Online privacy is a concept that is being steadfastly entertained with each passing day. With the gradual awareness of how vulnerable we are online has pushed people to stay secure. However, the million-dollar question here is, whether online privacy can indeed be attained or not?
Most people who have resigned themselves to the fate of people spying on them would surely consider online privacy a dream. But little do they know that some dreams do come true!
Being private online can admittedly be somewhat tricky, but it is not impossible. The fact is that some people are just in fact too oblivious to achieving it. Therefore we have compiled this guide that covers everything you need to know about staying private online.
It gives you an in-depth insight on:
- Why is online privacy important?
- Threats to online privacy.
- How to gain online privacy?
However, for those of you who have probably been living under a rock for the past year or so, here is an insight into the importance of online privacy.
1. Why is online privacy important?
Some of you might dismiss the importance of online privacy. Maybe you don’t consider it essential because frankly, you don’t think there is anything to hide! After all, it’s not like you are doing anything illegal!
If not that, the maximum privacy features you might have opted for could be having a somewhat strong password for your accounts. A password that you might not have changed since forever!
However, what would you do if some of your sensitive data is displayed for everyone to take advantage of? Information such as:
- Your social security number
- Credit card number
- Bank account information
- Health insurance information
Apart from such data, would want high school embarrassing photographs plastered everywhere? Or the world to know your crush? Definitely Not! However, unfortunately, all this information of ours is collected and spied on by:
- The ISP
- Government agencies
- Hackers and cybercriminals
These people actively spy and manage your private data, which is a gross abuse to our fundamental human right to stay private. The main reason behind this varies as it depends upon who is the one collecting the information such as:
- ISPs collect data so that they can sell it to third parties in an exchange of money. They also do it to throttle your bandwidth.
- Government agencies have strict surveillance to impose restrictions and censorship.
- Hackers and cyber-criminals main agenda are to bring you harm and gain some illegal profits.
Thus, as circumstances are so dire, online privacy is indeed extremely crucial to achieve nowadays.
2. Threats to online privacy
If being private online is not a matter that you seriously delve into, there are several threats that you are exposed to. Although most people tend to take this matter lightly, having your internet privacy compromised makes you vulnerable to several risks such as:
1. Data surveillance
As mentioned above, government agencies and the ISP are guilty of monitoring our activity online. They not only track this information, but they also retain and sell this information to third parties. All this for money, power and control.
Now imagine a stranger knowing everything about you, such as:
- Likes/ dislikes
- Banking details
- Financial details
- Health records
And every tiny detail about you. All just because your network was not secure and private. The unfortunate fact is that even the ever-reliable tech companies such as Google and Facebook have also succumbed to such endeavours.
This cyber-attack is where the attacker scams you into revealing your information yourself. The imposter portrays itself as an authentic identity. This way, they trick you into trusting them and spilling the beans regarding your:
- Financial details
- Social security number
- Health insurance information
Or anything sensitive that can be used to gain some advantage. These attacks are relatively common as they are somewhat hard to identify.
3. Malware attacks
Malwares are, to put it simply, software that is sent to infect your devices. This software is carried out through:
- A malicious link
- Through an attachment
- By enticing to download a file
Once they successfully infect your equipment, they proceed to harm you. This occurs in a various way such as:
- Send data present in your laptop or device to the attackers’ device
- Take complete control of your device and render it out of your control
- Wipe your data.
Malwares are, in fact, nasty infections. This is why once online, it is better to be vigilant about them.
This is a more advanced version of the malware. Or in short, nastier! This is primarily because, if you, unfortunately, become a victim of a ransomware attack, you lose data and money.
This because these attacks consist of the following method:
- Criminals infect and grab your data
- Data is encrypted and held hostage
- A ransom is demanded for data decryption
The ransom is requested to be paid through a bitcoins! Thus these attacks are nastier indeed nastier.
5. ID theft
This attack consist of a cybercriminal just plainly stealing your identity. This is made possible through information we share while we are online. Information is also collected through data breaches. This information is then used to gain advantages over things such as:
- Criminal may use your health insurance
- He may use your credit card to buy illegal items over the internet.
- Hacker may file out fake tax returns
These attacks usually remain unknown for long, which is why it is better to share information online in limits.
6. Data breaches
As the name depicts, data breaches are unauthorized access into a network. As hackers are always on the search to find loopholes in the network. If your security system is flawed, it makes it easy for them to enter and wreak havoc to the data present.
These attacks are usually targeted. Small and large companies, as well as high profile personals such as politicians, celebrities and public speakers, are frequent victims of data breaches. However, it’s not nearly necessary as hackers can target groups of specific employees or residents etc.
How to gain online privacy?
