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 Maximize online Security and Minimize your Digital Footprint

Discussion in 'Autoflower Guides & Tutorials: How to Grow' started by Boradan, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. Boradan

    Boradan We don't need no stinking Badges!

    Oct 27, 2017
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    Fruit Punch Auto/AK49/GSC
    Guide: Maximizing your Personal Online Security

    Even in areas where the growing of Cannabis is legal, online security is paramount for people posting in public forums.
    1. Cannabis itself is still valuable to undesirable elements in society.
    2. Grow room stuff can be EXPENSIVE.
    3. LOTS of companies are trying to collect as much data on peoples browsing history in order to throw adverts in your direction. This data collected is vulnerable to outside third parties (Equifax anyone?).

    There are several things you can do in order to minimize your digital footprint when Surfing/Posting.
    These vary from 'extremely easy' to 'IT Gurus only'
    This guide will concentrate on the 'easy' ways to strengthen your security and protect your identity.

    1. Antivirus/Antimalware/Web Security Software

    *I am not affiliated in any way with any of the Software I will link to/discuss here. All links are direct to the item pages without any affiliate links - these are just my personal opinions regarding the software*

    There are numerous antivirus, antimalware and Web Security software companies out there for you to choose from.
    What you pick will be a matter of personal choice. I will go through just a FEW of your options here - I recommend further reading before making a decision.

    Web Security Packages

    These offer the most complete protection for your online habits and will generally incorporate Antivirus, antimalware, safe browsing, a configurable firewall and a few other odds and ends.
    There is a good review of the best currently (2018) available Security packages HERE

    Personally, I use ESET Smart Security and have done so for about 10 years. I like it's ease of use and what it provides at a decent price. I have never been caught with a Virus, not had my computer hacked and I do a LOT of browsing.
    Most of the companies in the linked review also have standalone Antivirus programs if you wish to go that route instead.

    Anti-Malware software

    A lot of (most) Antivirus Software also contains defenses against Malware/Ransomware - Malware is the annoying software that can take over your home page and search engine, can throw up a load of adverts and various other annoying things.

    A lot of malware is installed by people installing other (usually free) software ant either checking or NOT checking the box that trys to install other additional software once the main item has been installed. You need to be careful when installing free software as sometimes the working wants you to TICK the box in order to NOT INSTALL the extra stuff. Other times you need to UNTICK the box to get the same result. READ CAREFULLY anything that is asking permission to install other programs to ensure you do the right thing.

    HERE is a review of 2018 Anti Malware software.
    Personally, I use Malwarebytes Premium for this. Its VERY good.


    You don't HAVE to pay any money in order to get at least SOME modicum of protection.
    Windows has built-in Antivirus and Firewall software (Windows Defender). This was rubbish when first released, but has gradually gotten much better. It will definitely offer some protection, but just not as good as standalone products (even the free ones).
    Most routers also have a built in firewall to help prevent remote access to your computers.
    AVG Free Antivirus does a great job.
    Malwarebytes Free is very good (without realtime protection like the paid version).

    2. Anonymity

    One of your best protections can be to simply hide who/where you are when surfing the web.


    Most web browsers allow 'Private' windows or sessions. These will not store your browsing history and generally include tracking protection.
    Here are some links to the relevant browser private sessions:
    FIREFOX: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/private-browsing-use-firefox-without-history
    CHROME: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95464?co=GENIE.Platform=Desktop&hl=en
    EDGE: https://support.microsoft.com/en-ie/help/4026200/windows-browse-inprivate-in-microsoft-edge
    OPERA: https://blogs.opera.com/news/2014/10/how-to-open-private-window-opera-for-computers/

    Alternatively, you can use the TOR BROWSER
    The TOR browser basically operates like an internal VPN - you can still use your other browsers to surf as normal, but using TOR masks your browsing and does not keep your History. (TOR can also be used to bypass browsing limits imposed by your ISP or employer (if you are on a work computer/network))
    *NOTE* Your browsing WILL be slowed down when using TOR - how much it is slowed by depends on the route your connection takes.

