Privacy Tools

The recent post about Microsoft-Skype snooping accusations has prompted some paranoia and raised questions.  Myself included.  In this blog post Microsoft refuses to comment about the ability to listen to VoIP calls in Skype.  New wiretapping laws are forcing some software vendors to install “backdoors” in their software and you can be sure Skype will be the first to do it.  Think of this as a preventative measure instead of paranoia. If you aren’t aware, Skype and other IM services record everything you type to everyone and it’s saved for up to 6 months to a year depending on their data retention policy. Not that you have anything to hide, but law enforcement can subpoena this information from the vendor and use it against you.  This post started off as listing an alternative to Skype, but I added a few privacy tools also.

IM Privacy

First off there’s Jitsi.  Jitsi (previously SIP Communicator) is an audio/video and chat communicator that supports protocols such as SIP, XMPP/Jabber, AIM/ICQ, Windows Live, Yahoo! and many other useful features.

Jitsi also has Skype like features such as Video/VoIP calling. This has been a great up and coming tool and a replacement for Skype.

Another suggestion is Pidgin.  Pidgin is a universal messenger for almost every IM client. More importantly, it supports a Plug-in called OTR or Off-The-Record. When OTR is enabled on both ends, the messages are encrypted, and anyone watching (ISP, Hackers) can’t read the messages. You can get it here.

SILC – Secure Internet Live Conferencing, or SILC in short, is a modern conferencing protocol which provides rich conferencing features with high security. One of the main design principles of the protocol was security. Many of the SILC features are found in traditional chat protocols such as IRC but many of the SILC features can also be found in Instant Message (IM) style protocols.

Email They don’t keep logs, retain identifying information, or record IP addresses. A very secure option unlike gmail, hotmail, etc.


TOR  Go here for a full explanation as I can’t be bothered. This can be installed on Linux/Windows/Mac and is for anonymizing traffic

Tails. The tl;dr version : A bootable Linux distro that routes all traffic through the tor network.

Tails is a live system that aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leave no trace using unless you ask it explicitly.

It is a complete operating-system designed to be used from a DVD or a USB stick independently of the computer’s original operating system. It is Free Software and based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor, etc

Tails relies on the Tor anonymity network to protect your privacy online: all software are configured to connect through Tor, and direct (non-anonymous) connections are blocked.

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.

Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.

Using Tails on a computer doesn’t alter or depend on the operating system installed on it. So you can use it in the same way on yours, the computer of a friend or one at your local library. After removing your Tails DVD or USB stick the computer can start again on its usual operating system.


A VPN (Virtual Private Network) Anonymous VPN’s don’t keep logs of people using it or activity and the servers are usually located abroad. No logs means no data to subpoena, and no data means no problems.  Torrentfreak did a good review on which Anonymous VPN’s are really anonymous and which ones actually keep logs and cooperate with law enforcement and can be found here. A vpn would be the best way to keep your internet activity private, but the downside is it costs money. Usually 5-10$ USD a month.  If you are worried about a paper trail, most accept BitCoins or you could use a pre-paid credit card.