Government agencies, marketing companies, and other third-party actors can target to get or even pay for information about your habits online
It is not commonly known that there are many ways that people's data gets tracked and collected. It is also an issue that you cannot be sure when and how it happens. Government and privacy issues raised to the surface when the story with Edward Snowden got public, and NSA's mass surveillance activities were exposed. Then end-to-end encryption has been adopted by many online services.
Privacy started to be taken more seriously, but governments and law enforcement agencies still have their ways. However, it is up to you to make the use of privacy-enabling technology. There are many ways to ensure your anonymity, take care of the tracking and logging issues. Even though there are some issues with services and security, privacy software providers too.
You need to protect your data from hackers, spies, malware creators. That is pretty much obvious because you cannot be sure what the malicious actor has in mind. However, the government also has shady purposes and aims when it comes to tracking and collecting data about citizens.
Even if you think that you don't have anything to hide from the government, law enforcement can access more than you think. It should be a balance when it comes to privacy and personal information, but throughout the years it has been changing, and not for the better, unfortunately.
Countless censorship and communication blackout schemes contribute to the global surveillance state in which privacy becomes a luxury, not a right. Everything from your web browsing and mobile devices become the potential to crumble our privacy and security. Still changing surveillance rules, vendors, their activities cannot be easily trusted these days.
What data can be logged and collected about you
Data is a particularly general term that includes a wide range of information that can be broken down into areas. There are two different types of information: personally identifiable data and non-identifiable information. PII mainly includes your physical home address, name, email, telephone number, date of birth, marital status, details like social security number, medical status data, and family relations, education, employment.
This is the information that can get exposed during a data breach or stolen through phishing campaigns, compromised accounts. This information can be used to steal identities and perform other malicious operations when it gets to the wrong hands. These details are filled out by users themselves because they need to answer particular questions and fill out forms when registering to some platforms or medical care networks.
Other details like browsing habits, preferences, and common website visits can be monitored by an Internet Service Provider or get hijacked, accessed by a third party. These details get tracked with the help of cookies and browser plugins. These tools track your activities across multiple websites and platforms. Such practices are considered intrusive.
Shady businesses regarding the “not so legal” logging
This information may be gathered because of the specific relations that countries create with other states. Government surveillance is impacting many people, even though they are not engaging in any possibly dangerous activities. Illegal tracking is the worst because you become a victim since there is no option for you to opt-out of the tracking. Such information can be passed to other parties or stolen, so you may suffer from consequences yourself.
Unfortunately, such mass surveillance activities can trigger issues regarding terrorism. Especially when unauthorized parties access details about people, groups, or companies. When it comes to immigrants or emigrants, danger regarding law enforcement tracking is real. The federal government tracking can lead to direct and targeted attacks towards people from other countries. Also, such details collected by law enforcement agencies can be used to monetize personal information including location and personal details.
Information that is gathered by advertisers, deceptive online sites, government, and third-party companies can end up wherever because:
- data gets sold or shared online when advertisers or even malicious attackers need information for their campaigns;
- information gets used for business purposes when advertising material is generated based on particular preferences and habits;
- provided for government agencies when particular information is needed to profile citizens and gather their preferences.
Public Wi-Fi is posing a risk to your privacy and security
Public Wi-Fi is convenient, and it is extremely useful when you can use the internet whenever you need, and wherever you are. However, such service also placing your privacy and security at risk. You do not need authentication to access the internet, so cyber attackers also do not need permission, in particular. This feature creates the opportunity for attacks like Man-in-The-Middle and other malicious activities that can be launched on the specific machine.
This is how stealthy actors can get on the machine and steal your information, eavesdrop on your activities, manipulate traffic, redirect you to malicious websites. The information you send via the Wi-Fi hotspot can be accessed by the attacker and that includes your emails, financial information, account credentials, personal details.