    3. VPN (Virtual Private Network)

    The next step up is accessing the internet through a VPN.
    Basically, a VPN encrypts all of your browsing AND masks your IP address. (An IP address is basically the location of your computer on the internet - like your house address, but for the internet).

    Using a VPN makes your connection MUCH more secure (due to encryption). Your internet connection is routed through the VPN, so any websites ONLY see the IP address of the VPN and not your OWN IP address - think of it as a Private Mailbox/PO box. If someone sends a letter to a PO box, it is not going to your actuall address. In order to track you, the person would need to get into the Post Office and see WHO owns the PO Box. A VPN does the same thing with your internet connection.

    In addition, your connection is also enctypted. This makes it GREAT for using on Public WiFi connections. The VPN encrypts everything between your computer/phone and the VPN itself, so even if the public WiFI is hacked and someone is tracing browsers, all the hacker can see is that you connected to a VPN. They cannot see ANY of the data being transferred, so have no idea whare you are borwsing. It also protects your passwords by encrypting THEM before sending them out to the VPN.

    Popular VPNs include AIR VPN and NORD VPN .
    Both have good pricing and offer protection for multiple devices - PC, Laptop, Phones etc.
    There are also free VPNs available, but they tend to slow down your connection a LOT.
    *I HIGHLY RECOMMEND using a VPN for ANY internet connection for security purposes.

    For those of a more technical nature, you can rent a Digital Ocean droplet, install OpenVPN and run your own, personal VPN for $5 per month. And share it with your family/friends. A LOT cheaper than using a commercial VPN.

    4. Anonymous Images

    Pictures are a main component of this site.
    Pictures can be a security hole.
    Most digital cameras store some sort of Data inside a picture regarding when it was taken, camera make/model and some other information in its EXIF data.
    Mobile Phones are even worse as they can actually store your GPS position!!
    Before uploading any picture, right-click it and select 'Properties'.
    Go to 'Details' and down the bottom click on 'Remove properties and Personal Information'
    You then have a choice of either Creating a copy with all info removed, or removing the properties directly from the image.
    You can now upload that to AFN safe in the knowledge that your personal data is not contained in the image.
    You can also go one step further by uploading to imgur anonymously.
    Go to : https://ctrlq.org/images/
    Upload your picture.
    Copy the FIRST link given (Direct Link (URL))and paste it into the box that pops up when you want to add an image to your post.

    5. Password Security

    Passwords - the bane of the IT guys life.
    HERE is a nice list of the most commonly used passwords. DO NOT BE ON THIS LIST!!!
    Since the dawn of the Internet, we have been advised about passwords and password security.
    General advice until now has been to use a mixture of letters(both upper and lower case) along with numbers and symbols.
    It is now becoming more common for the advice to be 'Use a PASSPHRASE instead of a password'. Something like a line or 2 from a song - NOT the chorus of your favorite song, please. Be creative.

    1. Use a UNIQUE password for each site
    2. DO NOT use a common word - mixtures of numbers, letters and symbols are strongest unless using a passphrase.
    3. Use a Password manager
    4. Use 2 Factor Authorization (2FA) if possible
    Personally, I do the following:
    Use KeePASS password Manager
    Install DROPBOX

    I move the database for Keepass (all of your passwords and links) to a dropbox folder.
    I use a PassPhrase for BOTH my Dropbox login AND for my Keepass database.
    I use a Keepass 2FA Plugin HERE to enable 2 Factor Authorization on any site that has it.
    You can also use a Passphrase generator plugin if you wish all sites to use a phrase rather than a single password

    Because of this software and plugin, I get maximum amount of password security for minimum risk.
    My Keepass has a LONG passphrase to access the database of all of my passwords.
    My Dropbox has a LONG passphrase to actually be able to even SEE the Database.
    I use Keepass for 2FA.

