Many AB/DLs, especially the college set who still live under their parents’ roof, have a need to keep their actions on computers private from the people with whom they live. This guide is intended to give practical advice for ensuring that what one does on the computer stays private.
-Use Private Browsing: Go to a page that would be OK for your parents to see you on. Then, go to Tools > Start Private Browsing (or Ctrl+Shift+P). If someone enters the room, go to Tools > Stop Private Browsing (or Ctrl+Shift+P) and you will be returned to the page that you started private browsing on.
-Clear Private Data on Exit: Under Firefox's 'Options' page, in the 'Privacy' section, look for the "Always clear my private data when I close Firefox" setting. Activating this can help clear up things like cookies, saved passwords, browsing history, etc, and is very useful if you are using a shared computer.
-Check browser settings: If you have your browser set to clear private data on exit, and are using a shared computer, remember to check regularly to ensure that these settings have not been altered.
-Firefox Profiles: Take advantage of Firefox profiles. Open the Run dialog (Windows key + R, or Start → Run) and type "firefox -profilemanager". If you don't enable the profile option at start up, nobody will know that that profile exists. Just make sure that you change back to the default profile when you are finished. This trick works under Linux too - just use Alt+F2 to open the Run Application window, or type "firefox -profilemanager" at a terminal.
-Consider running a portable version of Firefox off of a flash drive. This avoids the need to actually install the browser to your computer.
-Google Chrome: Click on the "page icon" on the top-right corner of the browser and select "New incognito window" (or Ctrl+Shift+N). This brings one into incognito mode, which won't save browser history, search history, or cookies. It's recommended one views non-AB/DL pages in the regular mode. This will not be suspicious to computer-savvy parents, who might wonder why there is no history.
-Consider running a portable version of Chrome off of a flash drive. This avoids the need to actually install the browser to your computer.
-Password management is about storing your passwords in a program, and protecting them by a master password, so you can make more complex or harder to memorize passwords, store them, and not worry about forgetting them. For these purposes KeePass, a free program that is for storing passwords is a good choice. These allow you to make many passwords, instead of using one password for everything without worrying about forgetting them, which is not a good habit to get into.
-All recently viewed files on your computer will logged in 'My Recent Documents' in the Start Menu on Windows-based machines. To clear this, simply right click on the start menu, and choose properties. Then, click on the "Start Menu" tab. Click the "Customize" button. Then, you will see a little label that says "To remove records of recently accessed...(etc)." Click the "Clear" button directly to the right of it. If you have AB/DL related content on your computer, even incredibly well hidden, it can be instantly accessed if you don't remember to clear out your list of recently accessed files.
-If you like to feel extra secure then you can download CCleaner and set it to shred your browser cache and other history with a Guttman (35 passes) Algorithm, which shreds it 35 times, extremely secure as even the US Department of Defense claims they can only recover a file that has been shredded 7 times or less.
-If you're really paranoid, you can download VMWare's Browser Appliance and run it in an encrypted container.
Encrypting your Files:
-Download and install TrueCrypt.
-Follow Steps 1 to 12 of the tutorial to create an encrypted container.
-In Step 2, you can choose to create a hidden volume. When you enter the password to your TrueCrypt volume, TrueCrypt will open the normal file, but the hidden file won't appear. If you want to access the hidden file, you need to type in the hidden file's password. Say you are forced by someone to share your *B stuff (i.e. black mail), your hidden file won't show up, but a few sensitive looking files will.
-In Step 6, you need to choose where to save the container. You can change the file extension, for example, to '''.avi''', and save the container within your movie files. Or you can choose an obscure location.
-In Step 9, you need to set the size of the container. Make it as big as needed, but not too huge to raise suspicion. Make multiple small containers if needed.
-Follow the remaining steps to mount and use the encrypted container.
-Remember to dismount the drive once you don't need to use it, and don't leave it mounted.
-Make it yours: get your own email account.
-We suggest Gmail. Gmail is known to work well, and doesn't send your IP address along with your outgoing mail.
-Don't use Yahoo: it cannot get mail from ADISC, and quite a few other sites. You will miss legitimate mail if you use Yahoo.
-Create a separate email account for AB/DL stuff so you can keep it private from the rest of your life. You should avoid linking your AB/DL identity in any way to your non-AB/DL activities.
-Don't put any real information in when you sign up for your email account. In particular, never give out your real name.
-Keep a record: when signing up for a service using false information, keep a record of what information you entered, so that you can use it to reset your password, should you need to in future.
-Create a different IM account for each set of people you know. Use one for family, one for friends, and so forth. Use a program like Pidgin (Windows and Linux) to manage them all.
-Each account should be associated with a different email address.
-You can use web-based IM clients like meebo if you don't want to leave traces of the IM software on your local computer.
