Security Surveillance Attack
Once upon a time, the internet was associated with anonymity and freedom. Today, people’s actions on the network can be tracked by anyone who is not lazy—providers, browsers, social networks. Sometimes information about users can be used for good, for example, for research. In other cases, the data falls into the hands of attackers.
More about the online surveillance issue is written here.
In addition, it’s not only online activities that can be tracked. Thanks to cameras on laptops, phones, etc., various interested people can track users’ movements and actions in the offline world.
But who exactly is following us on the internet and outside? And is it possible to hide from the all-seeing eye?
The best way to stop internet tracking now!
What is security surveillance?
Security surveillance is the real-time surveillance of internet users. Usually, this is done using a camera on a laptop or phone. In addition, it is the surveillance of online user actions.
– Who is watching us?
A short, but fairly complete version of the answer to this question: everyone who can.
Almost all popular resources spy on users, but most often it is done by advertising networks: Google Ads, AppNexus, etc. Then there are a variety of counters and other web analytics tools.
How does Google track internet users? We’ve written about the current scheme here.
Social networks do not lag behind the advertising ones, along with popular video hosting sites (for example, YouTube), the AddThis service, the Disqus discussion plugin, and so on. And do not think that these social networks can only follow you in their feed. Quite the opposite. Today, almost every site has buttons or widgets for popular services, through which all your movements on the internet are recorded.
– Why do we need surveillance?
Of course, internet surveillance has both negative and positive sides. For example, it helps browsers set up targeted ads. So, the user will be able to find what they need more easily and quickly on the network. In addition, surveillance helps to identify criminals and punish them to the fullest extent of the law. Also, using cameras, you can prevent a home break-in or track the criminal.
How can you be anonymous on the internet? Read the article and ensure your privacy.
However, security surveillance violates the right of every internet user to privacy. We all have the right to watch, read, and buy what we want, and do it privately. Each of us wants to keep our correspondence and credit card numbers private, and much more. However, all this data can fall into the hands of hackers who will blackmail the user. In addition, government agencies monitor our actions in the online world on a daily basis. And many countries have already imposed strict internet censorship.
We’ve already considered the topic of online censorship. If you missed it, find here.
What are the two types of surveillance?
There are a great many methods. The basic capabilities of obtaining user data are built into the web’s very design: your browser voluntarily provides information about your IP address, software versions used, display resolution, and so on. In combination, this set of parameters already provides a good basis for further actions.
Small cookies stored when you visit a site contain authentication information, preferences, frequently visited categories, etc. Cookies allow you to track a user by a unique identifier and collect different data about them—this is one of the most popular options.
As mentioned above, social network buttons are a very powerful and convenient tool. An additional advantage of social networks in the case of surveillance is that, among other things, they know you by name and what you like in general and use the buttons to get information about what you are interested in at the moment.
There are also more unusual options, which are operated less often. For example, the Adobe Flash plugin has a system for storing information on the user’s side in the form of so-called local objects that can be tracked. The computer can even be identified by the contents of the browser cache.
Did you hear about the Lumin PDF breach? Read all the available information here.
Another way is a camera. Our gadgets reveal all the necessary information about us. Therefore, it is worth covering the camera on laptops or turning off the portable one.
The list of surveillance agents
- Internet service providers
When connecting to the network, the provider or mobile operator assigns a unique IP address to the device. The IP address is the easiest way to match a user with a physical address and passport data. In addition, your internet service providers can intercept and collect everything you send and receive online via an IP address. Access to this data can easily be obtained by the Federal Security Service, and sometimes by hackers, if the information is not sufficiently protected.
- Search engines
Most of the search engines such as Google or Yandex, collect and store vast amounts of personal data. They know your name, email address, phone number, and interests. In fact, each search query can tell you a lot about who you are, where you are and work, how you spend your free time, whether you have financial problems, and so on.
Search engines use your IP address, connection requests, and cookies to track your online activities. The collected information can be sold to marketing companies for ad targeting. For example, in this way, Google earned $ 31.2 billion in the first three months of 2018 alone. And yes, it’s perfectly legal. If you read the terms of service of the search engine, you will see that you have authorized your data transfer to third parties.
Every time you go online, you leave behind a digital trail of locations, search queries, and other personal information. Most of the tracking is done using cookies. These are small text files with information about your preferences that websites save through the browser. They help you upload interesting content on news sites, save products in the shopping cart of online stores, or save passwords in social networks. Access to these files by third parties can cause the user a lot of problems.
- Social networks
Social networks store a huge amount of user information: name, email address, phone number. The social network knows everything you do on its platform: what photos and videos you upload, who you communicate with, what your interests are. The services may share user information with advertisers or transfer data to third-party developers. For example, Facebook shares user information with more than 60 device manufacturers, such as Samsung and Apple.
Almost anyone who understands how the internet works can use its vulnerabilities to spy on users. Hackers can gain access to a computer or mobile device, a webcam, or files by using viruses, malicious code snippets, or spyware. They can use phishing—fake websites that look exactly like the original ones—to trick users into revealing their credit card details or other sensitive information. For such purposes, emails masquerading as coming from a mailing list, for example, from a bank, can also work.
Read about the most famous hackers and their criminal actions here.
How to avoid online surveillance
There are no ways to get rid of security surveillance that give a one-hundred-percent guarantee. Even if you never go online, your personal data will still be there. But there are still quite reliable and easy-to-implement methods that greatly complicate access to user information.
- Use encryption. This is one of the most important steps towards online privacy. Encryption turns online and offline data into unintelligible gibberish, protecting it from being tracked, whether by search engines, the government, or hackers. There are many paid and free programs that allow you to encrypt your data. There are even solutions built into the operating system, such as BitLocker on Windows and FireVault on macOS.
- Use private messengers. Such applications use end-to-end encryption, so that no one can track your correspondence and conversations.
Choose the most protected and encrypted variant for daily messaging.
- Use Utopia P2P. It is a closed and blockchain-based ecosystem that ensures online privacy for each internet user. It protects your online messaging, file sharing process, internet surfing, payments, and even has built-in tools for gaming.
You can find more information about the ecosystem here.
- Avoid HTTP websites. They do not encrypt traffic and data, which makes it easier to steal information. A more secure network protocol is HTTPS. Distinguishing HTTP websites from their HTTPS counterparts is simple: the website address starts with “http:// “instead of “https://”. Most browsers also mark HTTP websites as “unsafe”.
- Use the Tor browser. This is free software that works on the basis of onion networks: the connection from your device to the destination server goes through many layers of the network. Each such layer is encrypted separately. This means that each time you browse it is encrypted several times. This effectively ensures data privacy.
An analysis of this platform and a comparison with competitors can be found here.
- Use a VPN. The virtual private network uses powerful encryption protocols, protecting all online traffic and hiding the IP address.
Take a look at the list of reliable VPN services with trial periods.
It is worth remembering, however, that no protection in the world is absolutely reliable. And there is always a chance that you will still be listened to. But if you follow simple tips, learn the rules for working with proxies, encrypt SMS, and so on, only organizations that can turn the Pentagon’s website into a porn archive will be able to pull out personal information about you for fun.