The modern lifestyle is becoming increasingly dependent on online services. We have to give our personal details to access our bank accounts, renew our insurance, shop, file taxes, and other unavoidable reasons.
Failing to take proper steps to protect our personal data enables various online companies to steal it and use it for various frauds. For example, your stolen data may lead to different types of identity theft.
But you can maintain your privacy and reputation if you are aware of the dangers exposing your personal information might create. If you want to know what information about you is already available on the Internet, use Nuwber. Type your name or address and see what comes up. That will help you to evaluate the situation and decide what steps to take to protect your data.
Five Most Common Types of Frauds
According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 32% of cyber-crimes in 2020 involved using personal information to avail government benefits.
29.7% of crimes involved credit card detail hacking from mobile shopping apps and miscellaneous shopping sites.
22.9% of cyber-crimes fell under miscellaneous identity theft, which creates fake passports, driving licenses or property documents.
7% involved tax fraud, availing refunds from the federal government, or simply escaping the need to pay taxes using a different identity.
8% involved applying for a personal loan using other people’s identity and absconding the loan amount while the actual identity holder is held liable to pay the money.
How Do Online Companies Collect Your Personal Data?
Online companies use five main ways to collect the data they share. The main types of data collected are email, full name, mobile number, date of birth and place of birth.
Traditional cookies: Doyens of the internet like Google, Facebook, and Amazon started using cookies to track their user’s internet behaviour and share the data with marketers and advertisers. Cookies evolved into cross-site trackers, which get embedded into the code and often give a detailed listing of all the websites browsed by the user.
The user persona gets defined based on the websites they visit daily and gets piled up for years. The cross-site trackers cannot be disabled by clearing the cache or browsing history. They will still track your data even if you use Incognito mode. The best way to hide your browsing history is to:
- Use a browser that does not track your information like DuckDuckGo and Tor.
- Use browser extensions like Ghostery or AvastAntiTrack
- Try using VPNs to hide your IP address. Mozilla VPNs are available for as little as $5 per month and provide extensive safety.
SuperCookies: Most websites ask us to allow cookies to improve our internet experience, and we accept it without thinking. Some of these cookies are super advanced and designed to stay on your browser forever, tracking your social media, web surfing habits and, most importantly, online shopping interests. Supercookies are basically advanced codes that can be used to retrieve any information you leave online.
- Check with your ISP and ask for UIDH tracking. If your ISP uses UIDH tracking, give them a written request to opt-out of the tracking. They are obliged to heed your request.
- If you have a business, search for customized security software services that will protect your company from phishing attacks aimed directly at you and provide enhanced data protection with multi-level encryption.
- Use VPNs to mask your data and use advanced tracking protection software in your system. Do not disclose your mobile number directly, and always use the burner number on Google to contact new people online.
- Avoid using public Wi-fi and use only your mobile data even when you are in public places. Take steps to ensure you do not disclose your location easily while travelling or using unnecessary services.
- SuperCookies often track lots of information from social media regarding your name, email address, location, family details and many more. So make sure your social media settings are set to private in all your social media accounts and frequent shopping sites like Amazon to maintain privacy.
Fingerprinting: Fingerprinting tracking is aimed at the software and hardware you use. A unique digital fingerprint listing all your details is created, which compromises your privacy heavily.
- Firefox Browser is known to block companies from using fingerprinting effectively. So make sure to enable the appropriate privacy protection settings in Firefox.
- Try to disable Flash and always try to use incognito mode. Chrome browser automatically prevents flash as a measure to keep fingerprinting in check.
- Keep all your software up-to-date. Again, use VPNs.
Session Cookies: These are the most common and harmless types of cookies that actually help us browse based on our interests. They autofill online forms. They bring up recommendations on YouTube when we browse. Similarly, they only make us vulnerable if there is a data breach in the company storing our data.
- Cleaning the cache and browsing history regularly is enough to get rid of your track with such types of cookies.
- Using multiple browsers and keeping the Google and other browser settings private is also useful.
Session-Replay Scripts and Identity Trackers: They track everything from what websites you visit, what section you visit often and where you click. Identity trackers collect email addresses and even passwords easily.
- They are rare, and advanced protection software in your system warns you when they enter your system. Use browser extensions like Disconnect to protect your browsing history.
- Use services like a Facebook container which is a browser extension that gives only limited access to Facebook.
- Try using email masking services like MailDrop or Burner Mail or a free dummy email for social media and a paid secure email for the bank, medical and insurance transactions.
- Use high-level password managers like 1Passwords or NordPass, which WordPress unique 10-digit passwords that are hard to crack.
Follow the steps given above, use the required services and develop healthy browsing habits to keep yourself safe and protect your personal data, which numerous people seek for various harmful reasons.