How I Use Blur to Protect my Passwords, Payments & Privacy

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The following post was written by Justin Carroll, a longtime user of Blur and friend of Abine. Justin Carroll is a veteran of over fifteen years in the service of the United States Government. He is a plank-owner with the elite Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and has worked on a contractual basis with another government agency. After completing his last overseas deployment Justin spent five years teaching digital security and identity management to hundreds of soldiers, sailors, and Marines of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Justin is the author of Your Ultimate Security Guide: Windows 7 and Your Ultimate Security Guide: iOS and the co-author of The Complete Privacy & Security Desk Reference with renowned privacy expert Michael Bazzell. Justin blogs prolifically at operational-security.com and you can follow him on Twitter @opsecguide.

How I use Blur to Protect my Passwords, Payments & Privacyblur_horiz_blue_400w

A little over two years ago, I became “invisible”. This means that I don’t attach my name to where I live by signing my name to a lease, opening utilities using my social security number, or having things shipped to in my name to my home address. My co-author and I wrote about this quite extensively in our book, The Complete Privacy and Security Desk Reference. It is an unconventional lifestyle, but one that we enjoy. One complication that comes with such a lifestyle, and one that is frequently overlooked, is how hard it is to maintain. Blur has rapidly become one of my favorite tools for helping me to maintain my privacy. There are three main functions of Blur that I use, and I present these in rough “frequency of use” order: Masked Emails, Masked Cards, and Masked Phone.

Masked email

Masked Emails is perhaps the most universally useful feature of Blur. By having an unlimited number of email addresses that all forward to the same inbox, you never have to give out your real email address. This provides a strong additional layer of security for your online accounts. I consider usernames a first line of defense for these accounts; if you don’t know my username, you can’t even begin attacking my password and my account stays much more secure from targeted threats. Every single online account I have has a different username so the compromise of one doesn’t lead to the compromise of all. On the privacy front, using a different email address for each online account prevents these accounts from being linked to the same individual.

The Blur service that I use almost as frequently is Masked Cards. Being able to quickly and easily create unique credit card numbers is a boon to privacy. When I am planning to make an online purchase, I log into Blur and leave it on standby. When the payment prompt appears with the total amount, I generate a Masked Card and make my payment. If this is my first time shopping with that merchant, I will also create an account using a Masked Email address as my username.Masked cards

There are some great security benefits to this. The ability to close a card and make the number worthless to identity thieves is perhaps the most obvious. You don’t have to be afraid to give your credit card number to a sketchy website because it can only be used for the dollar amount you choose. Less obvious are the privacy benefits afforded by Masked Cards. A single online purchase could compromise my invisibility and put me back into public databases. This could potentially correlate my name with my home address on publicly visible websites and pierce my carefully cultivated privacy. This is unacceptable.

How does Blur fix this? Masked cards allow me to have items shipped in any name I want. I can have items shipped to my home in my name. The bank doesn’t see the transaction, and the merchant doesn’t see who made it. This also has a side benefit: after a few purchases in the name of my choosing, most of the online databases begin to list that name as the occupant of my home. Having items delivered at home has traditionally been a frustration-laden problem, but no longer.

 

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4 Replies to “How I Use Blur to Protect my Passwords, Payments & Privacy”

  1. Kdiane says:

    My whole company needs a lesson on how to be more secure online! Does Justin offer workshops to regular folks?

  2. AnalystJoe says:

    I learned about Blur initially from Justin’s website and appreciate his approach to security. I was wondering if the masked email/user name function can be used for security questions, too? It occurs to me that a strong, random answer to a question would be even better especially on those sites that use them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately, Blur does not have designated features to help you generate answers to security questions. However, with Blur you can always save answers to security questions as “secure notes” associated with each specific account. Feel free to email us at support [at] get abine [dot] com with any additional questions or concerns.

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