Privacy over the internet has been an issue for a considerable period now. Newsflashes about data breaches and hacks are somewhat of a norm. More so as their numbers keep on increasing with every passing day.
Even the ever-reliable tech giants such as Google and Facebook have tactlessly betrayed our trusts! Now, as the internet is a core part of our lives, opting out of its use is not something most of us would consider. Therefore, the majority of us chose to remain blissfully ignorant about the dangers to our personal information online.
However, the wonderment of how vulnerable we are? And where to slam breaks on information sharing has undoubtedly crept up into our minds. But to judge our limits, we have to understand these issues.
Therefore I have compiled this article. It sheds light over all there is to know about internet privacy issues such as:
- Why is internet privacy an “issue”?
- What are internet privacy issues
- Harms due to inter privacy issues
However, before going deep into the details of privacy issues online, let’s clear concepts on what internet privacy issues are.
Why is internet privacy an “issue”?
There is a significant trail of breadcrumbs behind every step we take online. This “trail” might often comprise of the data we share online by ourselves. With publicizing information such as:
- Likes and favourites on social media
- Displaying our photos on various platforms
- Sharing our location.
These practices have made the veils of internet privacy very thin. As this information is available online waiting for anyone to acquire, most organizations such as Google, Apple, or Facebook hoards it.
Therefore, privacy “issues” arise, when these organizations allow third parties access to their hoarded information. Apart from these organizations, ISPs and the government also collects data. Specifically so in the light of the Data Retention Laws, these practices are now much more frequent.
Now, most of you will come up with the argument that what is there to hide in online activity? It’s not like you are doing something illegal! But, imagine unknown people knowing you intimately. That is sure to give some creeps, no?
Similarly, would you like a cybercriminal waiting, in search of you being vulnerable and exposing all of your private data? Data such as:
- Your birthday
- Social security number
- Name of your favourite pet, restaurants etc.
- Bank account details
- Credit card details
In short, any data regarding you that is sensitive. Data snoopers, hackers, phishers and other cybercriminal are always in search of these breadcrumbs to feed on.
Once they get their hands on such information, they proceed to harm us in numerous ways possible such as:
- infecting our devices with viruses and malware
- hacking into bank accounts
- stealing our identity
- Holding our data captive and demanding a ransom for it.
These, along with several other cybercrimes that occur worldwide on a daily basis. This gross abuse of information is what creates privacy issues over the internet.
What are Internet privacy issues?
As I have mentioned above, internet privacy issues are now a severe threat to us. There are numerous threats that we might encounter online. The types of data breaches that are a threat to internet privacy are mentioned here:
1- Data surveillance
The government and the ISP shave a strict watch over the data available online. They keep a close eye on every person that is connected to the internet. This way, they are aware of our every move.
Apart from that, they are also guilty of retaining user information. These acts are now even more prevalent in light of the considerably recent net neutrality laws.
Our internet activity reveals a lot about us. Such as if you happen to visit airline websites, then there are high chances that you are traveling somewhere. Apart from that, there are also numerous amounts of sensitive data available online. Information regarding:
- Banking details
- Social media details
- Health records
And various other confidential information that you would definitely wouldn’t want anyone to get their hands on. They do so through your IP address, which is your online identity. This means that through your IP address, the ISPs or anyone monitoring your online data can also trace you to your location and identify you. Moreover, this information is still accessible to them even if you use incognito mode or private browsing mode.
Governments usually surveillance data to impose censorship and to look out or criminal activities. Some of the significant surveillance agencies worldwide are:
- Russia’s Federal Security (FSB)
- The UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)
- Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)
- The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)
- New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)
Amongst them, however, the leading government responsible for data surveillance is China and the USA. The Chinese government is known for its strict censorship laws. Meanwhile, USA President Trump is the main reason why Net Neutrality has brutally been murdered.
These surveillance agencies make use of the ISPs along with some major tech companies like Google, Facebook or the NSA to pass on user data. The US Government has also allied them in their Prism program. Thus internet privacy is something that can no longer be achieved.
Apart from that, the ISPs also hoard up user data because:
- They sell it to third parties and earn money
- They throttle bandwidth when too much data is being used.
Apart from the ISPs, many websites and social media is also responsible for data surveillance. They also collect user data and sell it to third parties in the exchange of profits.
2 – Phishing Attacks
One of the most common types of cyber-attack, phishing involves criminals posing as a legitimate identity with the primary purpose of sealing personal information. Such as you might receive an email from your bank asking to fill out a form. The form would require you to give out your credit card details.
Other times you might be tricked into opening a malicious website. Here the user would be fooled to reveal personal information such as financial details, passwords etc.