-Look into running IM applications off a TrueCrypt-protected area of a flash drive. Specifically, you may want to take a portion of a USB flash drive, make a TrueCrypt container, and then install some portable applications (like Miranda or Pidgin) on it. This will keep log files off the local machine.
General Internet Security
-Using SSL encrypted connections means that the data sent over your internet connection to the website is encrypted, so other people can't see it. More and more websites are supporting this, but not all sites do yet, and it may not always work with your browser. The way to access a site with an encrypted connection is to type "https://example.com/" with the "s" at the end of "https". To access ADISC using an SSL connection, you would type https://adisc.org/ instead of http://adisc.org. Some sites, such as ADISC, allow you to “force SSL connections” which means you won't have to type the https:// prefix. This is only recommended if you have used the SSL connection for a while, to make sure you do not have a problem with browser compatibility.
-Use up antiviral software to prevent and combat infections. You should run regular scans with software developed to find and remove malicious software. Some good free programs are Avast Anti-Virus or AVG Free Anti-Virus, for protection and scanning against viruses, and Ad-Aware Free, Malwarebytes, and Spybot S&D, for spyware, adware, and general malware.
-It is ideal that you have your own account on the computer that you use for surfing the web. This will limit the ability of other people to accidentally stumble upon your files, though it won’t help you if someone actively searches your computer. Make sure this account has a good password.
-Check file permissions and directory sharing, and make sure that any sensitive files are not set so that other people on the same computer can read them.
-If the computer is yours, make sure only you have the password to the special "administrator" account on the computer. This account won't show up on the account list, but most windows computers will let anyone who gives "administrator" as their user name on the user name screen log in and get total access to the computer. Make sure you change the password to this account, and make sure that your account is the only user account on the computer that is marked as an "administrator".
-You can set up an invisible account on your computer: one which you have to know the name of in order to log in with it. This is only secure if nobody else has administrator access, as with administrator access they can see all accounts, even invisible ones.
-Use a screen saver and/or set your computer to lock, such that after several minutes of inactivity, the desktop is hidden and a password is required to resume using the computer. Doing this will stop people from being able to simply snoop around your computer if you walk away from it without logging off.
-Adopt a "clean screen" policy: if you get up from the computer for any reason, everything is closed or the computer is locked. In Windows, use the Windows key + L to lock the computer. This will prevent anyone who does not know your password from seeing your screen.
-Get used to using the Windows key + M minimize shortcut. WIN + M will quickly hide incriminating information should someone walk in the room unexpectedly.
-Start your PC up in safe mode and login to the administrator account and password protect it. If someone was to load up the PC under that account in safe mode they can remove your password.
-Remember, if someone has physical access to a machine, you should consider them to have data access as well. This is where encryption comes into play. For more definitive privacy, what you really want is something with plausible deniability (like TrueCrypt) or something that only "comes online" with the insertion of hardware (like a TrueCrypt volume on a USB thumb drive).
-If at all possible, you should have your own computer, and make sure nobody else can login to it at all. Nothing else you could do will more simplify privacy issues than simply having exclusive access to your primarily computer.
-If you don't have your own computer, then do your best to become technically adept with computers. Put yourself in a position where the household will consider making you a system administrator of the computer.
-If you can control the physical location of the computer, then put it in your room and point the screen away from the doors or windows, so if someone walks in, you can see them but they can't see what is on your screen.
-You can set a BIOS password on a computer if you enter the BIOS prior to loading of the OS. Typically, the BIOS is accessed by pressing the “delete” key or one of the F-keys immediately after turning on the computer. Password protecting the BIOS protects your computer from some forms of tampering, and if you set the computer to ask for the BIOS password before each startup, you can stop people booting the computer without your permission. Don't rely on this for heavy security, as anyone can bypass it by activating the reset switch that sits on the computer's motherboard, though they'd have to open the machine and be fairly computer-saavy to do this.
-If you're good with computers, try installing Linux. Since few people know how to use it, you are much less likely to get anyone looking through your stuff. Its esoteric file system also provides many locations to hide stuff.
-If you do install a second OS on your computer (like Linux), then set your machine to dual boot into Windows by default, so the fact you're putting all your private stuff on another system isn't seen.
-Try using a different partition to hide your private data and have it mounted only when you're using it.
-Try using encrypted files, or even an encrypted partition (Linux supports this) to hide your stuff.
-If you wish not to risk any data loss, you can use a Linux live CD. This runs Linux off the CD rather than the hard drive, and all evidence is wiped when you reboot. If you want to save files from the live Linux environment, make sure you use a version with support for "ntfs-3g", which is the only reliable NTFS driver for Linux.
-Another option is to set up a Virtual Machine. It is essentially a computer within a computer. You can run Mac, Windows, Linux, and other operating systems while you are running your usual operating system. For more information, you can read the Wikipedia article.
