The internet has changed the way we live and work for the better- Instant connectivity, an ocean of information right at our fingertip, and countless websites and online apps make our life so much easier. However, this convenience comes at a huge price- your privacy. Now, more than ever in 2021, our digital footprints are growing exponentially. From smartphones in our pockets to anything and everything that is connected to the internet that we use, our personal stake in internet privacy and security is growing. Unfortunately, many people underestimate the importance of internet privacy and security and how much it would affect their life if they are not careful enough. It is crucial that people should be aware of how much information they are sharing not only on social networks but just by browsing itself. 

So, what is the future of internet privacy and security? Why is it important in 2021 and how can we improve it?

What is internet privacy?

In simple terms, internet privacy, also known as online privacy or digital privacy, refers to how much of your personal, sensitive, financial, and browsing information remains private when you’re online.  

Why is internet privacy and security important in 2021?

For starters, in addition to those shady people who explore the photos you shared on social networks, there are companies that track your behaviour across websites to target you with highly relevant advertisements, even the government tracks and monitors your online activities to predict your behaviour. 

The other face of the internet: 

One thing you need to absolutely remember is that nothing is free. Even the ‘supposed’ free services like Gmail that have become an inevitable part of our daily life are not free. Many companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and almost every website you visit accumulates your data to maximize either product or ad sales and these companies earn a lot in this data economy. Even the browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc create your persona based on browsing, shopping, and social media preferences. Even browsing in incognito mode is not safe. Google is facing a $5 billion lawsuit(http://searchenginejournal.com/google-to-face-5b-lawsuit-over-tracking-users-in-incognito-mode/399113/) alleging Chrome’s incognito browsing mode collecting user’s web history.

This information includes personal information such as your name, address, IP address, etc, and sensitive information such as your private medical records, political views, sexual orientation, etc. When using these free apps or visiting any website, you willingly or unwillingly share data about yourself. Even more problematic, your information would sometimes be sold from one company to another without your consent. 

Recent Major Cyber frauds and breaches:

Today’s cybercriminals leave no stone unturned to steal your data and make your life miserable. With more and more users getting connected to the internet, cyber frauds and breaches have gone exponentially up in 2020 and experts predict that this will only go up in 2021. According to a report by cybersecurity ventures, the global cybercrime costs are expected to grow by 5% per year over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. This is why you need to value your internet privacy the same way you value your privacy in the real world. Here are some of the major data breaches in 2020 and 2021.

Microsoft exposed database

On January 22, 2020, a Microsoft customer support database holding over 280 million Microsoft customer records was left unprotected on the web. It disclosed email addresses, IP addresses, and support case details.

News source

Zoom account credentials leak

On April 14, 2020, the credentials of over 500,000 Zoom user accounts were found for sale on the dark web and hacker forums for as little as $.02. It included data such as email addresses, passwords, personal meeting URLs, and host keys.

News Source

Facebook data leak

On April 21, 2020, more than 267 million Facebook profiles were listed for sale on the Dark Web – all for $600. Furthermore, on January 11, 2021, a Chinese social media management company, Socialarks, suffered a data leak through an unsecured database that exposed account details and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of at least 214 million social media users from Facebook and Instagram, and LinkedIn. 

News source

How to protect your privacy and security on the internet?

Secure your web browser

A web browser is the main gateway to go online and cybercriminals can take advantage of loopholes in browsers to access the personal data on your device. So, make sure that you take the necessary steps to secure it. Check out this browser security guide to secure your browser.

Use a VPN

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the best way to protect your internet privacy. It changes your IP address and assigns you a new one. It also protects your incoming and outgoing traffic 

by encrypting it. Thus, your online activities and personal information stay secure from hackers.

Delete cookies

Browser cookies, for the most part, are harmless. They tell a website, information on your browsing history and helps you remember your login credentials, preference settings, etc. But advertisers and other third parties also use this to track you online. So, deleting cookies at the end of your browsing session is advised.

Adjust your tracking settings

If you want to have complete online privacy, we would advise you not to open any social media accounts. However, if you already have social media accounts or accounts in Google, etc, take advantage of the tracking options available to you. You can manage your ad preferences on these applications. This way you have certain control of what information you give to those websites.

Always keep your software up-to-date and secure.

Having outdated software leaves vulnerability in your software that can be exploited. So, keeping your operating system, browser and other software up-to-date ensures that you don’t miss out on new security fixes. Also, installing strong anti-virus software will keep your device free from all types of malware. You can also activate your firewall to keep unwanted network traffic at bay. 

Technology and the internet can be a real source of freedom and convenience but internet privacy and security are becoming a growing concern these days for people of all ages. We should be able to understand what is happening to our data and have the ability to control how it is used. The future of internet privacy and security depends on how seriously we take it. So, be more critical about the information you share online voluntarily and remember privacy on the internet is your basic right and you need to fight for it!

PC: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/hacker-cyber-crime-internet-2300772/

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