Your Fundamentals on the Web
Have you wondered why your calculator app requires access to your contacts? Or why your wallpaper app requires your location? You’ve probably never thought of it. But most apps on your phone have access to things they don’t need (or will ever do). So why do they have it?
In June of 2013, Edward Snowden – a former CIA employee turned whistleblower – revealed highly classified information regarding global surveillance. Simply put: companies and organisations along with the internet is spying on us. In the coming years, many companies got caught for selling our personal data to advertisers.
Online privacy is half of our concern on the internet. The other half is online security. Note that privacy and security are NOT the same, but some elements overlap.
With technology becoming more powerful and accessible, physical transactions – money transfer, ticket booking, shopping, etc. – are turning digital. And with anything digital, the danger is magnified. In a physical world, your threats were local. In a digital world, anyone can attack you. So security is mandatory.
Before going into some ways of being private and secure on the internet, there is something that needs to be addressed:
“I have nothing to hide on the internet” is a common statement amongst many. This is like saying, “I don’t need curtains in my house”. No one says that. Why? Because you don’t want anyone to see your private life.
The only difference between the curtains of your home and being private on the internet is tangibility. You can see someone looking in through your window, but you cannot see someone looking at what you do online.
How to be more private?
- Act responsibly on the internet. Don’t do stupid things just because you think no one is watching. Trust me, more people are watching you online than anywhere else. And if they want to, they can figure out exactly who you are.
- Deny app permissions. Go to the settings of your phone and search for “Permissions”. Once there, deny any/all permissions for apps that don’t need them. Your calculator app doesn’t need access to your contacts and your music app doesn’t need access to your location.
- Never give too much personal info. Almost all websites will ask for personal information. Only give them what is required. Never give them too much.
How to be more secure?
- Strong and unique passwords. You’ve probably heard this one before, but it is paramount to repeat this again. Don’t use short and simple passwords. Don’t repeat the same password everywhere. The best way to achieve this is by using a password manager like Bitwarden or Keypass. You can also use 2FA ( two factor authentication) for extra security.
- Software updates. Update your OS and your apps to the latest version. Don’t put it off because updates usually have security patches that will make you more secure.
- Beware of social engineering. At the end of the day, the weakest link in IT security will always be us: the users. You could have the best security features in the world, but if you cannot identify something like a phishing scam – a type of scam in which the website you are visiting looks real, but is fake – then it’s pointless. For example: you might get an email from your bank saying that you need to login immediately. You click on the given link and it redirects to your bank’s login page. There you input your username and password to login. All good right? Well, yes, but actually no. That site was a perfect replica created by a hacker to steal your login credentials. This is a phishing scam and is very common. Always check the URL of the website you are visiting. All major websites you visit will have HTTPS (or a lock to the left of the URL). If it doesn’t, stay away.
- And finally, remember that if something looks fishy on the internet, it probably is.
These are some ways you can become more private and secure on the internet. This article only touches the surface of online privacy and security. They are vast subjects with frequent new material. But hopefully, you’ll take some time to learn more.
As mentioned before, we live in a world turning digital. Privacy and security are not just concepts anymore. They’re our fundamentals on the web.