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Understanding the Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy.

In this segment of Security articles, we are going to understand the ways and smart techniques required to protect your data privacy and other concepts related to it.

With the expansion of personal computing devices, the sudden increase in social media and in the numbers of individuals connected to the Internet, privacy is currently more significant than any other time in recent memory. From hackers hoping to steal your credit or debit card information to companies like Facebook and Amazon looking to track you to make money off that information, the normal user is under advanced technologies that gradually take away privacy. How can one protect against these attacks of security and privacy ? Technologists frequently joke that there is no privacy on the Internet and to a point, this is valid. Nonetheless, in this section of Security, we will understand the things that should be possible to increase privacy in three phases.

Phase 1 : Fundamental Privacy Changes:-

The fundamental changes will require minimal technical knowledge and are free to implement. The services in this Phase 1 are Password Generators, Two Factor Authentication, Ad Blockers and expanding the restrictiveness of social media settings.

Password Generators automatically make a unique kind of password for every website or service you use and secure these passwords with a master secret password. Accordingly, the user just needs to recall a single secret password key while lessening the danger of attackers having the option to break into numerous accounts because of duplicate passwords. There are two main password managers: KeePass and LastPass (do your own research). The main difference between the two is usability for non-technical users and cost. KeePass requires manual configuration that finds a way to get everything fully operational. Also, KeePass does not consequently synchronize passwords between devices without any more configuration. LastPass does not require these additional steps, however, has a cost related to a portion of the premium features, for example, multi-factor authentication, support for third-party applications, and encrypted storage for files.

Like password generators, two-factor authentication builds security by expecting access to another device, as a rule, the user’s mobile phone to completely authenticate to an account. A potential another strategy for authenticating users by means of 2FA is using biometrics, yet current biometric procedures can either be tricked effectively or are not 100 percent precise, requiring the requirement for backup authentication techniques. This clearly nullifies the purpose of using biometrics in any case. For now, Authy or Google Authenticator (do your own research) are the two best choices for two-factor authentication.

Both ad blockers and more restrictive internet social media settings try to limit tracking and expected exposure of data to the public. There have been instances of sites both tracking users through advertisements and tracking users between websites to serve them personalized ads. By using advertisement blockers and turning off targeted Facebook ads, this tracking is reduced at some point. uBlock Origin (do your own research) is one of the best ad blockers available.

Phase 2: Medium Level Changes:-

After basic Phase 1, there are some extra things users can do to increase privacy without any loss of functionality. This phase includes changing the default web search engine, private browsing modes, using a VPN, and using a Tor browser. Aside from the VPN, every one of these choices is free. Indeed, even the VPN choice could be free, depending on what the user’s definite objective is while using this VPN service.

Most users likely have Google set as their default search engine: While this is helpful due to Google’s search algorithms and integration of search history across different devices, it’s a well known fact that Google tracks searches by user. This is a part of what makes the targeted advertisements in Phase 1. For example, have you at any point searched for some item and suddenly began seeing advertisements on different platforms for that thing ? That is Google tracking. By changing to another search engine, for example, DuckDuckGo or Startpage, this tracking is almost zero (negligible).

To make this idea one step further, the user could decide to use private browsing mode. This will consequently erase browsing history, cookies and all data that has been typed when the browser window is closed. This is valuable to keep cookies from tracking a user between website sessions. But by doing this, the user will lose some functionality. Data about the user’s computer and browsing behavior are as yet accessible by websites being visited and any network administrators that may have access to the connection, including ISPs.

To make this idea one more step further and start to anonymize the information sent to websites while likewise minimizing the tracking ability of network admins and ISPs, the user may decide to set up a VPN service. While this won’t do a lot to hide their browsing behavior from the ISP, this solution can be helpful if the user realizes they will use Unsecured Wi-Fi connections, for example, in a coffee shop.

Also, when the user connects with a website, their IP address is hidden from that server and rather appears to be the endpoint of the VPN. This tunneling mechanism, which is the core of a VPN, allows a user to hide browsing data from their ISP. The ISP will have the option to tell that a VPN is being used, however it will not be able to see the traffic streaming back and forth in that VPN tunnel.

It is not necessarily the case that one must simply jump on the web and try out the first VPN service they find. There have been a few cases wherein the VPN provider has either given user information to law authorization or allowed user information stored on their servers to leak freely. Clearly, the user should research about their VPN provider with respect to these issues if they feel this is good VPN service.

To get around these possible limitations of VPNs, a user may decide to use a Tor browser. These are programs that are intended to use the Tor protocol (The Onion Router) where traffic is encrypted and afterward routed between numerous hosts before coming out to the final server. This makes it progressively hard to backtrack through the routing protocol as might occur with a VPN.

Phase 3: Advance Level Changes:-

For technical users, a third phase exists which may require significant effort to set up or significant changes in computer using behavior. The methods discussed in this level include using virtual machines to the sandbox and use of privacy-related Operating Systems. To know more about Virtual Machines, Etechwall has some detailed articles about it so search on the website.

The use of virtual machines has for quite some time been important to those people who are engaged with Information Technology and Data Security. With the advances in current hardware, it is possible to do all processing inside a virtual machine or to run various virtual machines simultaneously for various tasks.

Using privacy related operating systems, users may hide their tracks in the digital world. For complete privacy, users should use these operating systems in a live boot drive. While this implies users will lose their data when the OS is rebooted, it is the most secure method of using these operating systems. Alongside a portion of the other prescribed methods, the user can achieve a high level degree of privacy and anonymity.

Much like the VPN service we discussed above, a great part of the effectiveness comes down to user behavior and situational knowledge. For example, these privacy related OSes (for example, Tails) can not protect against compromised hardware, BIOS attacks or man-in-the-middle attacks etc etc. If the prescribed methods are followed and everything is implemented appropriately, these solutions will be more than sufficient for the normal user.

Final Words.

As it should be clear at this point, there are numerous alternatives for attempting to guarantee one’s privacy on the Internet. These range from generally simple to implement and cheap or even free which require advanced technical knowledge. Be that as it may, as referenced in the starting, true privacy on the Internet is practically unachievable if the attacker has enough resources and tries with hard effort. While a worthy level of privacy can be accomplished by the normal user, true privacy is only admissible by keeping yourself away from the Internet. Always do your own research before using any tool or service in this digital world.