    This way, I only actually need to memorize TWO lengthy passphrases. Nothing else. EVER.
    I can access all of my passwords from ANY device - laptop, phone, someone elses computer - simply by installing Keepass on that computer and logging in to dropbox.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
  2. Only1Sky

    Only1Sky If you get confused just listen to the music play CannaZone Product Tester (Tier 1)

    Feb 23, 2017
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    Sour Crinkle, Creme Bubbly, Ripley's OG, RQS Bubble Kush
    Outstandingly well written and well organized discussion. :thumbsup: I feel that this topic is of the utmost concern to everyone using the internet who needs to protect their privacy and/or their digital assets. Given the hacks on major corporations over the past couple of years, we have to assume that virtually every adult in the "civilized" world has had critical personal information stolen. As @Boradan's article shows, most of us are also vulnerable every time we browse or interact with an online site. Thanks for summarizing the issues and so clearly presenting the major options we can pursue. Since many AFN members have IT experience, I hope to see some very constructive dialog on this thread. :toke:
  3. stoney T

    stoney T formally known as autonoob General Staff

    Jul 26, 2015
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    Great information

    Sent from my HUAWEI CUN-L01 using Tapatalk
  4. jombomarijay1101

    jombomarijay1101 Auto Warrior

    Mar 6, 2018
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    good piece of info
  5. 912GreenSkell

    912GreenSkell Outdoors of the north Staff Member Global Moderator

    Jun 26, 2015
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    Absolutely tremendous article!! I wanted to write a security article, but your knowledge obviously far surpasses mine, so THANK YOU so much for doing this!!!

    I do have a couple of things i would like to add.

    VPN - When i did my research on which VPN to choose a couple of things came up.

    -try to find a VPN with an automatic killswitch...that way if your VPN connection is lost it wont connect you exposed
    - try to get a VPN based in sweden if possible. Their privacy laws are very good if anyone ever came looking.
    - try to get a VPN with a floating ISP for additional security
    - Make sure the VPN has a no log service

    General non-tech things many don't think about
    -Make sure you are watching your background when taking pics...I have had to inform folks a couple of time that i could read their address on a piece of mail left on the table in pics they took!!
    - Faces, nothing puts you in a more vulnerable spot than showing your face on a canna growing site...even in legal places be careful if you decide to show your face.
  6. Boradan

    Boradan We don't need no stinking Badges!

    Oct 27, 2017
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    Fruit Punch Auto/AK49/GSC
    Thanks for the upboat, and glad I could be of assistance.
    Excellent additions too :pass:
  7. sanguine

    sanguine 'Comfortably numb' General Staff

    Jan 6, 2015
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    Thank you for taking the time to do this @Boradan brother rep slap coming your way. Will make sure this gets stickied!

    I installed an android app called orbot and used orweb- it was much slower also when i tried to use the google browser i wouldnt allow me because my ip address was hidden maybe?
    I need to read your post over again :thumbsup:
  8. Boradan

    Boradan We don't need no stinking Badges!

    Oct 27, 2017
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    Currently Smoking:
    Fruit Punch Auto/AK49/GSC
    Orbot uses the TOR network, so that would be why you slowed down so much.
    No idea why you couldn't use the google browser. Shouldn't really be an IP issue as you still HAVE an IP, it is just hidden from the end point by jumping through a lot of hoops, each with a different IP. The end point just sees the IP of the last router used, rather than the origin IP (yours).

    :yay:for rep and stickification.
  9. Taipan

    Taipan Smoke Cannabis Live with Friends on AFN

    Jan 12, 2018
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    Power Kush
    Thanks great info.
  10. Need4Weed

    Need4Weed Smoke Cannabis Live with Friends on AFN General Staff

    Jan 16, 2015
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    3 Bears OG, Alien Vs Triangle
    Great read with really good info! :pimphand:
    Sticky worthy too! :nicethread:

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