Online Privacy: The Day We Shared Too Much

Think about the last time you got some good news – or even some bad news for that matter – what did you do? Maybe you called a friend, called your mum, told people you knew the next time you saw them. All reasonable reactions. For many people, however, the chances are that the answer will be that they shared it online.

 

Since the advent of technology and the social media applications that are available through it, the process of sharing online has become increasingly popular. This is often the first option for many people as it offers a simple way to inform several people of news at the same time, and it is often done without a second thought.

Though it may seem logical as it prevents the need to repeat the same information to different people, this does not mean that it is necessarily the best way to share everything.

The quick and easy process of posting your thoughts online means it is easy to get complacent and not think about who might be reading your musings.

Unlike speaking to someone face to face, for example, where you choose the recipient of the news, only they will have access to it and it will only be disseminated if they are gossip. Online, you are sending your thoughts out for the world to see.

Even those who publish copyrighted work have problems with preventing them from being copied, plagiarised, and used in manners that they did not intend. With this being the case, it stands to reason that uploads that are not protected will be used in the same way.

There is a fine line between imparting information and bragging, and those that are prone to the latter can find themselves in trouble for all sorts of reasons. Though this may be deserved in some cases, in others, the results are not so fortuitous. In the event that you are going on holiday, ask yourself whether it is necessary for everyone to know via a social media post. There are many instances in which an online post in respect of an impending holiday has been the direct cause of a burglary.

Those that advertise that they will be going on holiday find that they return to find they have been burgled.

This is not the only detrimental outcome that can result from sharing too much online.

If you want to show off your high-end car or expensive jewelry online, for example, then you have to take into account the fact that those viewing may be jealous and consider themselves more deserving of your possessions. People of a certain mindset can possibly feel this so strongly that it will lead them to take action.

Stories of celebrities finding themselves with their naked photos available for all to see are numerous but do not seem to have done much to prevent mere mortals from falling into the same trap.

Though you may be inclined to send photos of your naked body to someone that you believe you can trust, this does not mean that this will always be the case. On the basis that the relationship may not last forever, is this a person that you would want to continue to have your photos? Remember that they are not physical photos that you can take back, you will lose control of them and effectively let someone else have them forever.

Besides this, in a situation where the photos are intercepted, the photos become less of a playful act of temptation and more like a nightmare that leaves you open to blackmail and worse.

So-called ‘revenge porn’ has become so widespread that it has been necessary to create new laws to deal with it.

Though photos may be stored in a private folder, they may not be as secure as you think. In addition to being able to be hacked, those that you give access to the private folder may not be as concerned with your privacy as you.

Before hitting send, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you mind offending people?
  • Would I say at a dinner party with people I have just met?
  • Will it be something I might want to take back later?
  • Is all this information really necessary?

There are many instances of people deleting Tweets, for example, but by then, it is too late. Whilst it may be an ego boost to have many followers, this also means that mistakes are magnified.

This level of vigilance is also required when it comes to details requested from you, as well as that which you voluntarily provide.

A phishing email, for example, will request a reply email with your complete password when, usually, a bank’s requirement will be one of a number of passwords or specific characters (like the first, second and fifth). Rather than giving too much information to someone who is trying to get it from you, simply delete the email or end the call and make contact with your bank directly using secure methods.

By being aware of the potential consequences of your actions and taking these into account beforehand, a wide range of problems can be avoided. In the same way that you would proofread any official document, take a moment to consider the post before you hit send to give yourself the opportunity to determine whether you are sharing too much.

It can help if you think back to yourself as a teenager and recall how you were at that time. If you can remember things that you might have said, did, or even thought at that time that you now regret or at least now believe are wrong, it is possible that this could happen again. The things you post now you may find regrettable later – whether immediately or in a few years’ time.

Remember that knowledge is power, whether it is used to blackmail you or in order to try and sell you something. It is too easy to push the return button and send details out into cyberspace with no real idea of how it will be used, which can create a dangerous situation.

Google and Yahoo competition

When it comes to choosing an email service provider, both Gmail and Yahoo mail have their takers. Yet, which ones among these are a better choice remains a hotly debated topic. Let’s consider a few things to decide.

google vs yahoo

Security

In August 2013, 1 billion user accounts of Yahoo were compromised on account of a major cyber attack. This was discovered by Yahoo only in 2016 after it found another hack (that happened in 2014), which compromised 500 million users. A comparatively minor threat was reported by Yahoo in 2016 where 32 million accounts were affected. All these threats may make you want to delete your Yahoo Mail account, for which you can find help at https://nordvpn.com/blog/delete-yahoo-account/

Google too had its fair share of troubles when the company announced in November 2016 how it had fixed a problem in its Gmail verification system that permitted users to send email from a second Gmail account but make it appear as if the email was being sent to the target account (which could be blocked, deactivated or nonexistent email accounts). Yet, when you compare the security aspects of both these email service providers, Gmail clearly has an edge over its competitor.

