This week, news broke that the Zimbabwean authorities were allegedly preventing access to WhatsApp and the internet.
According to a report by All Africa, the government flatly denies any intervention.
Not longer after the outage, service was restored. And then, we spotted this circulating on Twitter:
— N'wa Hobyane??️ (@MsKulie) July 7, 2016
It appears as if the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) is warning citizens not to engage in ‘subversive behaviour’, which could easily include the use of social media platforms – such as WhatsApp – to rally supporter for the ongoing protests.
“All sim cards in Zimbabwe are registered in the name of the user. Perpetrators can easily be identified,” the memo reads.
Threats from a government implying that it can track you are not to be taken lightly; the technology does exist and denying it does is both foolish and dangerous.
So rather than risk being “dealt with accordingly”, we feel it pertinent to explain how one can protect their privacy online and remain anonymous.
Before anything, scan for malware
Malware has the potential to contain nasty tracking software such as key-loggers which would render any attempts to remain hidden online moot.
For this reason we highly recommend scanning for any malicious software on your smartphone or desktop to insure that you aren’t be watched.
Built on the bones of Firefox, Tor browser uses a unique routing method to direct users to the websites they wish to visit. The service encrypts information and then wraps it in layers. This information is then passed through various Tor nodes where a layer is removed.
Only when the information reaches the desired participant is the real information revealed.
Using Tor effectively requires you change your browsing habits. Rather than using plain URLs such as htxt.co.za, you will use onion addresses that look something like this: 646deawd4as65d49qwe8rad4sdassd.onion.
The Tor homepage has a number of tips for remaining anonymous and we recommend reading through them while you wait for the download.
There is also the Android app, Orbot which claims to encrypt all internet access through a mobile phone.
VPNs allow users to remain anonymous by hiding which geographic location they are browsing from.
Sadly, many of these services are extremely expensive or only offer a limited free trial before charging you monthly.
Many, but not all.
TunnelBear also has a free account option which gives you 500MB of VPN browsing data every month.
Opera has also included a free VPN in developer versions of its desktop browser for Windows and Mac. You will need to download the developer version to access this. Downloading the current stable browser will only allow you to use the SurfEasyVPN which costs $6.49 per month.
For mobile users, hide.me offers a mobile app for iOS and Android smartphones. For iOS users, Opera offers a free VPN to users through the App Store.
Tweeting on your own personal account is dangerous, so create a new account. The trouble is that many email providers request a lot of personal information. You could fake it but rather than try that, simply set up a temporary or “burner” email address.
This is good for spam but it’s also fantastic for staying anonymous online.
Guerilla Mail lets you create an email address and then monitor it through your browser by keying in an email address you used. This allows you to see any emails sent to that address.
There is also a Guerilla Mail app for Android smartphones.
Maildrop is another burner email provider you can use and it functions in a similar way to Guerilla Mail, but the UI is much slicker.
While trying to remain anonymous you should not use Google. Internet denizens looking to trawl the web for information should instead use a search engine such as DuckDuckGo which does not track users or what they’re searching for.
For those using Tor, we suggest using DuckDuckGo (Onion address: http://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/) or TORCH, a Tor search engine (Onion address: http://xmh57jrzrnw6insl.onion/)
In addition to this, The Hidden Wiki (Onion address: http://kpvz7ki2v5agwt35.onion) has a number of useful links to websites hosted on Tor.
We should point out that none of these services are an assurance of anonymity but they do make it harder for prying eyes to keep watch over you.
[Image – CC BY SA 2.0 g4ll4is]