-To set one up yourself, you can download Ubuntu and VMWare Server. You can do all of your *B/DL activities in side of the Virtual Machine, so that there is almost no chance of getting caught. VMWare Server is free software provided by a leader in virtualization technology. There is also an Ubuntu distribution for VMWare.
Dealing with Parents
-Parents will often have the ability to control your computer access much more than is good for you and your privacy. So, you want them on your side as much as possible.
-Make sure you keep your grades up, because when/if your grades drop then your parents may well try and find a reason for this. This goes for computer security as for hiding stuff in general.
-Avoid doing things that make it obvious that you are hiding things from them.
-The trick is not giving out the message "I don't want you to look at my stuff". If you give your parents that message, they will instantly assume something is wrong with you and they will give you no privacy at all. They may go through all your stuff and try to find out what it is that you are hiding from them. They'll probably assume it's drugs or alcohol. You want your parents to trust you, to think that you have nothing to hide from them - so that they don't bother looking or checking.
-Excelling as a student and in other parts of your life gains you trust and leverage with parents. If you’re not meeting expectations, then your parents will be on the lookout for a "cause", and may investigate your life. If you do well, parents will focus on other things instead of investigating you. Moreover, your leverage will be valuable if you’re ever caught, and in any case, it’s just generally good for your long-term success to do your best.
-If your parents won't let you have computer access at all, then you could use the computer at a public library, but make sure that you follow the tips above for making sure that your browser is not keeping a record of what you do, and make sure you only use computers for AB/DL/TB stuff when the computers are placed so that nobody can see what you are doing.
-If your parents won't let you use the computer, then you should ask them why, and try to resolve the issues they have. If they've told you that you can't use it because you are staying out too late, or are rude to them, then you should come home earlier or be more polite to them in order to get computer privileges back. You'll find that if you just appreciate how much they do for you (putting you through school, providing many of your meals, etc.) then being nice to them really isn't that much to give them compared to all they give you. If, after you've tried being nice and rule-abiding for a long time and they still won't let you have what you want, try to seek it in other places like libraries, and make it known to them that you consider their treatment of you unfair.
Warnings on Sharing Images of Yourself
-Images, once publicly viewable on the Internet, are effectively there forever, and anyone can see them. If anybody ever links them to your real identity, such images can have a severe negative impact on your social life or even your career. Worse, they also open you up to stalking, blackmail, and other very unpleasant situations. Unless you are over the age of 18 and are fully prepared to assume these risks, it is strongly recommended you do not post incriminating photographs of yourself on the Internet.
-Be aware if you are using an unprotected computer, or even a protected computer that you let other people use, that if these images are saved onto your hard drive they are accessible to all who use your account or the computer.
-Any photos which are of specific infantilist content ought to be well hidden and, if you choose to share them, shared with careful attention to all privacy controls. This is not something that should be shared on a whim or with anyone you don’t absolutely trust.
-If you are taking photos that you are going to share, your camera is likely to insert EXIF meta-data into your photo. This contains extra bits of information about how your camera took the photo (zoom, and other technical data) as well as it's make model and serial number. You can remove this by downloading EXIF removing tools. Some image editing programs like freeware program Gimp (portable version here) give you an option to remove the EXIF data when saving an image.
-Cameras are often on our mobile phones, and many phones are come equipped with GPS. It is likely that a GPS-enabled phone is set to embed the GPS coordinates into the EXIF data of the images it takes. If you don't want to risk putting your address up online, it's advisable you strip the EXIF off.
Websites & Payment
-If registering a website domain name, do so through an anonymous hosting company like KatzGlobal - how can they give out your information, if they do not have it?
-Avoid credit card of PayPal for any purchase you wish to keep absolutely private as these institutions will keep undeletable records for years after the purchase. These purchases will appear on your bank or card statements; if you do not have sole ownership over the account to which these payments are attached, then you’re handing a record of the transaction to anyone else on the account. If possible, paying instead by cash in the mail or money order will avoid creating an electronic record of the transaction.
It is in your best interest to maintain strict control of your privacy with regards to all AB/DL issues. AB/DL is, unfortunately, a potentially embarrassing secret of which many people are intolerant, and it stands to be used against you if you are ever caught.
If there is nowhere that you can go with a secure computer that will let you do AB/DL/TB stuff in private, then you have to weigh the risk of being caught against the loss of ability to use the resources of the internet. It might be better to keep quiet for awhile, even if it is for a year or two, until you can get a secure, private place to use computers. Being without computer access is only temporary, and can be fixed later, but if you get caught, especially by your parents, then you can never erase that - it stays with you for life.
This article was edited from the ADISC Wiki article "Computer privacy". Many members of the ADISC community contributed to this text.