Our online activities can be a dead giveaway of our private information to third-parties. Whenever we connect to the internet, our data may be collected without our consent and then sold to several agencies. Among many reasons for such leaks are internal software or hardware vulnerabilities that can worsen the already existing problem of maintaining anonymity online.

When our information is brought together, they are like pieces of a puzzle. 200 different websites we may have visited might tell the ISPs or any prying eyes online who we really are. Online privacy laws are put into place for a reason but hackers aren’t the only ones bypassing them. If Edward Snowden’s leaks case is proof of anything, upstanding companies also violate user data and spy on millions of citizens without their consent.

However, there are several tools available online that can somewhat protect your privacy and your most sensitive details. The question is: how efficient are they?

Do Antiviruses Really Work?

Users have taken help from antiviruses and firewalls to protect themselves from online harm since the invention of computers. These antiviruses are only required by windows users and not Mac users. It is a fact that Mac likes to brag about, that antiviruses and firewalls fill in the vulnerabilities left behind by the creators of Windows. However, according to a 2017 Malwarebytes report, firewalls and antiviruses are no longer an appropriate security measure against what is out there. They do offer some level of protection but if your device is under attack by a hacker specifically after you, antiviruses will not do you much good.

VPNs: Which Encryption Grade is Best?

With the mass use of public hotspots these days, VPNs have become the top searched for app form. People all over the world are seeking to secure their online activity with the help of a virtual private network. However, the world is torn between free versus paid VPN services. The biggest difference between those two is the quality of service obtained. In the moderately paid version of a VPN, you will get better encryption grades (AES-256bit), higher data allowance and improved speeds. The higher paid VPNs, however, offer you with OpenVPN encryption which is the most secure form of encryption out there, as opposed to PPTP. Be mindful of the fact that no matter how extensive the encryption, it only makes it harder for a hacker to hack through, not impossible.

A notable fact to inquire about is how a VPN service provider handles its user data. If it is mentioned in the terms and conditions of a VPN service that logs are kept regarding user activity, you might not be as anonymous online as you think you are. Suppose the government requests user logs to aid criminal investigations, a VPN will provide the logs and thereby condemn you to prosecution and quite possibly jail-time. Several small VPN companies have found a loophole by not storing any logs apart from the log in and connection times. They cannot aid a government with something they do not even store, can they? If you want the most secure VPN, it is best to choose one that has a strict zero logging policy.

Browsing In Incognito or Private Mode

Several browsers have now begun to offer users with the incognito mode, also referred to as InPrivate Browsing or Private Window. How safe is this incognito mode, really? If you think this protects your identity online, you couldn’t be more wrong. Simply surfing online in incognito mode keeps your browsing history clean and your cache deleted on your own desktop or mobile device so that anyone who may use the device after you can’t see what you have previously used the device for. Your internet service provider though can see everything you are doing online regardless of what browsing mode you are in.

The only things that aren’t saved are the following.

  • Cookies
  • Passwords
  • Search bar data
  • Pages visited

Your online activity may be hidden from your spouses and kids, but don’t fool yourself into thinking the government isn’t watching.

Internet of Things (IoT) Internet of Things devices generates a lot of data. In a report put out by the Federal Trade Commission, less than 10,000 households generate about 150 million discrete data points. The vulnerability of our systems has created a lovable haven for hackers to pry into any information they see fit, an example of that would have to be the Mirai Botnet. This particular DDoS attack was responsible for taking down the internet in not only the US but also in Europe in October of 2017.

The estimated value being $1.4 trillion by the year 2021, you can be sure that internet of things devices aren’t going anywhere with consumers consistently looking for cheap paid, high-value gadgets. The question remains, why are we sacrificing security for such cheap devices and that if we are going to pay for preventive measures anyway, why not start there in the first place?

Cloud Security

Cloud services face the same problem as IoT and aren’t as secure as we are led to believe. The only thing a cloud lets us do is to manage our devices from an offsite with the help of security companies that either might or might not be equipped with skills required to do the job well. The consequences of mishandled data can often be catastrophic to individuals and groups. A great example of this would have to be of CrashPlan which changed its provider policy overnight in August of 2011. When a company declares bankruptcy, all of its stored data becomes untouchable and that is exactly what happened with CrashPlan.

Is Encryption a Viable Solution?

All the privacy concern questions can easily be summed up by a statement put out by the CEO of TecSec Jack Wack who said, “You cannot secure the network, only the data.” This means that in the face of online threats, data encryption might be the only solution. However, keep in mind that as mentioned before, data encryption might make online attacks more difficult to be conducted, but it in no way completely obliterates them.

Conclusion

There are so many serious threats out there capable of compromising our privacy and the peace of those we love. There are certain solutions made available to protect yourself from cybercrimes, but they only offer layers of security, not complete shields. The surest bet to be protected is to opt for VPNs that provide OpenVPN encryption and a strict zero logging policy.

Hudson

Hudson is currently an editor at Hudson Rhine. She also holds a degree in Computer Science from Bridgewater College. She loves to write about software and tech shaping the future. She lives in Virginia with her parents.

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