Attachment size

With Yahoo, you can receive and send emails with attachments up to 25MB. This means the total size of your files (which includes all attachments and encoding) needs to be less than this limit. So, if your attachment is exactly 25 megabytes, you won’t be able to send it with Yahoo Mail.

By doubling its Gmail attachment size for emails received (from 25MB to 50MB), Google has made it possible for Gmail users to have larger incoming files (of up to 50MB), which they can open directly in their inbox right away. If you love or need to share a lot of large documents, audio files and images Gmail here is a winner.

Ads in inbox

Though both Gmail and Yahoo Mail make you deal with ads in your inboxes, the latter has lots of it, which sometimes makes it pretty annoying for the users.

 

Folder organization and message labeling

Gmail has a pretty neat folder arrangement system, which lets you move your emails to where you want them and use smart labeling (Personal, Travel, work, Unwanted, etc). From the system labels available, you can choose to show or hide (or even unread) some specific labels. Gmail lets you create your own new labels.

Though Yahoo Mail has “Smart Views” to organize your emails under Unread, Starred, People, Social, Shopping etc, you still can’t set up a smart folder. The inability to label messages freely (and sometimes with multiple tags) is another disadvantage of Yahoo Mail.

Brand credibility

People often associate Gmail with being the more “credible” and “professional” among these two email services. So, when it comes to having a positive brand image, Gmail is the sure winner.

We believe Gmail has a definite edge over Yahoo Mail. Perhaps this is what has encouraged many for deleting their accounts with Yahoo and keeping their personal data like names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, etc protected from being compromised.

Facebook Privacy: Everything You Need to Know

You can use it on your smartphone, your tablet, or your laptop. It is available whenever you like and you won’t be any special skills to use it. You can post comments and pictures, view content and like, poke and follow to your heart’s content. It’s Facebook.

Originally created as a way for students at the university to stay in contact with one another, Facebook is now used by millions of people all over the world for a range of different reasons. It is a tool that has allowed people to keep up to date with what friends, family, and even strangers are up to.

It has helped people to reconnect and spawned Facebook groups that have been created for the purposes of both support and derision alike.

However, once you are on, it can be difficult to extract yourself completely.

The social media platform may give the impression that it gives you control over privacy, but some have found that this is not the case. Especially since Facebook changed its policy in respect of privacy, many people found that their details were exposed when they were not meant to be. Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook privacy concerns all of us due to the fact that all of us are using one of the social media service every day. 

Using your account on a standard basis will give everybody that uses the website access to the full extent of the information that you upload. This may be enough to put many people off.

If you do not want to give it up completely then you need to be proactive in protecting your privacy, otherwise the website that the assumption is that you want all your information made available to everyone. Accordingly, if this is not the case, you have to specifically make this known.

There are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure that your privacy requirements are met whilst you are using Facebook:

  • Log in to Facebook as normal
  • Move the cursor to the aspect you want to change
  • Hover until you see the Edit option and click
  • Within Edit, change who can see your information with Audience Selector

Due to the different features on the website, there are also other ways in which you can control what you keep private, such as:

  • Go to Privacy Settings in the top right corner to adjust as desired
  • Go to Timeline Review to determine what posts and photos in your timeline are visible and to who

Everything that is deemed public information on Facebook can be seen by anyone that uses the social media platform, such as name, profile photo, and username. Remember that you can always edit your profile and remove information that is unnecessary though you initially added it.

The overall result of making the relevant selections in Privacy Settings is to create a profile and timeline that only your friends can see. With this in mind, it is important to bear this in mind when you receive a friend request and, rather than automatically accepting, consider whether you want this person to be able to see everything.

In addition to the privacy aspect of the Facebook account that you create, it will also be necessary to consider that created by your relationship with the company. Not only will they use your information in order to make contact with you when necessary (or not) but can also use it for other purposes, such as tailoring adverts visible on your page to make them appropriate for you.

The information that you view and upload can guide you to content that aligns with your point of view, ensuring that Facebook plays a part in creating a filter bubble that can lead you to be subject to fake news.

