The need for online privacy and anonymity increases by the day, as people understand not only the benefits of keeping their content away from the public eye but also the consequences of continuous surveillance.
Of course, some Internet users won’t mind people watching their content, but nowadays, most online “surfers” are aware of the repercussions that full disclosure of their personal information could bring.
Generally (and ideally,) each user would have access to the web without limitations and be knowing they aren’t being watched by any third parties. However, that is not always the case, as some countries have highly-developed surveillance and intelligence agencies, and there are Internet giants (such as Google and Facebook, for example) that collect any bit of useful data they may have access to.
The lack of privacy can also bring other consequences and unwanted situations in your life. But first, let’s define what Internet Privacy truly means.
What is Internet Privacy?
Online or Internet privacy is the right people have for not disclosing what they do on the web. That includes the sites they visit, for how long they stay there, and what kind of data they share.
Internet privacy means that any given user is not under the obligation of sharing, disclosing, repurposing, storing, provisioning to third parties, and displaying information online. Privacy is often correlated to security, but they are not necessarily the same: if a person deems certain bit of data as sensible or private, he should be able to fend off third parties or external agents looking to have access to it.
What are some Internet privacy risks?
- Social Media: Posting an innocent picture on your Facebook or Instagram account, or tweeting your current location, may derive in unwanted scenarios in which your privacy gets compromised. Once they hit the web, virtually anyone could have access to personal information about you, so keep an eye on what you publish!
- Internet Service Providers: The companies that provide Internet to you have the ability to collect logs of your data. They can save your browsing history, your connection time, the IP addresses you visit, and more. More importantly, they can incur privacy breaches at any given moment, because ISPs can make their information available to government authorities upon request.
- Phishing: It is a hacking attack that involves malicious people making others believe they are influential brands or companies in order to trick them into providing critical personal or financial information (a credit card number, a password, or a security PIN.)
- Smishing: It is the same as phishing, but is done via a traditional Short Message Service (SMS.)
- Pharming: A hacking attack in which the cybercriminal manages to redirect a legitimate website visitor to another IP address.
- Spyware: A dangerous hacking situation involving the use of innocent people’s data without their consent. The data is acquired thanks to an application that functions offline.
- Malware: It encompasses computer viruses, Trojan horses, worms, ransomware, and others. Malware inflicts damage to people’s computer or system.
How to protect your Internet Privacy
- Data encryption
Using a VPN or another encryption tool, such as a proxy or a Smart DNS service, is a very powerful first step into protecting your privacy. Hackers use unencrypted connections and communications to inflict damage and steal passwords and financial information of their victims, but that would be much harder to achieve should the content be encrypted.
Windows has several encryption tools, such as BitLocker and HTTPS Everywhere. However, VPNs are excellent since they build a virtual tunnel to reroute traffic and location information so nobody can have access to them. They also offer anonymity and the ability to unblock international services and pages.
- Disabling GPS and WiFi when they aren’t being used
Public Wi-Fi networks can save your life in a moment of desperation, but the truth is that they are one of the most commonly used environments by hackers to perform their shady activities. If you aren’t using your wireless connectivity features, turn them off to avoid any unwanted data sharing.
A similar situation happens with GPS resources. They are excellent to help you navigate an unknown city, for example, but if they are not being used, it would be better if they weren’t active, because they can publish your current location without you even knowing it.
- Use the Tor network
The “Incognito Mode” in the Chrome browser can hide the traffic history from your household members, but not from your ISP. So, if you want full anonymity, you may be best served using the Tor network.
It can severely slow your Internet speed but is one of the most viable alternatives for a fully private browsing experience. It is free and it uses a node-based encrypted network to hide your generated content online.
- Disabling your webcam and microphone
As incredible as it may sound, some hackers have developed the ability to remotely spy on users via their webcams. You can implement the extremely non-tech solution of taping over it. You should also deactivate your microphone to avoid any unwanted third parties from spying on your conversations.
Other tips you can implement to enhance your online privacy:
- Use anti-virus or anti-malware software.
- Use firewalls.
- Don’t perform online shopping on unreliable pages.
- Be careful about the data you share on low-security sites.
- Clear your browser’s cache and history with relative frequency.
- Manage your passwords with aplomb, making them extremely difficult to decipher.
- Visit only HTTPS websites, avoiding HTTP ones.