The data that the scammers are usually after is sensitive and that can be used to their advantage. It could comprise of:
- Bank account information
- Credit card details
- Social security number
- Health insurance details
Once the hackers acquire this information, they use it to exploit you in any way possible. A phishing attack is usually composed of the following information:
- Subdomains or suspicious URLs are present such as the URL would be misspelt.
- The email recipient will consist of a public email address or a Gmail address instead of a corporate email address.
- The message will be delivered in a way to invoke a sense of urgency or to instill fear in the reader.
- A subtle request to verify personal information such as financial details or passwords would be present in the message.
- It is possible that the message is not grammatically well structured.
These are usually the characteristics of a regular phishing attack which you should look out for.
3- Malware attacks
Ever had your laptop data completely wiped clean or ever started facing troubles with your device just after clicking on a link? Yeah well, that is your experience with a malware attack. These attacks are also exceedingly frequent over the internet, and their number is significantly increasing day by day.
Malware is generally referred to as harmful software such as viruses that cause damage to your computer. Once the malware infects your computer, it immediately sets to create all sorts of damage to it. This damage usually consists of:
- Taking control of your device
- Transporting all kinds of confidential data on your computer to the attacker’s computer
- Wiping clean of your data
A malware, however, requires that user inject it manually into the device. For this, the attackers use various methods, including:
- Clicking a link
- Downloading a file
- Opening an attachment.
Once the link or prompt is clicked, or the attachments are opened, the malware downloads and starts wreaking havoc. Therefore it is better to be aware of suspicious links and notifications.
This is in general, just anther type f malware. But ransomware is usually known to cause much more damage. Also, their number has significantly increased in recent years. This malicious software is far and wide, responsible for disrupting internet privacy.
A seemingly happy day can turn dark if you open your system and find a message telling you that all of your data has been encrypted. Also, there is a demand for you to pay a certain amount of money for the data to be decrypted or else you could risk losing it all.
Now if those files are present as a back up somewhere or are not essential for you, you could risk losing them. But what If they are your future business plans? Or contain the whole life long memories of yours? In such cases, you are bound to pay the ransom. The payment is done through bitcoins. This is because they are the safest option available as it is impossible to track them .
Thus a ransomware attack may consist of:
- Is a form of malware attacks
- User data gets encrypted
- Data is only decrypted after a ransom is paid
- Ransom is paid in bitcoins.
With ransomware causing such as in-depth loss of data as well as finance, they should, therefore, be looked out for.
5- ID (Identity) Theft
What would you do if you find out that someone impersonated you? Let’s say you are a very responsible person who doesn’t throw away cash on meaningless shopping. You have been careful throughout the month and still, end up having hefty credit card bills!
The only explanation here is someone, acting to be you used your credit card for shopping. Cases of identity theft are exceedingly common nowadays and occur in people of all age groups. In it, a person or an imposter gains identifiable information about you. He then proceeds to use that information to earn benefits such as:
- Filing out fake tax returns
- Medical identity theft
- Senior citizen identity theft
- Minority identity theft
- Children identity theft
The bad part about identity theft is that they remain unknown for long periods. Victims of identity theft only get to know of their stolen identity when they try to utilize a service that has been used. Identity theft can also be highlighted if the victims notice unusual activity, such as:
- Bank withdraws
- Low credit score
- Health plan rejection
At times even criminal records are made with false credentials! And all this is possible by having unprotected data online that is within reach of hackers. Thus it is better to maintain privacy and security online.
6- Data Breaches
Hackers are always on the search of vulnerabilities in a network that they can exploit. It is “unauthorised” access into a system. After the hackers gain access, they proceed by sending any data they can find to third parties so that they can gain profit from it. These data may comprise:
- Health records
- Social security numbers
- Financial records
In short, any data that is sensitive and should be kept well away from the public.
Data breaches are unexceptionally common these days. And as these are target attacks, they usually take down with them reputable companies or organizations. This leads to large amounts of capital loss as well as abuse of privacy. One such example is the Equifax data breach that caused damage of millions of dollars.
Data breaches occur at small scale as well as large scale. With technology advancing data breaches are becoming more frequent and can occur through:
- Mobile data apps
- Optical media, USB and other storage devices
- Social media accounts
Thus data breaches are one of the most hyped internet privacy issues worldwide.
Internet privacy issues are indeed matters of grave concern. They are matters that should not be taken lightly or ignored. However, to bring change to the world, we have to take the first step within ourselves.
Similarly, the only way to control these issues is to take care of our privacy online individually. Thus now that you are well aware of privacy issues, it is about time to gear up your privacy and get secure.