It is important to recognize that if you create a profile on Facebook, you are never going to be able to achieve complete privacy. Even if you advise them that you want to close your account, they will still have your details but they just lay dormant.

If in doubt, take the time to review the terms and conditions relating to privacy that can be found on the website. Take the time to check all the available privacy tools before posting.

You might like this article: Google and Yahoo competition

Google Chrome and Privacy: Is Incognito Really Safe?

During the days when typewriters were the only way in which to create documents, it was only necessary to worry about having a replacement ribbon and a bottle of Tipp-Ex to hand for use as and when necessary.

Though the advent of computers has made word processing much easier with mistakes being simple to rectify, it also means that it can be connected to the Internet which is not possible or necessary with a typewriter. This link allows for a great deal more ability with the use of a computer, but it also means that there is a different set of concerns that need to be taken into account.

Regardless of the reason why you might need to go online, it is necessary to consider the security aspect of doing so. This process of connecting with the rest of the world not only raises an issue in respect of what you are sending out there but also what you are receiving or viewing.

Many people may assume that the only risk to privacy that comes from going online is that which can arise where your computer is hacked or private information is inadvertently released, such as via a phishing email. However, there are other aspects that need to be considered when determining the best way to maintain your privacy.

When using the Internet, it will not be necessary to utilize any particular laser focus in order to notice the statement about cookies that appears on many websites. They tend to be placed at a fairly prominent position at the top or bottom of the screen. Often, users will be inclined to ignore this notice as it can only occasionally interfere with the use of the website when it is in front of the options to navigate around the website.

Cookies are a sweet and inoffensive way of referring to the website’s ability to use data that allows it to remember information relating to the user’s visit, such as items placed in the basket or an email address used as a username.

Though it might be easy to ignore them for the sake of continuing with your intended reason for visiting the website, it is a good idea to take a few moments to read it to gain an understanding of what will result from using the website. Besides this, you will not be able to claim that you were not informed by the company running the website in the event that you take issue with their use of cookies as with the continued use of the website, it is assumed that you accept these terms.

These statements about cookies are essentially a notification of the way in which the website uses them.

If you are paying attention, you will have noticed that the adverts that stream alongside the websites that you visit might seem a bit familiar. Cookies also come into play as websites can use them to tailor the advertising that you see whilst browsing the Internet. You will find that the pair of boots that you were admiring on a website is following you around.

All of this can seem quite intrusive and can you want to do something about it.

Of course, prevention of this can be achieved by regularly going to the settings option in the browser that you are using to delete the cache, cookies, and browser history. However, this will depend on whether you will remember or are inclined to complete these steps on a regular basis.

One of the first factors of computer privacy that needs to be considered is the browser that you are using. This is due to the fact that they are all different and have different regulations in respect of the privacy that you can expect when using it.

Google Chrome is one of the most popular browsers in the world, so it is prudent to understand how to deal with privacy using this browser.

Google Chrome’s privacy settings come through the use of a tool called Incognito, which makes it possible to remain anonymous while browsing websites. In order to make use of this tool, it is necessary to turn it on but this process is simple:

  • Launch the Chrome browser
  • Open the full extent of the options in the top right corner
  • Find and click New Incognito Window
  • This will open a new browser window which can be used to visit your required website
  • After closing this browser, the next time you use the browser it will revert to the standard one

Use of Incognito also means that there will be no record kept of any downloads you complete, though the result will go straight to your download folder. It is also possible to use it as a parental control method to protect children from inappropriate content.

This option for online browsing is painted as one that will prevent you from leaving a trail while browsing the Internet. However, whether or not it actually achieves this is a different matter.

The fact that Google is a massive firm that can benefit from knowing which websites people visit should not be overlooked. Though the use of Incognito may prevent the majority of websites from being aware of your visit, this does not mean that Google will not use the information.

In the event that the concern for privacy incorporates the dislike of your information being sold in order to tailor advertising, then you may not be impressed with the use of Incognito.

With the purpose of Incognito being to help a user to remain anonymous, you would expect that there will not be any note of the websites visited after the browser is closed as they would be instantly deleted, but this appears not to always be the case.

This defeats the purpose and can be especially problematic when it comes to the use of a shared computer.

Due to the problems that appear to affect Incognito, it is worth testing it out first to see if it actually works effectively for you.

Should You Cover Your Webcam?

Whether you have one that is integrated into your laptop or a separate portable one that needs to be connected, webcams have become a natural part of the onward progress of technology to the point where it is a piece of equipment that many people own or have access to.

