If you ever wondered if someone has been spying on you on the internet, or if your government has a secret program to watch over your browsing activity, you might be right.
How do they do it and what makes you vulnerable to spying? Let’s look at four key techniques which are used by third parties to snoop on your online life and what you could do to protect yourself.
#1- Eavesdropping attacks
Some of you might have secured your computers and your own networks with a firewall or security software. Some might also have a connection that is authenticated to their ISP. But can you be sure that your data is taking the safest path when it’s transmitted over the internet?
You may as well answer “no” if you are not using a VPN.
Indeed, you will know when you send your data packets online if they have reached their destination, just like when you receive them. However, you probably cannot tell which networks your data is going through on the way to its final destination and if someone has made some copies of it along the way. So, it is very possible for third parties, or even governments agencies such as the NSA, to be spying on your internet traffic right now if you have an unsecured internet connection.
#2 – Collecting cookies
Every time you open your browser and see an ad, a cookie will be gathered by the web advertising distribution network. Unfortunately, the cookie will provide information like your browser’s unique identifier as well as your IP address which can be used to identify you.
You might see a lot of ads from the same big distributor as they have the budget to put them on many different sites. Therefore, they are more able to gather larger numbers of your cookies which they can use to target their ads more effectively based on your browsing activity.
#3 Malicious software (malware)
Third parties could be spying on you if your device has a malware infection. Some types of malware can steal your data, such as the following:
- Adware: this type of malware can track the websites that you visited and send the data of your browsing history to third parties which will use the data to help them to better target their ads at you.
- Spyware: the CoolWebSearch download was spyware which posed as an add-on for your browser. This is typical of spyware which seeks to mislead you into thinking it serves a useful purpose while it is actually stealing your data. This could include valuable and personal data such as chat logs, bank information, account credentials, and more.
- Keyloggers: with this malware, every keystroke that you make will be recorded and sent to third parties. This data can be used to track your online activity and even steal your crucial information like credit card numbers.
#4 Government Surveillance
Governments are most likely spying on you right now. For example, the National Security Agency (NSA) from the U.S. has legal permission to collect private data in the following ways:
- By collecting the locations of the people’s cell phones in some countries outside of the US. Typically, they collect 5 billion records in one day.
- By working in collaboration with other government across the world to tap people’s internet traffic when it is passing through undersea fiber optic cables.
- By collecting messages, emails, and other data from personal accounts like Google, AOL, Apple, Skype, Facebook, and more.
The same issue is also present in the U.K., as the Tempora Program is legally intercepting people’s internet traffic under surveillance purposes while also partnering with the NSA and local telecom companies.
And even more scarily, these examples have only become public knowledge from leaked information. So, there is the possibility that you are being spied on with other new and secret programs we don’t yet know about.
Innovations can protect us from spies
The technology race will always exist between the government and those who are not working for the government. Some people have created new technology which could protect us from government surveillance, like Blockchain technology.
This innovation offers anonymity in asset exchange which gives us more secure transactions, and the ability to use private digital currencies which are not issued by governments like fiat currencies.
This gives people the opportunity to be free from depending on banks and governments who watch over their financial activities. People can now store their funds in cryptocurrency wallets, such as a mobile or hardware wallet, and send or receive them from people all over the world in private and with lower fees.
Simple steps to protect you from a spy
It’s likely that you are not happy with the secret surveillance techniques being used to watch over you. Therefore, you can follow these simple steps to help protect you from them.
- Protect your computer or any device that you use with security software. Besides from protecting you from malware infections, security software can also protect you from hackers.
- A simple thing you can do on your web browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, is to disable third-party cookies.
- Encrypt your traffic on the internet with a VPN. Then, no one will be able to open your packets of data even if they manage to intercept them.