Most people know what cookies are or know not to click on suspicious links, but there are a number of hidden online hazards that could present risks to unsuspecting consumers. Anonymizer, Inc., a global leader in online privacy, anonymity, and identity protection solutions, is observing National Cyber Security Awareness Month by shedding light on privacy risks of which users may not be aware.
Click through for online privacy risks and ways to avoid them, as identified by Anonymizer, Inc.
Using free Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop or other business may seem harmless, but how do consumers know if the network they’re connecting to actually belongs to the coffee shop? Unbeknownst to many users, hackers can easily set up a hotspot, call it “Coffee Shop Free Wi-Fi” and lure in victims, leaving their computer and personal information exposed. This is a form of “man in the middle” attack. It can capture Internet activity, modify pages, inject malware, and capture cookies to impersonate users online.
Using a personal VPN (virtual private network) provides protection whenever users are connected to open Wi-Fi networks. With a VPN, even if a user unwittingly connects to a questionable Wi-Fi network, their personal information and browsing activities are protected.
Many people believe that if they don’t click on a banner ad, the banner can’t track them. Think again. Even if a banner ad is not clicked, data about consumers and their online behavior can still be collected, used and manipulated. By simply viewing an ad, the advertising company has almost as much access to information as the website itself. Third-party advertising networks use a variety of techniques to track and profile users and to gauge the effectiveness of ads, including embedding cookies in browsers, which can track consumers just by the simple act of visiting a website.
Users should enable Private Browsing so that information about the sites and pages they’ve visited is not saved. Private Browsing also prevents cookies from being stored. If using a home or work broadband connection where the IP address is static, an IP hiding anonymity tool should be used to prevent IP-based identification and tracking.
From online banking to social networks, many consumers use an email address as their account username. This makes it convenient to log in, but many are unaware that using the same email address across the Web makes it easier for hackers to worm their way into online accounts. Once an online thief knows an email address/username, it usually doesn’t take much work to figure out a password – a recent survey found that 61 percent of consumers re-use the same password across multiple sites – and consumers have practically handed hackers the keys to unlock all of their online accounts. The use of email addresses as account names makes major data breaches much worse. Not only is the account compromised on the hacked service, but if the email address and password is used elsewhere, it is easy to attack all those other sites and services as well.
Users have dozens, perhaps hundreds, of online accounts. While establishing a separate email address for each website may seem daunting, services like Anonymizer Nyms allow consumers to create hundreds of email aliases to protect their personal email address without the need to check or manage any new email accounts on their computer. Just as important is the need to use different passwords with these services. Multiple passwords can be easily managed with tools like 1Password or Lastpass.