It can be considered a necessity for many people who want to be able to contact those who are not in close proximity or conduct business with people abroad.

They provide an excellent way to keep in touch via online calls that allow friends and loved ones to be viewed in real-time. Though Skype may be the most well-known, video calling is available on many platforms and continues to prove to be a convenient form of communication in a range of scenarios.

should you cover your webcam

However, if webcams are not specifically needed by computer users, it is necessary to consider how worried we should be about them.

Many people will argue that simply not turning the webcam on is sufficient to provide protection and cite the fact that websites need to request permission to use the webcam in any case. However, if you use the same logic when it comes to a house, that would suggest that if you lock all your windows and doors and never give out any keys, it will never get burgled.

Considering the fact that hackers have been able to gain control of the websites and data of some of the largest companies in the world, getting a mass-produced webcam is not going to prove difficult.

The fact that webcams are mass-produced means that a defect affecting one can affect them all, which makes them vulnerable and open to abuse to such an extent that one company was forced to recall their products.

Hacking allows someone who may not even be I the same country as you to gain external control of your webcam – even turning it on – in order to violate the privacy of your home and make a potentially large number of people privy to private information.

This has led to a worrying trend of a range of crimes, such as blackmail, using information that hackers gain from accessing images and audio without permission.

People who use webcams as baby monitors should be particularly concerned as those people that prey on children also has IT skills, and webcams can allow children to be covertly spied on.

There has even been an exhibition by an ‘artist’ who was brazen enough to display still images that had been gained from hacking the webcams of random people – even displaying images of children – without the permission of any of those shown.

Though it provides a link to the outside world from the comfort of your home or workplace, this is not necessarily always a good thing. The simple act of covering a webcam or disconnecting it entirely when it is not in use can help you to maintain your privacy and prevent the risk of becoming a victim of unscrupulous parties.

By bearing in mind that not everyone innocently uses the internet for the purpose for which it was designed, it is possible to easily protect yourself

against those who have bad intentions, or who are simply bored and don’t know how to put their IT skills to good use. Even if they have the capability of being able to hack into your webcam, if all they get is a blank screen, then they would have wasted their time and you will have peace of mind.

If it is an action that Mark Zuckerberg sees fit to undertake (he also blocks his microphone), then it must be alright for the rest of us.

How Wikileaks Changed Internet Privacy Forever

How Wikileaks Changed Internet Privacy Forever

In the course of being up to date on current affairs, you are likely to be familiar with the names Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning and, consequently, will have heard the name Wikileaks.

The whistleblowing website has been instrumental in making many people aware of a wide range of circumstances that they would not otherwise have ever known.

Rather than being a standard news organization that has the ultimate goal of making a profit through the provision of news, Wikileaks considers itself a media organization that is not for profit. In addition to this, it is less concerned with the regular news that most of us take in every day via newspapers and news programs, and more inclined to provide details on issues that some would prefer was not publicly known.

The name Julian Assange is synonymous with Wikileaks as he is the man who has been responsible for editing the website since it was created in 2006. In some spheres, he is named as the founder of the website, though he is certainly looked to as the spokesman despite living in exile from his native Australia in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The gradual release of information that is available through Wikileaks has created reverberations around the world, with standard media companies picking up on stories and delivering them to a readership that would not have visited the website themselves.

It has been able to open the eyes of many people who may be more inclined to get involved in politics as a result. They will attempt to get transparency in the dealings of the governments of their respective countries.

The reasons why Wikileaks has changed the way privacy on the Internet is seen is two-fold.

Firstly, the fact that the public now has access to information that previously had been kept hidden has been a revelation. The privacy that some people and organizations seeking to rely on by conducting business via the Internet is no longer available, as Wikileaks has no qualms about publishing material it sees fit and refusing to take it down.

The vast range of stories that have come from the whistleblowing website has demonstrated how much is hidden within the confines of the online world.

Chelsea Manning has been linked to the website due to the fact that she used it to disclose information gathered from the US army; she was the cause of arguably the most controversial release of the information featured on the website. It shows that there are people who are prepared to risk their freedom for something that they believe in strongly.

Though Wikileaks makes this possible, it is not the case that those that run the website are the ones gathering the information, they just provide a platform on which it can be accessed.

With this being the case, those hackers who gain access to inboxes may have previously only ever used them for the purposes of blackmail, but now they have a means by which the emails that they copy can be disseminated to a much larger audience.