These hotspots can be created by malicious actors on purpose because mimicking a popular free Wi-Fi spot can be the method allowing criminals to steal data from people who connect to the internet. If you need the internet away from your home, use the mobile connection provided on your mobile device instead. You can also set your mobile phone, for example, as a hotspot when you need to connect to the internet on your laptop or a different device. This option provides the service, and you can choose all the settings and makes it private.
Lessen risks regarding the internet connection with a VPN software
VPN or Virtual Private Networks allow people to use public Wi-Fi hotspots, safely and anonymously log in to the internet, ensure the data encryption when information is sent and received during the session online. The VPN shield provides privacy online and helps to protect the personal information that is transmitted while connected to the public or any the “not so secure” Wi-Fi.
VPN software is the way to create a safe and secure space on the internet that is, in general, not safe. Your location, IP address can get hidden due to this software. Many users rely on such software because it provides the geolocation-blocked content, and apps or sites restricted on their country can be accessed when your IP address is changed.
Also, this secure internet option became more popular when mass surveillance became a thing and a serious issue. Users wanted to make their data and their privacy secured. You can mask your online presence and surf anonymously whenever you want. However, there are some issues with the VPN services too because some of them can create a database of log files that store information about your habits or even personal details.
What can be logged by the VPN provider: browsing history, DNS queries, IP address, traffic destination, metadata. VPN software providers can access details about websites you visit and log files from those pages. Details about the time you spent on those sites can also be accessed and every second on the page written down in log files. The IP address that is linked with your internet connection and home is accessible. Applications that you have installed on devices can be logged, regardless if you cracked or downloaded the program.
More sensitive data like usernames, passwords, bank account numbers, credit card numbers that you fill out in various fields also get logged. Data that you download or even uploaded also is logged, gigabytes and megabytes get counted and stored on the of file.
Unfortunately, you buy the service of a VPN, and your data gets gathered too. If you rely on such software to connect to your bank account, PayPal, or different account, your login information, other details get recorded and can be later on misused against you. However, not all VPN services are like this. You can choose the one that offers a good no-log policy, so you can ensure that your connections are private and secure.
What is no-log, and why do you need this?
No log means that a VPN provider is not recording or collecting information that is transmitted through the network. No personal information is stored and details on where you go online or what you download, search for, is not accessed by the software developer and service provider. This ensures anonymity and protects from everybody, even the VPN provider.
VPN software developers rely on this technique, so when you trust the service, you can be sure that all the data gets encrypted and protected when you go online. Most of the VPN software providers believe that this is the default practice, so they do not log your information. The database of users' personal information is not built, and there are no operations of selling data for third-parties.
When you choose the VPN that is providing no-log services, you can be sure that your data is not recorded or stored, nor obtained. In case of possible hacker attacks and data leaks, you need to be sure that there is no information stored on any VPN database. If such a server gets hacked or breached, you may suffer from consequences when your personal information is made public.
This is the issue and an important thing when it comes to choosing the best VPN service in the first place. Paid services and premium versions always provide more options and features for the user, so free VPN may be slower, offer limited functions, bandwidth capacity. When the VPN software costs money, you most likely can run more devices, control the data collection, and sharing functions.
When focusing on security and privacy functions and selecting the best VPN, you should take some factors into consideration:
- No-log policy. This is the crucial feature because you choose the VPN to ensure your privacy online. How it can be done without this function.
- The speed. You need a connection that can't reduce the speed of your internet. It may drop a little when you use the shared IP, but the VPN shouldn't create any issues like this.
- The coverage. VPN service provides many locations to choose from, so you should have as many servers for your options. If the service is not offering more than 50 servers it is not the best one. The more locations you have provided, the more possibilities to get to restricted content.
- Privacy. You need to make sure that the VPN service that you use is relying on encryption that is the best and up-to-date.
- Bandwidth. Limited bandwidth is the worst thing because this created issues when you stream a movie or a tv show, and the service stops. Search for the provider that is not limiting their bandwidth.
- Price. Of course, when it comes to any software, you as a customer want to get the best service for the lowest price. There are many plans, options, besides tons of reliable providers. Research before committing.