Contrary to popular belief, attaining online privacy is achievable. Yes, this may be somewhat difficult, but it is still attainable. So it’s about time you gather all of your abandoned hopes at staying private online and go through the follows methods that guarantee privacy security and anonymity online.
1. Use a VPN
A virtual private network or more commonly known as VPN is the ultimate privacy and security tool. It promises and security to its users through encryption. Apart from that, there are various other advantages of using a VPN such as:
- They allow you to bypass geo-restrictions and unblock websites from anywhere you want.
- You can bypass ISP throttling by changing your IP address and location.
- With a VPN, you can achieve ultimate protection as it encrypts your data and also hides your location and true IP address.
- It is easy to stream video content such as Netflix and Hulu and also access hidden content.
An excellent VPN service may consist of the following features:
- Encryption, preferably the military-grade AES 256 bit encryption which is the best in market
- Zero logging policy. This means that the service won’t keep logs of any user data. This way, in case the government tries to pressure them into giving out information, they won’t have anything to share!
- High speeds as speeds are crucial over the internet. Now, who would want a slow connection?
- Location at a secure place that is preferably away from the prying 5 eyes, 9 eyes and the 24 eyes.
- A wide range of servers. This allows the users a benefit having a large number of IP address to choose from
- A budget-friendly payment policy.
- Availability of a Kill switch feature. This is a privacy feature. In it, if the connection drops, it wipes all the data, and thus the actual IP address of the user stays safe.
- DNS leak protection
- P2P support
However, it is vital to make sure that you are using a legit VPN service and not a Free VPN. This is because Free VPNs are not guaranteed to provide your protection. They are, in fact, more prone to sell out your information. So it is better to beware.
2. Use Tor browser
With Google also actively retaining our data, we have a little option left on what to choose for browsing. We can’t just skip using the internet altogether! Well, the way out is to use Tor browser!
Developed and used by the US navy itself, Tor or the onion browser is a project designed to gain privacy and security over the internet. It does so by:
- Protecting the information behind concealing layers that hides it from any prying eyes.
- Skipping the internet traffic through various relays and nodes so that it is impossible to track down.
- Changing your IP address to gain anonymity
Tor is ultimately known to keep you private and secure online. Its use is ideal for anyone who values his privacy and wants his data to stay off the radar. Tor can be used for:
- Getting past restrictions and censorships
- Staying away from the prying eyes of the ISP, trackers or anyone who wants to spy on your data.
As Tor is linked to anonymity. Therefore, it also has a network of host websites among its hidden services, commonly known as the dark web. These websites, known as onion sites, are only accessible through the Tor browser. However, before submitting to your curiosity and venturing into the dark web, it is better to be careful. This is because illegal activities are going on there.
3. Use HTTPS websites
HTTPS is a secure version of the standard website protocol we use that is HTTP. In it, the information that is sent over the web is in an encrypted form which can’t be snooped upon. Anyone who has the decryption can only decipher the information that is shared.
Therefore, while browsing online, it is better to ensure that you don’t enter sensitive information such as:
- Credit card numbers
- Social security numbers
- Address information
Or any other personal data over websites that don have HTTPS in their URL. Another relatively easy way to identify secure sites is to look for a green padlock symbol in the address bar. If it is available, then you are good to go!
4. Arm up with secure passwords
Having a stable and robust password is an excellent armour of achieving privacy and security online. Passwords have long since been used as a means of protecting us from snoopers. However, while setting up passwords, something should be kept into account, such as:
- It should be hard to guess. Try using a mix of upper case and lower case characters along with symbols for a strong password
- Don’t use the same password for every account.
- Make sure not to reuse old passwords
If managing passwords is a hard task for you, you can opt for the use of passwords managers. These are tools that do the job of remembering your passwords for you. Also, these tools are skillfully created to generate strong passwords for you!
Apart from that, you can also have an added layer of security through two-factor authentication. In this, once you try to login to your account, you are required to go through two processes of authentication. It works by:
- You type in your password to login
- A code or link is sent to your trusted email account
- You are required to click on the link or enter the code when prompted, which authenticates your identity.
These measures thus help you gain strong passwords. Apart from that, your login credentials are fundamental, so think before you decide to share them with someone.
5. Block trackers and ads
Trackers and ads are generated by the website you visit. Although they seem harmless as they are merely just a means of marketing and flourishing business. However, these tracker and ads are responsible for actively collecting your information such as
- IP address
- Device type
These trackers and ads also track down your likes and dislikes. This information is then used to display things as per your interests. Thus it is better to have them blocked. There are a number of ad blocker tools available for such purpose.
Internet privacy is, indeed, a sensitive issue. As going online, unprotected can cause a lot of harm, and it is better to consider being secure. Now that you are all aware of how to stay private online, it is better to have your privacy up a few notches.