Getting & keeping "out" of the cloud


No, I'm not paranoid, but I'm not stupid either. More and more information is being kept about you. When this information gets corrupt or incorrect, it can really cause problems.

Also, what I buy, how I spend my life is really no one's concern, i.e. I'm not willing to give this out without my permission.

Lastly, hacking people's lives, credit, bank accounts, medical records, etc. is just getting worse.

So, I have been embarking on trying to limit my "digital footprint" in the world.

Personal information

So everyone seems to "need" my birth date, my SSN and other stuff. Also authentication questions are getting pretty invasive.

There are things where you really have to provide the correct information, like medical records, or anything to do with the government. But there are stupid things like Internet forums who want to know personal information.


So, for your birthday, I suggest you pick an "alternate" birth date, something you can remember but is not your real birth date. Select the same year, so you don't get bounced by "are you 18" sites, etc. The first step is select a month and  day, so it's easy to remember. If you need to go a step further (which I don't see as too often right now) you could come up with an algorithm to pick the day or month based on the web site you are accessing (see password algorithms).

Social Security Number

There's not really much you can do about your SSN except realize it is really not secure at all. Be sure that you have some other form of unique information for those sites.

Challenge questions / security questions

I really hate these. Many sites want 3 or even more challenge questions. So now you are putting private, personal information on another site, and most people pick the same questions. This kind of information can convince people that a hacker is really you. Did I mention that I really hate this?

OK, so first try to use different questions on different sites, that will help.

The next level is to make up answers that are not really true, but you can remember. Going beyond this, you would want different answers to the same question on different sites. I don't really know how you could do this without writing them down. Did I mention I really hate this?


OK, so I know hundreds of people who use the same password or a slight modification for everything. You are idiots. When you get hacked, I will have no sympathy for you at all. Anyone over the age of 5 knows this.

I suggest you come up with an algorithm you can remember. Most passwords will be ok with 1 capital letter, a couple of numbers and a piece of punctuation. So figure out something, even if it is part of the web site address name... since you need in most cases at least 8 characters, pick the first few letters of the web site name, a piece of punctuation, and some number NOT your bank pin.

This will go a long way. Even better, come up with a way to scramble the numbers, the letters and the position of the punctuation/special character.

There's too many compromised companies, and if you use the same password, you can be sure it will be tried on all your bank accounts and credit cards.

Don't store passwords on your computer, I know it's easier, but 3 dangers,

    1. you get lazy and forget the password and then when you are on a different computer you cannot get in
    2. you lose your computer and someone else gets into your accounts
    3. you are wireless and someone gets the password by "sniffing" the Wi-Fi


OK, this is an interesting one. For many people, they want email on their phone and their computer. The easiest solution is that your email server stores and keeps all of your emails. That means ALL your emails are on someone's server.

IMAP makes this easiest, but I want my emails off someone's server asap.

So I run POP email, and delete from the server as soon as I download. If I am on a trip, I bring my computer, or use the Web interface to my mail server until I get home and then vacuum the emails to my computer. I do backups weekly, so I don't lose anything.

If you want to use POP email and delete from the server AND you want multiple devices getting email, it CAN be done, but it takes more discipline than most people can manage. You have one device that reads emails, but does not delete them from the server, and you run another that does delete them when it reads and you use these devices in sequence.

My advice is get your emails off the server asap. Look at all the problems people in the news have with having old emails dredged up.

Also, don't reply to all when a reply to the sender will do. Don't honor emails that don't look right. Use your email client to look at the headers. Use a spam filter. Don't open attachments that you have ANY qualms about... if you think a friend sent you something, but it looks weird, email him (don't reply) and make sure it was him that sent the email. If you get an attachment, save it to your desktop, scan it, and ONLY THEN open it. Be smart and use a little extra effort to protect youself.

Wi-Fi at your house

Do not use a weak password on your Wi-Fi (and clearly do not have an open system)

Don't make you Wi-Fi SSID like "greg's house"

Don't make the Wi-Fi password the same as anything else

Periodically scan around your to see what sites are out there, sometimes someone will make the SAME SSID with no security, and you will connect to their network (so they can sniff your data) (free apps on your phone)

Get a home router of your own, don't use the POS the Internet provider gives you alone. If you are in a crowded area, lock your system to only allow MAC addresses from your computers.

Use a "hardwired" connection (an Ethernet cable) whenever you can, it's faster and secure. (Wi-Fi is not as fast as it is advertised, it's half to 1/4 what is advertised, specification tricks).

The Cloud in general

Finally, the Cloud. I am making it so that I have NOTHING that works through the cloud. Basically you want it so that no device can be controlled by the cloud, or send data to the cloud, etc.

Turn off the UPnP, "Universal Plug and Play" in your router. This is the thing that allows ANY device to make a "tunnel" so that something on the Internet can talk directly to some gadget in your house.

Don't buy stuff that will not work if you are not actively connected to the Internet, i.e. depends on the Internet.

Oh, now you are whining, how do I do this? Well you VPN to your house, you create an encrypted, secure tunnel between your computer/phone to your house. Then you can operate just like you are at home. You can get VPN software, like OpenVPN for free, and any good router will support VPN.

Any Internet provider that blocks this, tell them to fix it, or do not buy their services, and tell them you will tell all your friends to not use them either.

Tell any manufacturer that insists on having a live internet connection you don't want their products, and will tell your friends that their products compromise your security.

Just vote with your wallet. Yes, solutions will be harder to find, and probably some will cost a bit more, but this stuff is out there.

Internet enabled products are not your friends, they are leaks to your house.

Camera/surveillance systems that are standalone are not that expensive, and you can record locally, hard disks are cheap, why do you want video of your house stored somewhere else?

Don't save any files to the cloud unless they are ones you would not mind showing a criminal or pervert. I have a web site (doh) and my family pictures are in a part of it where it takes a password to get to them.

If you use Dropbox to share files, take them off when done.




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