January 28 is Data Privacy Day. It’s a landmark calendar event observed in the United States, Canada, India and 47 European countries and it's one which authorities take seriously.
The US National Cyber Security Alliance and the Council of Europe lead the charge in their respective spheres to launch educational campaigns about the importance of data privacy.
Online privacy is a huge issue. Revelations about mass online surveillance and regular reports on abuses of privacy clearly reveal how important it is to protect our privacy rights on the internet. This is what Data Privacy Day highlights.
Your browsing history is incredibly revealing
Your web browsing patterns contain a treasure trove of data, including your health concerns, shopping habits and visits to all websites.
- ISPs can find out where you bank, your political views and sexual orientation simply based on the websites you visit.
- The time you’re looking at websites can also reveal when you’re at home and when you’re not.
- Many compile anonymous browsing logs, sell them to marketing companies. They consider your browsing history as their revenue stream.
- As ‘big data’ analysis becomes increasingly common this has serious implications for users; patterns can easily be detected in masses of data, and their sources identified.
- If you research cancer warning signs, would you want your health insurance provider to know? If you are actively looking for a new job do you want your employer to know?
- A browsing history says a lot about users and many us would rather it stays private, between us and our computers, as a matter of principle.
- You may think clicking Private Browsing on your internet history will keep you protected from snooping, but you’d be wrong.
Companies that treat your data as theirs get hacked
But it’s not just the data that is collected and sold on to other organisations that is a problem. These companies are also hacked.
This is what one hacker had to say about an ISP network:
“ISPs… [often] end up hiring firms with external consultants with no idea on how to secure a telecom infrastructure… The specific configurational vulnerabilities mentioned in this blog… [enables] an attacker to gain credentials to access [the ISP network]… and do a crazy number of things while sitting on the same network.”
He is outlining how to hack a specific ISP network and then goes on to provide detailed instructions on how to do so.
- In a recent alarming example, an ISP left 73 gigabytes of data publicly exposed in a ‘cloud storage bucket’ for months. The data plain text passwords for employees.
- Verizon, a US communication service provider, recently left the personal data of around 6 million consumers openly accessible on an Amazon server without adequate password protection.
- Time Warner Cable also recently left 4 million user records sitting in an openly-accessible Amazon cloud service.
These fundamental security errors expose your data to hackers. They typically sell it on the black market, where it falls into the hands of identity thieves, fraudsters and even stalkers.
But it’s not just ISPs that get hacked or expose your data. Companies that buy data are often careless:
- Last summer a marketing database that contained close to 340 million individual records exposed this information on the internet
- The leak included details for each individual listed, including phone numbers, home addresses, email addresses and other highly personal characteristics for every name.
- The categories ranged from interests and habits to the number, age, and gender of the person's children.
How can you protect your privacy?
The brief answer is a VPN.
- An acronym for virtual private network, a VPN creates a virtual encrypted tunnel between you and the website you are accessing.
- All your internet traffic is routed through this tunnel, so your data is secure from prying eyes.
- Best of all, your computer appears to have the IP address of the VPN server, so both your identity and location is masked.
- If your data was intercepted, it's difficult to trace it back to you, since it appears to be coming from the VPN server.
In short, a VPN ensures your privacy online. Your web browsing is locked down. It’s kept private, between you and your computer. Your data cannot be exploited and it won’t be lost to the dark web in a hack.
- It also protects you on public Wi-Fi networks, perhaps at a coffee shop, airport or hotel. It keeps you safe both at home and abroad.
- Because web traffic is securely tunnelled you can also access services and websites that may have restricted access. Because it encrypts your traffic, it protects your identity.
Total internet privacy
BullGuard VPN helps you address all of the issues raised above by providing complete internet privacy wherever you are.
It can be used across six devices simultaneously, and on all major operating systems.
It keeps you safe on your desktop PC, laptop, tablet and smartphone, both at home and when you’re using public Wi-Fi networks.
You can find out more and subscribe by clicking this link.