Internet Privacy: A Step-By-Step Beginner’s Guide To Online Privacy
Internet privacy has always been of prime concern for internet users. However, it was not much talked about. 2018 brought many aspects to the light.
For starters, earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg was summoned in front of Congress to explain his blatant violation of users’ privacy.
He had a lot of explaining to do, also because the congressmen didn’t understand how the world of social media works. It was quite a sight, but also occasionally funny.
Due to these hacks, millions of users’ data is compromised. An outcry has resulted since then. People demand answers as to what’s being done about preventing such attacks in the future. Is there a potential loss of financial data?
No official strategy or word has come forward from these companies or any other institutions where invasion of privacy has occurred in the past.
Privacy is not only related to hacks
Privacy violation is not limited to hacks or cyber attacks. It is also about companies selling user data to third-parties AKA advertising agencies to make money of off said information.
This was primarily the reason why Mark was summoned by Congress for his depositions/hearings.
In May of 2018, a ruling in the form of GDPR came to fruition. General Data Protection Regulation, initiated by EU made sure that companies everywhere (and not just those in EU) ask explicitly for user consent when selling data to advertising agencies.
To an extent, this has curtailed the element of privacy violation but it is yet to be seen will companies be able to comply all over the globe. There are certain business models that solely bank on selling of user information for their survival.
Is the level of privacy the same for everyone?
You cannot expect complete privacy. And if you are told that there is a way which can guarantee you complete privacy than that someone is not telling the truth. However, there is always a method whereby you can adjust the privacy for yourself online.
There is a common misconception that with certain solutions you can ensure your privacy. You can, but again, to a certain extent. You will find experts claiming that with the help of Tor browser, you go completely anonymous.
While that is partially true because Tor will slow down your browser, heavily, you wouldn’t be calling it a solution now, would you?
Coming back to the question if privacy level is equivalent for everyone? No, it is not! For a person who aims to surf the web, adjusting your privacy levels on social media can bring you peace.
If you are an enterprise, solutions such as using a VPN, anti-malware suite and employing 2FA can help you protect your privacy.
What is my threat model?
First of all, we need to evaluate where you stand concerning the risk of security and privacy. There are three questions which need to be asked:
- What sort of information needs safeguarding
- What people are after my information
- Where is my information stored and transferred
This way it’s easier to figure out what data is stored and how it is moved. Which parties might gain access to them where it’s stored and so on so forth (you get the idea, right?)
When using the internet for accessing emails and social media, your data travels between a variety of servers to retrieve and save information. During this time, the data is shared among third-parties by the service provider such as Facebook. Hence, the depositions.
Tell me what can be done
Without further ado, and we know you are losing patience, find out ways where you can take charge of your online privacy.
1. Put a cap on the information you share publicly
See, that is where you need to draw the line. You are in very much control of your privacy if only you could look closely. Limiting or placing a cap on the information which you share publicly can protect you online.
There is some information that is needed for the public record such as your address and voter registration number. Any other information which is voluntarily shared especially on social media is ASKING for trouble.
Information such as your work history, family members’ names, and location data is not a requirement to be shared publicly. You are risking your profile to be used for social engineering.
Social engineering is a new method by which hackers can take advantage of you. Stuff that you share which such as above can be used by hackers to create ‘deepfake’ videos. Deepfake videos can embarrass you in ways you can’t even imagine.
Hence why it is important that you use privacy controls to their maximum effect be it any internet device or your a service.
2. Put a cap on the information you share privately
You must be thinking, “what’s wrong in sharing the info privately”? Let us enlighten you. So far we have established the fact that online services are prone to data breaches. So it is advisable to limit your information which you share with them.
Examples of limiting the sharing of data can be understood by following:
- Browse without signing into Chrome. That way the browser will not store information on your browsing habits. Heck, use a privacy-friendly browser such as Firefox, Vivaldi or search engines such as Duck Duck Go.
- Use Google Maps without signing in. In this way, there will be zero information that Maps will have pertaining to your data.
3. Put up a second line of defense
The password is your first line of defense (for the most part), however, in the day and age we live in you need even stronger passwords and unique ones.
So it’s better if you write them down. You can always use a Sticky Password account and bid farewell to the hassle of remembering passwords.
Also, try employing 2FA AKA two-factor authentication when logging in. This further improves the security of your account that you are trying to access. Usually, this happens through an authenticator app or a code is texted on your registered phone number.
The use of public Wi-Fi networks is a risk and so is accessing public computers. These must be avoided at all costs. Honeypots and keyloggers respectively can compromise your sensitive data.
If you absolutely must use a public computer or a Wi-Fi network, make sure to log out of your account(s) and use a VPN such as Ivacy. In the latter case, you can mask your IP address and render your presence online, invisible.
4. Installing app lock and keeping device software up-to-date
This level of threat has to do with your actual device getting stolen or lost. In that case, if you have app lock in place or passwords in place protecting your device, rest assured, your data is safe.
Also, there are apps that will allow you to erase/wipe, locate and possibly identify thieves remotely. Moreover, if your device’s software is up-to-date you can rest easy in terms of viruses and malware from exploiting your device/information.
That way you are less susceptible to attacks and other prevalent vulnerabilities.
5. Implement email safety
And you thought, this couldn’t get any scarier. Yes, email is another medium whereby cybercriminals can get hold of your data. Emails are commonly known for phishing attacks. This is where the hacker tricks you into clicking a phishing link.
The phishing link could either be an attachment download or a fake webpage prompting you to enter your login credentials. Hence, stay wary of such links.
6. Utilize encryption
Encryption helps mask your online data so whenever any traffic is intercepted over the internet (if unsecured) will not be readable by hackers. Instead, it will be a string of characters that will be available to them. Which of course serves no purpose.
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a phenomenon whereby your data stands automatically secured. Tech companies employ this service to protect its users and which the company itself cannot decrypt. WhatsApp is perhaps its biggest example. As for websites that you visit, most of them are not automatically encrypted.
When visiting a webpage online, it is important that you use a browser plugin by HTTPS Everywhere so that your visit to the website remain encrypted, end-to-end as https security protocol brings an added layer of security to your browsing/surfing experience.
7. Use a VPN
We have already covered this above. A VPN like Ivacy will help you mask your IP address and will make you anonymous to your ISP, government surveillance and data snoopers from keeping tabs on your activities online.
8. Tor browser
For an extreme level of security and internet privacy, Tor should be your go-to option. Tor technology is maintained by none other than the Tor Project. Here you don’t have to connect to a VPN or anything, you just simply have to use the browser and you can go anonymous online.
Tor bounces your connection through several layers of encryption which hides where your data originated in the first place. You can access blocked websites with Tor but it lets you access them through the dark web. A downside to Tor is that it weighs heavily on your internet speed and is slower than when you are browsing with a VPN in place.
To wrap it up
Let us reiterate the above points and present you with a summary of them.
- Limit your content that you share publicly
- Limit your content that your share privately
- Create stronger passwords and employ 2FA where applicable
- Use security apps and keep device software updated
- Beware of phishing attacks which call for vigilance when opening emails
- Use VPN for improved security
- Encrypt data when visiting websites by employing an https security protocol. It provides you with E2EE
- Lastly, use Tor but remember it will bog down your internet connection speed
And that’s all she wrote.