To drop off-grid; to disappear into the shadows; to vanish into the blissful disconnect of some exotic country like Jason Bourne. Under the crush of technology and our always-on social media connections, we’ve all fantasized about it at least a little. Now, more than ever, we’re struggling to regain some semblance of privacy. If you’ve ever daydreamed about disappearing forever, here are four tools to help you go anonymous and vanish without a trace — to “ghost.”
Everything and everyone is tracking your every digital footprint. From Facebook and Google to your Starbucks rewards card and your internet service provider, they count, analyze, and market your information, spending habits, and private messages. If you’re looking for a way to lock down your communication, Signal is where it’s at. The mobile and desktop software uses bulletproof, military-grade encryption to protect the transmission of your text chats, video calls, and documents to maintain your privacy. Perhaps most surprisingly, it’s free, ad-free, and available for every major platform. It’s also endorsed by Edward Snowden. So there’s that.
Speaking of Snowden, the whistleblower-turned-fugitive worked to develop the deceptively simple, but infinitely useful Haven. The mobile app turns most any Android smartphone into a clever, nanny-cam-esque recording device. At its core, users set it to detect motion, audio, or both, and it begins recording once triggered. It can even auto-alert you via text message or the previously mentioned Signal app. For panicky journalists, corporate whistleblowers, or anyone (soon to be) on the run, it’s easy to see how this would prove invaluable. It’s also ideal for protecting against physical intrusion into your private spaces —a home office, your cubicle, your bat cave, whatever — in your absence. It’s free and available for most new-ish Android devices via the Google Play Store.
Virtual Private Network
There was a time when only mobsters and shady white collar workers had paper shredders. Now, even your Nana has one. Same with Virtual Private Networks (or just “VPNs” if you want to be like John Travolta in Swordfish), as even “average” computer users better understand how they work and why they should be using them. This specialty mobile and desktop software create a virtual, encrypted “tunnel” through which all your web traffic flows. It allows you to lock down critical things like banking information and passwords, and even more mundane things like how often you visit The Daily Puppy. While there are free versions available, we highly recommend opting for a paid version. For a few dollars a month, you get the peace of mind of software that’s regularly updated and (with the right provider) a “zero-logging” policy which means the software maker is physically unable to track and log your online sessions. All the better for keeping prying eyes off your surfing habits. IPVanish and TunnelBear are both great places to start.
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