One underestimated risk is the Wi-Fi router. A hacker could crack into your router and gain access to your entire network. Therefore, make sure you have changed the first given Wi-Fi password, making it as strong as possible. Afterwards, encrypt the Wi-Fi. The safest encryption method at the moment is WPA2, so make sure that you are able to use this function when encoding your information. If you are not sure how to encrypt your router, your service provider should be able to help. However, the most secure method to connect to the Internet is through a LAN cable. It is highly recommended to use this technique when working from home.
As soon as you have secured your router, it is time to think about your Internet research. During your investigation, you will probably use the Internet to get background information or find potential sources. Searching sensitive topics could already make you more susceptible to spies monitoring your activity. Therefore, it is essential to encrypt your browsing to protect your research, your future sources and yourself.
There are two methods to surf securely while also allowing you to bypass censorship: You could either use VPN (Virtual Private Network) or proxy servers that make your location invisible. VPN is like a tunnel that pretends you are in a different network. For detailed information about how a VPN works watch this video.
A simple way to use a VPN is to install software, most of the times you are able to choose between applications for the smartphone, the computer or the browser. When the VPN is activated, you will be able to select a location where you pretend to be. Some recommended VPN providers are ‘ZenMate’, ‘CyberGhost’ or ‘ExpressVPN’. But be aware that most VPN providers do not offer their services for free. Payment details will be saved, and you will leave some traces even when using this online browsing method. An alternative, but more complex, possibility is to set up your own VPN. Information how VPN providers work can be found in this video.
One well-known proxy network is TOR (The Onion Router). While using the TOR browser, you surf with another IP address. This is possible because TOR is a network of encrypted computer connections. Every user has an access point to this network. After routing through three or more of these servers, a user reaches the exit. This is the IP address this person uses officially.
However, it does not mean that you cannot be traced. In November 2014, the FBI and other European services de-anonymised 17 people who misused TOR for criminal activities. However, operations like this are very intensive and expensive. So, there is a small risk that secret services use methods like this to track average citizens or journalists as long as they do not sell weapons or share child porn. But be especially careful if you operate in a country with a very low press freedom standard and a well-equipped secret service.
The TOR browser is also available as a smartphone app for android devices: ‘Orfox’ and the add-on ‘Orbot’. iOS user looking for proxy browsers should enter ‘Onion Browser’.