September 30, 2020

5 biggest threats to online privacy

4 min read

The US Presidential Election bent in favor of Donald Trump because of an online privacy issue. Hackers were able to access confidential emails of a Democrat when his aide typed ‘legitimate’ instead of ‘illegitimate’ for a received email by mistake. This mistake cost Hillary Clinton her presidential campaign. These were phishing emails that gave hackers access to 60,000 emails. 

Online privacy is a huge matter of concern for both individuals and governments. Because the internet is the largest information database in the world, there have to be security protocols to guard the information we save or access online. One misstep and your precious data can fall prey to cyber miscreants who are always on a lookout. 53 percent of online users are more concerned about their online safety than a year ago. In 2019, there were 1,473 data breaches in the United States alone. 

In this post, we are discussing the five biggest threats to online privacy in the internet age of today:

Data Breaches

Even if you are a solitary soul living in a countryside tucked away from urban life, someone can misuse your data. People steal and collect your data because it is of immense value. Data breaches are growing in number every year, and new methods are being developed to battle these breaches. Cybercriminals gain data to blackmail people into revealing more data. 

While there is little you can do to minimize your interaction with companies you do business with, there are some steps to steer clear of falling for a data breach:

  • Keep an eye on your bank transactions for any suspicious activity. You can also freeze your account in credit reporting companies to make it hard for a criminal to open an account in your name. 
  • File your tax returns before someone has a chance to file the wrong amounts in your name.

Public WiFi Spots

Finding a free WiFi spot in a public area sounds exciting, but it is also dangerous for your online safety. Free WiFi networks are like the favorite hunting ground of online criminals. You can also connect unknowingly to a free account because your device is set to ‘connect automatically’. 

The best way to stay safe from this threat is by avoiding free WiFi spots, especially for accessing online banking. If you have to connect in dire need, always make sure that the connection is encrypted before you continue. Always visit websites that have https:// instead of HTTP://.

Make sure that your emails are also encrypted, which is true in the case of providers like Gmail and Outlook. Another way to browse safely in a public network is by creating a private internet connection with a virtual private network (VPN). This noob privacy guide is a great help for staying vigilant about online privacy. 

Faulty Password Practices

It sounds like outdated advice, but keeping strong passwords is just as important as it was 15 years ago. After all, passwords are like the keys to your apartment, why give it away or leave the door ajar?

Surprisingly, many professionals use the same password twice or for all accounts, which seriously risks their privacy. There are so many resources available online that manage your password, so it does not fall into the wrong hands. Two-step authentication is another common practice that saves your assets by putting multiple barriers to entry. 

In any case, you must choose a password that is a mixture of numbers, upper case and lower case letters, like Pr!v@cyN00b.

Malware

Ransomware, Trojan Horses, and other malware can put your online safety at risk. Many times, these attacks happen without you even knowing. A study also showed that the popular streaming show Game of Thrones had the highest risk of containing malware when downloaded on the internet. The best way to protect yourself from malware is to invest in a good quality antivirus software with full protection. Moreover, prevent infection in the first place by downloading trusted files from the internet and not accepting media files before careful review. 

Internet of Things

The digital age has even connected your refrigerator to WiFi. Everything from light switches to the front door can be operated with a smartphone. The era of the Internet of Things (IoT) has blessed us with many comforts, but the dangers also linger around. Only 14 percent of people accepted that they are aware of IoT security. Put passwords on your devices and turn off unnecessary remote access to the devices. Give a strong name to your internet router, which is hard to decipher. Never give your passwords to temporary visitors at any cost. Do not grant access to your devices to people who are not immediate family. 

Internet is the fastest way to connect with friends and loved ones, and it is also the most unsafe for private transactions. To secure your data from cybercriminals, it is best to practice precaution.