My Current Privacy and Ad-Blocking Suite

My intent is to keep this updated periodically, and whenever I change it.

I am a thousand miles away from being a security expert, but I feel like I’m slightly more paranoid than most people, and have done just enough research to offer a good starting point.

Chrome Extensions

  1. uBlock Origin for blocking advertisements. This replaced Adblock Plus. uBlock claims to use fewer system resources, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference on my system. The reason I chose it is because ABP evidently gets money from advertisers to privilege certain ads by default. As a user, you can turn this option off, but it seems like a conflict of interest to me, and since I have a choice, I will go with the equally useful alternative.
  2. Disconnect for third-party cookie blocking. This replaced Ghostery, which had become a little too invasive, requiring me to rerun the setup process on every account in Chrome (I have three) every time it automatically updated itself.
  3. Vanilla Cookies for blocking all cookies. This may prove to be redundant with Disconnect, but it caught a few things which Ghostery did not.

VPN Software

  1. I use OpenVPN Access Server on a Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosted by NFO. Though I was eventually able to get it running, setting up the standard OpenVPN server and client packages proved more difficult than I wanted it to be, since I know next to nothing about networking and server administration. A full year later I discovered Access Server, which is made for rookies like me. It’s a 5-minute installation, very well done. The server package leads you into the client package installation, which is even simpler. The OpenVPN website, on the other hand, is just awful: I’m not even 100% sure I have included the correct link above, that’s how confusing it is.
  2. I use VPN Net Mon as a little tool to shut down applications that would reveal private data if the VPN happened to turn off without me noticing. It sits in your tray and monitors the connection, then axes programs you tell it to watch. This could include your torrent client, but also anything which sends data over the network as well.

Also, Tor browser

The Tor browser bundle has come a long way since when I first tried running it. It’s basically idiot proof at this point. It does add noticeable latency, so I don’t use it for regular surfing. It’s an additional layer of protection that’s pretty low effort.

Search Engine

My default search engine for the last few years has been Duck Duck Go. Whereas Google’s policy is to track everything and perform big data alchemy on it, DDG doesn’t track anything, they just provide search for you. Their design is top notch, and the search results are officially ‘good enough’. The bang operators are a great feature I use dozens of times a day, as well.