Online Privacy Tools for Canadians

It isn’t a stretch to say your entire online life is being watched. From the second an internet browser is booted up you are agreeing to let corporate entities and Justin Trudeau watch, track, and record your every move. Sorry Justin – we really just mean government entities. Here you will find all the tools and information you need to be secure online. Defeat online censorship and maintain your privacy all while sipping on your two-four.

AS FEATURED IN:

Privacy Warning

Warning! Warning! As you are reading this you are being watched. Nefarious or not – Government entities (again, sorry Justin) and private entities like Google and Facebook are making sure that you are tracked, monitored, and recorded.

Private companies are rubbing their hands together and laughing while collecting as much of your data as possible. We like to picture their laugh as an evil Seth Rogen laugh. These bastards (companies) then shove targeted ads in your face and attempt to influence your purchasing decisions with behavioral modification.

Government entities, such as the NSA in the United States and the GCHQ in the United Kingdom are surveillance agencies that are bulk-collecting your private data for various purposes. Sadly, even in dear ol’ Canada our very own surveillance agency, the CSEC, could be watching our every move.

We do appreciate the CSEC on a deeper level though. They wanted to install a hockey rink in their new building. Sadly, they didn’t do it. Boo.

The PRISM program details a dystopian reality. We live in a world where total surveillance exists. This is done through private companies and state agencies working together.

Luckily, thankfully, and fortunately there are effective solutions to these problems that you can implement right now. You can wait until tomorrow but you might as well do it today – you can’t have that much going on right now.

Private, Secure Web Browsers

Browsers, we all use them. Everyone needs a portal to the great wide interweb. How else will we know where to find elk?

The first step in this fight is to use a secure browser. Secure browsers protect your privacy and is a critical step to stay private and secure online. Browsers contain swaths of private information. All the websites you visit (browsing history), login credentials, personal information (autofill details), as well as system data and location information are living inside your browser.

This information can be exploited by hackers or simply collected by the browser itself – such as with Google Chrome, Opera, or Microsoft Edge.

On the flip-side, Firefox is an under-utilized browser that can be configured for more privacy and security. Other browsers that allow more privacy include Brave and Waterfox. Waterfox is a shoot-off of Firefox where privacy is prioritized to a higher degree.

Browser fingerprinting – Most browsers and operating system’s settings can also be used to track and identify you. Things like screen resolution, supported fonts, timezone, operating system, browser version, and plug-ins can be discovered.

WebRTC leak – The WebRTC leak is a vulnerability that allows browsers that use it to form real-time, peer-to-peer connections with the websites they visit. This lets whichever browser you’re using to do crazy stuff like send live audio and video geeds between you and another browser user.

Useful browser add-ons – Since we’re nicer than the rest of the world we decided to compile a list of useful browser add-ons. Using all of these isn’t realistic as a few have overlap but using one or two is powerful when it comes to privacy:

  1. uBlock Origin – A powerful blocker for advertisements and tracking. This nifty blocker is much less memory-intensive than other extension and provides the user with the ability to set their own content-filtering settings.
  2. HTTPS Everywhere – This forces an HTTPS connection with the sites you visit. The option to block all HTTP requests makes it possible to block all non-HTTPS browser connections with one click.
  3. Cookie AutoDelete – Delete those unwanted tracking cookies. The power to auto-delete unused cookies from your closed tabs while keeping the ones you want feels as powerful as having a maple syrup monopoly.
  4. Privacy Badger – Another add-on from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy Badger blocks spying ads and trackers. Besides automatic tracker blocking, Privacy Badger removes outgoing link click tracking on Facebook, Google, and Twitter.
  5. uMatrix – While this may be overkill for many users, uMatrix is a powerful add-on that gives you control over requests that may be tracking you on various websites. (Advanced users – requires lots of customization.) You literally can block any kind of data. We’re still waiting for word on if Keanu Reeves uses uMatrix.
  6. NoScript – This is a script blocker exclusively made for Mozilla based web browsers that allows you to control which scripts run on the sites you visit. (Advanced users – requires lots of customization.)

Combining the power of a VPN service with a shored up browser is kind of like having a trained polar bear as your internet security guard. It will go a long way in ensuring your security.

VPN (Virtual Private Networks)

Use a VPN. Honestly, just do it. Whenever and wherever you go online without a VPN, you broadcast to the world your unique IP address, internet provider, and geographic location. This allows any third party to identify you online. Don’t be identified online! Bad things happen.

Luckily, when you use a VPN (virtual private network), your real IP address and location will be replaced by the VPN server’s IP address. This also lets you appear to be in a different location which makes you feel like you’re on vacation.

vpn

A VPN will also create a secure and encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN server you use. Boom, all of the sudden your online activity is anonymous, your data is secure from evil third parties, and you’re able to get around online restrictions and censorship. Hello Netflix outside of Canada.

If you are new to VPNs or a VPN veteran, ExpressVPN is a fantastic choice because it is simple, user-friendly, and their support is amazing – and offered 24/7. Here are our reviews of the top performers from the best VPN report.

Ad Blocker

Ads are annoying. Only weirdos enjoy seeing advertisements everywhere they go on the internet. Not only that – many ads function as advanced tracking, quietly recording your browsing history and online habits. You thought they were just trying to sell you a loofa, didn’t you?

