Three Options to Protect Online Privacy

Sue Marquette Poremba

As I’m sure you know, Congress recently decided to roll back FCC rules that would have required ISPs to protect the privacy of their users. Now the new regulations hadn’t gone into effect yet, so nothing has changed, except now people are thinking about their privacy in ways they hadn’t before and are worried about what will happen to the information culled by providers. As eSecurity Planet shared:

Nathan Wenzler, chief security strategist at AsTech, told eSecurity Planet by email that while many websites leverage users' browsing history to deliver targeted advertising, they can only do that for what the user does on their own site. "An ISP, being the means to connect directly to the Internet for a user, would be able to gather every single [bit] of usage data for a user, including every site ever visited," he said.

I recently had an email conversation with GreyCastle Security executive Mike Stamas to discuss the different options we users have to keep our personal information from being sold and shared. Here is part of that conversation.

Stamas said there are three primary options to keeping information private:

  • Only visit websites with HTTPS in the link. This will ensure providers can only see that you’re on a certain site. The specific info itself will be encrypted.
  • Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN), creating an encrypted tunnel for your internet traffic.
  • An additional step would be to use a browser called Tor, which makes your IP address anonymous.

Let’s take these options one by one.

HTTPS makes it difficult for third parties to see the traffic inside your conversation because it adds a layer of encryption on top of the standard HTTP protocol; however, it is by no means 100 percent anonymous, Stamas explained. If you don’t have IT support to add all of this security, he recommended that, when they can, users should browse using an online alias.

VPNs are gaining a lot more attention because of the ISP privacy change. Both businesses and consumers are more interested in using VPN connections more regularly, which is a good thing, but, as Stamas pointed out, VPNs do not provide complete anonymity and privacy. Also, VPN providers are collecting your data. Stamas added:

I recommend using a VPN that guarantees they are not collecting your information, but there are only a few that have been proven to not store your information, like Private Internet Access VPN, or PIA VPN, which has a strict no-logging policy.

Finally, Tor is an advanced internet browser that routes your internet traffic through its network. This prevents your ISP and people monitoring your local network from viewing your browsing history. So for example, if you visit Amazon.com through Tor, your ISP can't see you accessing that site; they'll just see encrypted traffic.

Stamas made one other important point in our conversation:

The only surefire way to protect your online identity is to opt-out of the internet, which is not practical and virtually impossible with the amount of information third parties already have about us. It’s also important to note that with more security comes more cost and usually less convenience.

Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 24, 2017 11:23 PM Alex_B Alex_B  says:
I use ExpressVPN because they don't keep logs and offer faster servers than competitors. Reply
Apr 25, 2017 6:11 AM chris chris  says:
Here is great place to find the VPN service, vpn use the SSL as your said, https://www.bestvpnserver.com/ Reply
Apr 27, 2017 6:18 PM Noah BRODI Noah BRODI  says:
I agree that a VPN is now a "must" for protecting your online privacy. The trouble is, there are hundreds of VPNs available on the market so which one should you use? You need to consult reliable sources of information such as https://thatoneprivacysite.net/vpn-section/, https://www.cogipas.com/best-vpn-provider/ and https://privacytoolsio.github.io/privacytools.io/#vpn The Onion Router (Tor) browser is also an option as you mention - and a free one - but can be a bit complicated and slow. Reply
May 3, 2017 3:59 AM Liz McIntyre Liz McIntyre  says:
StartPage.com is another protection option. Not only does it provide actual Google results in privacy, it allows users to visit 3rd-party websites in privacy, too, via its free proxy. Would love to share more on this. Reply
May 15, 2017 1:23 PM Fried Fried  says:
These three points should be followed by everyone to secure privacy. VPN is also must to go with nowadays because open wifi are not secure if someone try to enter on it. Tor is also best if someone not able buy VPN and it really worked like a anonymous. Thanks for sharing such informative post. Reply

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