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How to protect your Online & Crypto privacy

11/21/2020

As hackers, blockchain intelligence companies, ISP (Internet Service provider) and government agencies ramp up their operations to track your online activity, it is worth educating yourself on the tools available to protect your privacy.

The first step to protect your online activity is to install a browser with privacy features that actively blocks ad trackers.

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Online Activity

Brave Browser - block third party trackers

This free open source web browser blocks ad and website trackers to protect your online activity. It also features additional privacy with private windows with TOR, a browser that enables anonymous web communication, and DuckDuckGO, a search engine that doesn't track your search history.

Furthermore, the browser allows users to opt-in for advertisements rewarding each view with BAT tokens, which can be used to contribute to content creators of your choosing.

TOR Browser - anonymity

This browser also blocks third party trackers, while cookies and your browsing history are automatically deleted once you close it. The traffic itself is encrypted and relayed randomly 3 times through the TOR nodes which will anonymize the data: The first node or entry node will know know your IP address and will be encrypted along with the IP address of that node, while the third node or exit node will know what you are browsing but won’t know who you are or your IP address.

VPN Virtual Private Network - privacy

A VPN is very similar to TOR in the sense that it encrypts traffic but instead of going through multiple nodes it goes through one of their servers, of your choosing. Additionally VPN´s allow for geo-spoofing, redirecting your connection through foreign servers, in the sense that a website would register your visit as one coming from a different country or city.

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Best option to protect your privacy: VPN & TOR

With the TOR browser your ISP won’t know which sites you accessed but it will know that you have used the TOR browser. Although it is not illegal to use TOR it is worth mentioning that this browser is often associated with the dark web which may include whistleblower, journalism, activism and criminal activities.

With a VPN, your ISP won't know which sites you accessed but you have to trust your VPN service provider not to keep any logs of your activity.

The best solutions for privacy and anonymity is to use a VPN and TOR browser together, to ensure that there is no direct link from your IP address to the sites you visited. 

TAILS The Amnesic Incognito Live System

An even more extreme approach to privacy would be to install a privacy oriented operating system such as TAILS on your computer, or even better, in a new computer such as a Raspberry Pi.

This operating system easily boots from a USB stick, never uses the computer's hard drive and automatically wipes out to a clean state when shut down; meaning all the browsing history, files, passwords, devices and WI-Fi networks you used get deleted once you shut down.

1 payment - 1 address

The first step to protect your crypto financial privacy and the fungibility of the Bitcoin network is to avoid using the same Bitcoin address for multiple transactions. Since the bitcoin blockchain is public, your bitcoin can be traced back to their block of creation with the full list of addresses it has gone through. There is a rising number of  government agencies and blockchain intelligence companies specialized in tracking blockchain transactions coming from “bad actors” or illegal activities such as the Silk road. Evenmore some centralized exchanges and crypto service providers are doing background checks on the BTC you deposit with them, and if linked to criminal activities, may choose to freeze your account.

In this context it is important to use multiple addresses, to avoid reconciling funds from different sources into a single wallet and as if it had to be said, avoid listing your wallet addresses along with your identity in any type of website.    

Coin mixers

Coin Tumblers or Coin Mixers are services to obscure the origin of your coins. They do so by mixing the funds multiple users deposit, between multiple addresses while taking 1-3% of the total amount as a commission.

Swapping BTC for XMR Monero and back to BTC

Another way of anonymizing your bitcoin consists in exchanging them for a privacy coin such as Monero and making a confidential transaction to another XMR wallet to be converted back to BTC.

Unlike Bitcoin, Monero blockchain doesn’t publicly display the amount transferred nor the addresses involved in a confidential transaction, which will break the link between your original Bitcoins and the ones you receive after the set of transactions.

Anonymous Bitcoin

If you are in the market for getting Bitcoins without any link to your real identity you might want to consider buying bitcoin in physical cryptocurrency stores or Bitcoin ATMs, or even prepaid cards if that’s available in your country: Pay in cash!

The only inconvenience is that the purchase will include a higher premium than buying it through centralized exchanges and that the daily amount for purchases with no ID is capped at one thousand Euros, at least in Europe. 

Mine your own Bitcoin - Virgin Bitcoin

In case all of the above sounds too time-consuming and you are looking for brand new Bitcoins for your wallet, consider mining your own BTC; but be warned it won't be cheap as you will be competing with retail miners, private and publicly traded crypto mining companies worth up to nine figures.

A more affordable approach is to simply buy freshly minted Bitcoins, also called Virgin Bitcoins. Earlier this year, a report from Bitcoin.com claimed these are sold for a premium of up to 20%.