Privacy on the internet can be confusing.
In essence, the internet is nothing more than really fast mailboxes and postal workers, delivering letters and packages at rapid rates. In reality, anyone can just walk up to your digital mailbox and pick out what they want, read what they want, and even substitute your digital parcels.
The trick is having the proper skills to work around the issue. That’s the true meaning of hacking regardless of whether it’s for good or bad reasons, and using the internet without any protection just makes a hacker’s job easier.
Modern internet security is based on trusting the companies you deal with to have proper security. As if data breaches aren’t bad enough, there’s always a chance that the websites you visit or even your Internet Service Provider (ISP) could be spying on you.
Here are a few ways that you could be leaving a trail of data across the internet that could lead others to you—or help them cause trouble for your online identity. With a VPN, you can clean up most of it.
Do you use the same username and password everywhere you go?
Usernames are understandable. Having an online identity on multiple communities makes sense, especially if you have friends and colleagues that can quickly recognize you if that’s what you want.
You don’t need to use the same username for your bank.
Or anywhere with payment details.
Extend that shared identity to passwords. Using the same password on multiple sites is a bad idea because when usernames and passwords are leaked, hackers can simply try the combo on multiple websites just to see what works.
If you always use the same username and password, you made hacking a lot easier.
These are all concerns for people who want to be known on the internet. If you’re trying to hide your online identity and presence, you shouldn’t be using the same username, password, or variations of the same details.
Adding one word, creating a clever conversion of the name, or sticking to themes isn’t good enough. Make your passwords unique, and unless you need to use an email address, make sure your usernames are different as well.
If you need to hide your identity, don’t use your main email. If any of the websites are compromised, someone could see your registration and begin connecting the dots from there.
Not all VPNs perform their job in the same way. With the wrong VPN, your defense are shallow at best.
Many free VPNs use a predictable, traceable path for their VPN services. Since these free services are mostly for people who want to avoid basic website bans or access streaming sites (Netflix US or UK, Hulu US or UK, etc), the only goal is to throw off automated systems.
If you’re hiding from network and cyber security experts who perform due diligence, the time-consuming task of unraveling VPNs begins. A lot of research can send curious minds to the free VPN you’re using, and then a game of hacking, begging, or bribery begins.
With a free VPN, your privacy may not be protected. They could be logging your information, meaning that prying eyes could see your customer information.
Instead, stick to VPNs like Surfshark (found at their official web page). Surfshark has a strict no-logging policy, meaning that your information won’t be available for sale or theft even if someone figures out a way through their complex security and routing management.
Your Internet Protocol (IP) address is your most obvious identifying mark on the internet at large. The address is issues to you by your Internet Service Provider, and can identify your location to the city—or even neighborhood—level.
At one time, the IP address could give away your specific address. This may still be possible under certain ISPs or with certain networks, but most major ISPs don’t broadcast your actual IP address.
Even with masking techniques, IP address details just aren’t filled with personal information anymore. Still, getting the city or neighborhood is close enough to do some digging. Getting in the right area makes tracking a person down by foot or causing local problems with rumors or harassment easier.
Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help you hide your IP address, making it harder for someone to pin down your location. A VPN sends your connection to another location before using the web at large, which takes the attention away from your computer.
You can select a VPN server from multiple cities in multiple regions and countries to throw people off the trail. If you need to make the difference realistic in order to not seem suspicious, pick a city in a neighboring state or province. If you’d rather keep your address far away, choose a distant country.
Are you a prolific writer? Do you like to share the things you type? Do you copy and paste the same messages in multiple areas?
Don’t do that.
Identifying a person by their speech habits and typing habits takes skill and analysis, but data analysis is a major industry with new, better tools available every day. One of the biggest points of Big Data is to identify patterns, so don’t make it easy for others to notice your patterns.
If you copy and paste text often, that text can copied and pasted into any search engine to figure out where else you’ve posted. This is especially common with heated current events arguments where a person lurks across the internet, looking for opponents to debunk with a pre-packaged response.
If you’re going to post literary works, political diatribes, or trolling more than once, create specific online personalities and post only with those personalities. Use a VPN, never reveal your different identities at the same time, and keep your real name out of everything.
If you need help with maintaining personal security and reducing your digital footprint, contact a cybersecurity professional.