Everybody values their privacy and as soon as you step into the online world your privacy is something that is easily exposed, there are people and companies out there who are just dying to get hold of your personal information and even financial details without you knowing, whilst a lot of people might roll their eyes at ‘identity theft’, there is a very real risk of it happening if you don’t take the necessary precautions.
When you go to any website your browser will by design send over various details about your computer setup, this will include your browser, your operating system, your screen resolution, and IP address. For the most part, this is all information that cannot really identify you and no personal details are collected. There is a deal of controversy as to how much information your IP address can give away. With an IP address, you would be able to determine who the internet service provider is and also the rough geographic area.
For most people, this isn’t really an issue, however, tracking cookies and your IP address is often used by companies to track trends on internet surfing and it is quite possible that your own internet service provider could be doing just this. By monitoring surfing trends companies are able to get an idea as to what kind of information is viewed at different times of the day and also the behavior that people exhibit in their web browsing. The ultimate goal behind this is usually to monitor advertising campaigns and to determine when people are more likely to click on ads and view certain sites. A lot of people think this is ethically wrong and although no personal information is being collected, you are having your browsing habits monitored and scrutinized! So how do you stop it?
Proxy Servers – You might have read my article on proxy servers but in case you haven’t, I’ll quickly explain what they are. A proxy server is essentially a server that will forward web requests from your machine to the destination web server. It kind of acts as a middle man in web browsing and by doing this the destination web server will not identify you as the visitor, instead, it will identify the proxy server. By doing this your IP address is not being exposed and you are retaining a certain amount of your online privacy. Proxy servers can have downsides though:
- They will slow down your browsing experience, sometimes to the point where pages simply won’t load.
- Some proxy servers might not be legitimate and might collect logs themselves or worse, personal information.
- If you want fast, anonymous and reliable proxy servers then you should be prepared to pay for them.
- For the most part, your normal web browsing will not give away any crucial information about yourself, the real danger lies with spyware and malware.
Spyware, malware and your privacy – This is where the real risk lies with your privacy. Spyware and malware are pieces of software on your computer then you usually won’t know about. If you happen to become infected it can be bad news for your data and personal information. It is not uncommon for malware to ‘key log’ what you type and then send the data back to a malicious server. By doing this, the people behind the malware are able to gather personal information that you type in online; this can include your name, address, telephone number and more worryingly; your bank details and online usernames and passwords.
Spyware and malware are the biggest threat to your privacy online and sadly the number of infections is steadily rising. Infection can come from many different sources – spam emails, web exploits, or even files that you download. Because of this, it is very important that you have an up to date malware and spyware solution on your computer. Malwarebytes is great at removing malware but does not offer real-time protection unless you use the paid version. You can find easily free software i.e also an effective piece of software against all types of malware and spyware and does come with a real-time protection engine to make sure your constantly being protected.