Last year at this time (2016), I wrote about my Privacy Resolutions for the upcoming year and some goals that I hoped to accomplish in the pursuit of better personal OPSEC. I encouraged others to reflect and identify new areas to focus on that could improve their stance on privacy over the next 12 months.
Some of the areas I chose to focus on this past year included re-reading and studying “the basics”, many of which are outlined in The Complete Privacy & Security Desk Reference. I also committed to looking outward to share my knowledge of these topics with others, including friends, family, and through teaching these subjects to colleagues throughout the country. I also had goals of launching removal efforts and completing opt-outs for family members, and also a commitment to make all of my purchases in a privacy conscious manner, greatly reducing the amount of real personal information I share in connection with my purchases.
I am happy to report that focusing on those areas kept me very busy in 2017 and I feel that the commitment it took to focus on those items was well worth the effort. The privacy and security endeavor is an everyday effort. You sacrifice a lot of convenience to pursue this lifestyle, but in the end I believe it is extremely worthwhile and eventually the “control” you take back is extremely worthwhile.
In addition to the resolutions that I focused on in 2017, there were a few other milestones that I incorporated into my lifestyle and privacy strategy this past year that I thought were noteworthy enough to mention in today’s article.
Protectli Vault: My home network is now protected by this device at all times. It acts as a high-powered router that is capable of running pfSense 24 hours a day. It has low-power consumption with great specs. I have mine configured to run my PIA VPN with an absolute kill switch. This small box now protects every device on my network (even guests’ mobile devices). It blocks all incoming connections and forces a VPN on all outgoing internet traffic. Volume 2 of the Desk Reference (due out in 2018) will include complete instructions for setting up this device in any home.
No Cell Service: Recently I wrote about how I eliminated the cell phone bill from my life by using VoIP and encrypted calling solutions exclusively on my phone. I am no longer a “24/7 hotline” for people to reach me, and the vast majority of my contacts are communicating with me using secure channels, like Wire & Signal. The Sudo app also handles VoIP calling needs and all of this is accomplished whenever trusted WiFi and a VPN is available to me. By “eliminating the ‘push’ diet”, I have taken back control over how and when communications happen in my life, and I am excited about the privacy/security implications of that as well.
Linux: I have transitioned to using Linux full-time for the majority of my computing needs. I currently run Ubuntu as the host OS, and also utilize virtual machines for investigations and penetration testing research. Using 100% free and open source alternatives from the ground up eliminated the Windows and Apple ecosystems from my life. I believe this has huge benefits to both privacy and security and I am excited to learn as I go and never look back from this transition. More on my experiences with this in upcoming blogs next year.
De-Googled Everything: It had been quite some time since I have utilized Google for anything in my life. I had two dormant Google accounts, which are now closed and deleted. I no longer have the ability to log into a Google account or use any of their services. My phone and computers do not have Google products on them and I couldn’t be happier about that. A recent podcast covered the how-to and many alternatives to using Google’s surveillance products and I encourage everyone to adopt a non-Google lifestyle.
There were many other smaller items that found their way into my strategy; utilizing webcam covers on all my devices, incorporating faraday bags into my daily routine, including the new Brave browser into my lineup and setting up new mail drops to compartmentalize and provide disinformation a bit more. I always enjoy renewing my commitment to privacy and security and helping others do the same as they realize the importance of protecting their personal information in an age where so much of it at risk. For those of you who crave more information, stick close to the podcast episodes and keep an eye out for Michael & Justin’s next edition of the Desk reference coming soon. This new year will present many challenges to privacy seekers, and also many new solutions to explore. Wishing everyone all the best in OPSEC for 2018!