The Web is one place where it actually may be a good idea to be paranoid, because "they" may really be watching you. Many people surf around unaware that they might be leaving a trail of information about themselves scattered across the Net. Most folks are also unaware of how vulnerable their E-mails are to snoops and hackers. Every time you visit a site, it's possible that you're leaving a trail of personal data. When you surf the Web, send E-mail or post to newsgroups, be sure to protect your privacy. In this section, TheFreeSite.com takes a look at free services and freeware programs that let you protect your privacy while online and offline.
This handy freeware E-mail management program lets you fight back against spammers and E-mail viruses and helps protect your privacy. MailWasher lets you check and manage your E-mails before you download them. You can also use it to bounce E-mails back to spammers, so that it looks as though your E-mail address is no longer valid. (For Windows).
Are you reluctant to enter your E-mail address in an online form, for fear of being spammed? This free service lets you sign up for a temporary disposable E-mail address that you can use to protect your online privacy and avoid spammers. (Note: site is available in multiple languages, including English).
Are you worried about sending private info via email? This easy-to-use program keeps your email secure with strong encryption. EncryptUs sits in the background automatically encrypting and decrypting your email. (Note: in order to work, EncryptUs must be used by your email recipient, as well). The program is free for personal use.
This free service offers temporary, disposable E-mail accounts that you can use to protect your privacy and also reduce the spam you receive. It's a handy service to use when you're reluctant to use your main, primary E-mail address when you're prompted to enter an E-mail address online.
Here's a free, easy-to-use service that lets you instantly create disposable E-mail addresses. These are useful for protecting your privacy and avoiding spammers when you're filling out online forms. The service is available in English and Spanish.
This free online service lets you check the reputation of any Web site or IP address and analyze it for any possible hazards. urlCheck.info is useful for determining if a site is engaged in scams like phishing, spam, fake online shops, or malware distribution.
Worried that someone is monitoring your E-mail? Here's a free program that encrypts your data, which you can send as an E-mail attachment using any E-mail client. Note: your recipient will also need a copy of Ghostphrase to decrypt your message. Ghostphrase employs three passwords, as well as a mouse-clicked keyboard (which makes it impossible for others to log your keystrokes). (For Windows).
When you use a public Wi-Fi hotspot, your personal data is at risk and can be stolen by hackers. This handy free program masks and encrypts your data when you use a public hotspot. Hotspot Shield also protects your IP address and lets you surf the Web anonymously. (For Windows, Mac, Android and iPhone).
These days, more and more sites (such as NYTimes.com) pester you to register before you can access their content. Even more annoyingly, the registration process often requires you to divulge personal info. A handy free service, BugMeNot.com, lets you easily bypass mandatory registration at nearly 100,000 sites.
Protect yourself from "spyware" with this handy free utility. (Spyware consists of sneaky software programs that use your Net connection--usually to report data to advertisers--without your approval or knowledge). Ad-Aware removes spyware on your PC and scans your memory, registry and hard drive for known spyware components. (For personal home use only). (For Windows).
If you have DSL or a cable modem, you may have heard about the security problems that these types of always-on connections pose. An essential free firewall program, ZoneAlarm offers your computer protection against thieves, snoops and vandals. ZoneAlarm includes five interlocking security services, including a Stealth Mode, which renders your computer invisible to the Web (and potential intruders). (For Windows).
Are you worried about the privacy of your email? You should be, given the security woes that plague email these days. Hushmail offers a privacy-oriented email service with built-in encryption. Premium versions of Hushmail, with extra features, are also available for a fee, but the basic version is free.
A free encryption software program that is the de-facto global standard for E-mail and file privacy. Pretty Good Privacy (or PGP) offers full-strength, 128-bit encryption. PGP has constantly been upgraded over the years and now offers loads of useful features, including secure file wiping and advanced keyserver searching. Available for Windows, Macs, DOS and Unix. (Free for noncommercial use only).
U.S. law prohibits export of PGP to non-U.S. residents. However, there is now an "International" version of PGP, compiled and developed outside the U.S., which is available for non-U.S. residents to download. It's available here.