Down the rabbit hole, part 1: Making my life private and secure

Is it possible to make private all of your computers, smartphones, data and communications and still remain digitally connected? I’m going to find out.

Down the rabbit hole part 1: Making my life private and secure
Credit: Thinkstock

Over the years I’ve done a number of—let’s just call them “experiments in computering”—where I attempt to use my computers in such a way that is outside of my comfort zone. 

Living entirely in a terminal. Getting rid of all Google software and services. Using nothing but a version of FreeDOS. That sort of thing. 

I typically give myself the simple goal of “do it for 30 days, and see how it goes.” In the process, I always learn something—about what I like, about what is possible. And even if I don’t learn a cotton-pickin’ thing of value, it’s still kinda fun—kinda. 

--------------------------------------

Follow Bryan Lunduke’s quest to make his life as private and secure as possible:

--------------------------------------

But now it’s time to do one of those experiments that is a bit larger—a bit more important.

I’m going to secure my life—at least as far as makes sense.

What’s private remains private 

What do I mean when I say “secure my life”? What I’m really talking about is maintaining an acceptable level of personal privacy:

  • If I send an email, I want to know that the only people who can read it are me and the recipients.
  • The same goes for phone calls, instant messages and every other form of communication—only me and the recipients are able to see or hear it.
  • No one should be able to read my data, wherever it is stored, unless I give them access to it.
  • Google, Microsoft, Apple and the NSA (along with every other business or organization on the planet) should not be able to easily find my location, look through my webcams or eavesdrop through my microphones.

(Accomplishing those items is nowhere near as easy as it seems like it should be.)

In short: What I want private remains private. What I want public is public.

No other ground rules. No restrictions. Just the simple, albeit somewhat nebulous, goal of making my entire life as secure and private as possible while still leading the life I want to live and generally having a good time.

I’m not setting a time limit for myself here. No “after 30 days if this is too hard, I’m going back to my old ways of doing things.” The goal here is to find the right balance between privacy and security—and still enjoy the fruits of a hyper-connected, always-online, digital-to-the-hilt world—all while documenting the whole endeavor. 

I’m not sure how long this is going to take. And in all honesty, I’m not entirely sure where this is going to end up. But I’ll be writing about it right here so that you can either a) follow along and use whatever I learn in your own life or b) mock me mercilessly for attempting something so few people seem to truly care much about. Either way, I fully understand. 

Some of the work is already done 

As I begin this process, the good news is that I already have a little bit of the work done. 

I’m already running a few different Linux-based systems. While there is definitely work to be done to effectively lock them down a bit further, at least I’m in a better starting place than if I were running Windows or macOS X.

Unfortunately, I am running at least one Android device, which is harder to secure. I’m going to need to do something about that.

And I already have little covers over all of my webcams. However, I realized that a few of the microphones are all still connected, thus allowing an avenue for people if they can gain access to my systems to listen in on whatever conversation I happen to be having. (I assume someone from the government does that at all times—just to hear my puns. My puns are radical.)

In other words, I’ve got a slight (very slight) head start in all this. But I have a long, long way to go.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: Hidden Cause of Slow Internet and how to fix it
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.