The victims of these hacks that have had their private emails revealed could attest to the fact that they can no longer consider their use of the Internet private.

While this may not seem to be something that the general public needs to worry about directly affecting them, it is worth bearing in mind that hackers have been known to gain access to popular Internet service providers. Accordingly, all the parties that use these services are at risk of their private online dealings becoming public.

With the increasingly frequent number of instances of large international companies being hacked, it appears that the idea of privacy online is more like a myth than a guarantee.

The realization that has hit many people since the creation of Wikileaks not only relates to the fact that there is more happening with organizations than they realized, but also that their own information is not as secure as they thought.

There are many people who have always had concerns by the actions of their government and strive to seek transparency from them though they may have been conspiracy theorists, Wikileaks has proved to be a vindication and shown they were right to be concerned.

The website has helped people to recognize that they are being spied on to a greater extent than they imagined if they had even considered it at all. Wikileaks has shown, for example, that both the US and UK governments have extensive powers to spy on their citizens by viewing their activity on the Internet, seemingly under tenuous reasons.

Many people would consider this type of behavior more relevant to China or North Korea and have been surprised to find that it applies to the country in which they live. These citizens that use the Internet have been forced to recognize that they cannot rely on their online activity remaining private, as the law is such that their government is permitted to view their details without needing to obtain their permission and without giving any warning.

Under the guise of protecting their respective countries, governments have been shown to have a significant amount of power in which to snoop and this has been brought to the fore by Wikileaks.

The unabashed whistleblowing website may be the scourge of those people that rely on secrecy to be able to get away with immoral, illicit or ill-advised actions. However, it also shows the privacy that the public at large believe that they have in their normal everyday use of the Internet, such as in sending an email or making an online purchase, is non-existent.

How to Protect Personal Information Online

For those who choose the method of doing things based on convenience, the Internet may be their best friend without them even realizing it.

You can tell people what you are up to by posting messages, call people, and order everything from food to furniture without leaving your sofa.

There are many factors that make the Internet a great tool, and it can make life easier whether it comes to work or play. However, this can also mean that it can easily be taken for granted.

It works well, therefore, it must be safe, right? Not necessarily so.

How to Protect Personal Information Online

The Internet is a crowded arena, so in the same way that you would need to be wary of pickpockets when in a crowded place, it is necessary to protect your personal information online. Recognizing the fact that criminals have no qualms about taking their illicit trade from the street to the Internet will help reduce the risk of your personal information getting into the wrong hands.

There is a range of simple steps that you can take to make yourself safer when you go online:

  • When using a computer other than your own personal one, always ensure that the ‘remember me’ option is not ticked so that your username and password are not retained on that computer. Always remember to log out.
  • Keep up to date with the latest security software that can be used on your computer and make sure that you are using the best firewalls and anti-virus software.
  • Some websites will record when you last logged in and display this the next time you log in, so check this to ensure it matches your actions and immediately reports it to the company if you find something is amiss.
  • Many websites from which you can make purchases will give you the option of saving your payment details. Avoid this by unticking the relevant box, which will give you peace of mind in the event that the company gets hacked.
  • Do not use the same password for all of your online accounts – once a hacker steals one of your passwords, all of your accounts are then vulnerable.
  • Staying with passwords: don’t make them easy. If you use ‘password’, ‘12345678’, your own name, your pet’s name, or any other such obvious option – change it now! The strongest password is a random set of letters (a mixture of upper and lower case), numbers, and characters.
  • When using online banking, make use of the security measures have in place, such as a secure key. Though they might be annoying and cause you to spend a few minutes more getting into your account, imagine the annoyance and time that would be needed to try and retrieve money stolen from your account.
  • If you receive an email that purports to be from your bank requesting that you reply with your password on the basis of some problem with your account, do not reply. Report it to the security department of your bank and then delete it. No reputable bank will email you to ask for your password, so it is sure to be a phishing email.
  • Avoid unfamiliar websites and clicking on links that do not relate to a company that you are used to using.

While the use of the Internet allows you to avoid wasted time down trawling around the shops, this does not mean that you should ignore sensible security measures that you would employ when out in the real world. Be wary and do not assume that every part of the Internet is like the other.

There are many situations in which the hackers appear to be working faster than those charged with the security of websites, which leads to a story where the bad guy wins. Accordingly, it is not prudent to solely rely on the security of the websites that you use.

By taking some precautions, you can help to ensure that your details remain safe and that you do not have to worry about checking whether you might be on the list of victims who have had their details stolen.