it.