4 Ways You Don't Realize Your Online Data is Being Misused
Many of us have fears about cybersecurity and the consequences of so-called "cybercriminals" getting their hands on sensitive information like bank passwords and credit card information, but there are much more common ways your data can be misused online that you may have never considered.
In this piece, we'll discuss some of the issues with unsecured internet data, and why a personal VPN may be what you need to fortify your digital presence.
Cybersecurity and VPNs
Cybersecurity was an issue before the last few years' high-profile string of data breaches, but with the understanding that online information is less secure than ever before, private citizens are in need of affordable options to protect themselves.
One of these options is connecting to a personal VPN, or Virtual Private Network. A VPN allows you to connect to a secure, remote server that hides your IP address and location while also encrypting any data you send and receive.
Without the use of a VPN, there are risks. Here are four very common ways that your online data could be misused, whether you realize it or not.
1 - Financial Data
"Packet sniffing" is a data capture technique that involves decoding data as it passes through routers and switches, and it's used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), governments, federal agencies and hackers. It's a common practice, which is all the more reason it should make you worried.
Packet sniffing and other forms of digital intrusion means that if your data isn't encrypted as it passes through cyberspace, anyone with access to the right technology can get their hands on your sensitive information.
Let's say you're at the airport waiting to catch a flight, and you decide to pull out your phone and pay your credit card bill via the airport’s public WiFi network. Without a secure connection, anyone snooping in the right place could have access to your credit card and banking account information.
This doesn't just happen on public WiFi, although they are breeding grounds for hackers. Any unsecured network is susceptible to this type of data interception.
2 - Private Identification
All types of online data misuse are dangerous, others are just plain creepy. Imagine you're browsing Google, Facebook, or another site on which you keep a profile with a host of private identifying information, including your likes, dislikes, habits, health information, etc. Even with a private profile, service providers and hackers can access this information and learn a LOT more information than you would ever want a stranger to know.
It's really not as difficult as you might think to intercept personal information. With a limited amount of technical know-how, a complete stranger can gain access to your health records, vacation plans, phone call history, location, and more. It doesn’t help that many sites, including Google, store this information without user consent.
3 - Home Security Data
It seems like everything these days is connected to a network. Undeniably, it makes life much more convenient for most people. You can pull up your phone to check a baby monitor, see who just rang the doorbell, or even change the temperature settings in your home.
But all these actions represent data being sent from one place to another, and while you may not think about it, it's likely that bad actors will.
But wait, you might be thinking. These "smart" devices are made by some of the biggest companies in the world. Surely, they're secure, right?
Not always, as was the case with Amazon's Ring smart doorbell/camera systems. In November 2019, it was made public that these "secure" devices actually had a significant security flaw that may have allowed hackers to access home security codes and Wi-Fi passwords.
This is just one example in a long list of stories that should make you question putting your family's safety at risk by connecting to an unsecured network.
4 - Browsing and Consumer Data
Thanks to current FCC regulations (or lack thereof), ISPs have nearly free reign to record and sell your data, including your browsing history, which sites you visit for what, and where you purchase things online.
They are able to sell that data to the highest bidder, usually to advertisers. Wondering why you keep seeing ads for products right after you Google information about them? Your ISP is likely logging your activity and sharing it with advertisers.
Protect Against Data Misuse
Whether you're looking to protect your financial data or simply keep your browsing information from prying eyes, setting up a personal VPN can be the solution you're looking for. A VPN encrypts data sent from your device to a remote server, hiding your activity and location from snoops, hackers, and even your ISP.