The more data ad companies can collect about you, the more money they can make with targeted advertising. Did you honestly think that life-sized Ryan Gosling cut-out was being advertised to you by coincidence? Blocking ads will not only improve your privacy but also improve page load speeds.

Ads can also be malicious (malvertising) and therefore a security risk. I know, ads really suck. Since ads are fed in through third-party domains that can be hijacked, they are an easy attack vector and can infect your device as you load a website – you don’t even have to click anything.

Here is how to block pesky ads:

  1. Browser add-ons– These work as extensions through your internet browser and some are as easy as just downloading. One popular option is uBlock Origin as noted above. The drawback for some of these is that they only work with specific supported browsers in a few cases. Luckily, all browsers have at least one that works.
  2. VPN ad blockers You can also block ads through a VPN service. There are a handful of VPNs that offer ad blocking while doing all the great VPN things VPNs do.
  3. Hardware – Some routers have the option to block ads. Other hardware options include the eBlocker device, or running a Raspberry Pi with Pi-Hole.

Secure Email

secure mailGoogle, Yahoo, and Microsoft collect your data and give third parties access to your emails and attachments – an intimate view into your private life. Aside from using your data for profit, these giant tech companies also work closely with surveillance agencies. There are better alternatives.

Many secure email providers offer free plans up to a certain storage limit, which allows you to set up a new email account in just minutes.

Email Service

Storage

Price/mo.

Website

20 GB+

€1.00
(Free to 1 GB)

Up to 20 GB

€4.00
(Free to 500 MB)

Up to 20 GB

€2.50
(Free to 500 MB)

Up to 20 GB

€1.00

Up to 20 GB

$5.00
(Free to 500 MB)

Note: Some of these services, such as Mailfence and Kolab Now, also include built-in calendar, contacts, and file storage.

Secure Messaging

secure messagingIf you are looking for a higher level of privacy – more than email – you may want to consider encrypted messaging services.

There are some great encrypted messaging services you that are free, open source, and offer great apps for many different devices and operating systems.

Messaging Service

Jurisdiction

Price

Operating System

Open source?

Website

United States

Free
Android; iOS; Windows; Linux; Mac OS
Yes

Switzerland

Free
Windows; Linux; Mac OS; Android; iOS
Yes

Note: Wire also supports end-to-end encrypted voice and video chats, as well as file sharing.

Private Search Engine

private search

The major search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, are collecting your search requests, IP address, user agent, and also tracking you through cookies. Your searches allow these companies to build up intimate user profiles, which can be handed over to various third parties.

There are search engines that were created with privacy in mind. While they don’t create personal profiles of you the drawback is that no results are personalized. This tradeoff is more than worth it if you value privacy above all else. Here are a few privacy-friendly search engines worth consideration:

Here are a few privacy-friendly search engines worth consideration:

  1. Searx – A very privacy-friendly and versatile metasearch engine. In Searx’s own words, “Searx doesn’t care about what you search for, never shares anything with a third party, and it can’t be used to compromise you.”
  2. Qwant – A private search engine based in France with the goal of respecting the web and its users. According to Qwant, their keywords are privacy and neutrality.
  3. Metager – A private search engine based in Germany is a not for profit search engine. Metager has set the goal of implementing free access to knowledge and digital democracy.
  4. DuckDuckGo – DDG is probably the most well-known Google search alternative. They do record search terms and are partners with Yahoo but still prioritize privacy more than anything else.
  5. StartPage – StartPage is the hipster of privacy search engines. They were doing it before it was cool. They will give you Google search results, but without the tracking.

Encrypted Cloud Storage

The name brands in cloud storage, such as DropBox and Google, usually don’t have the best privacy policies and practices. Here are other options:

  1. Synqion – This is a business-oriented cloud backup and file synchronization option based in Germany. Synqion guarantees zero knowledge which means no one will have access to your files except you and your collaborators.
  2. Tresorit – This is a user-friendly cloud storage option based in Switzerland that offers end-to-end encryption. They also use Microsoft Windows servers, which could be seen as a negative depending on how you feel about Microsoft.
  3. Nextcloud – Nextcloud is an open source, self-hosted file share and communication platform based in Germany. They just want to offer customers products and services that allow the user to maintain control while staying productive.
  4. Sync.com – Based in beautiful Canada, Sync.com offers a secure, encrypted cloud storage solution for businesses and individuals. I assume they run on Tim Hortons coffee just like us while they keep files safe and secure.

There is also the option to encrypt your files and store them locally. One good option for this is VeraCrypt, which is available for free and works on every major operating system.

Password Manager

Using a secure password manager is also an important step for protecting your data. Weak passwords are a huge security vulnerability. Here are a few good options:

  1. KeePass – KeePass is an old school password manager that keeps all passwords secured in a database that is locked with a master key or key file. Support for: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, and BSD.
  2. LessPass – LessPass is a free and open source password manager that will create unique passwords so you don’t even have to use your brain. Support for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Android.
  3. Bitwarden – Bitwarden is another great open source password manager that is free and easy to use. It can also be used on mobile and has browser extensions. Bitwarden can be used on every widely used browser.

Privacy Canada - Secure Your Life

We will continuously update and improve to reflect real user feedback and the latest developments in the online privacy and security environment. Our one goal in life is to make sure Canadians like us are protected.

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If you have any additional suggestions or want to send us an anonymous tip, you can use our secure communication center.