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Since its inception in the early 1990s, the internet has positively changed our lives in numerous ways. The internet has made it easier to conduct our day-to-day activities, be it work, shopping, school, and so on. But there’s a dark side to the world wide web. Personal privacy has been compromised leaving us exposed to a wide variety of online threats including information hacking and internet scams.
Every year, data breaches leak billions of records online — most of which contain sensitive information. In most cases, we don’t even know that our personal information has been exposed online until it’s too late. While there’s little you can do to control what third parties do with this information once they get hold of it, there’s a lot that you can do to prevent that from happening. Taking preventative measures can help you steer clear of problems in the future. Below, we look at various ways you are leaking sensitive information and what you can do to stop this leakage.
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Your IP address, short for Internet Protocol address, is an identifying number assigned to devices connected to the internet. Every smartphone, tablet, or computer gets a unique IP address once it’s connected to the internet. All connected devices must have an IP address to connect to the internet. The IP address is used along with other network protocols to facilitate internet communications. It allows devices to find and exchange information over the internet. But the IP address can also be used to track you around the internet.
As stated earlier, the IP address is an identifier. Your IP address can leak copious amounts of sensitive data including your location, your country, your Internet Service Provider (ISP), etc. You can find out how much you’re leaking from your IP with online IP checkers. If you’re keen to protect information about your physical whereabouts, your IP address must be hidden from plain sight. You can prevent the leakage of sensitive information via your IP by using a VPN. That way snoopers, websites you visit, and apps will not be able to track and target you.
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The term metadata is used to describe the summary of basic information about data. In short, metadata is data that’s used to describe other data. Metadata makes it easier to find and work with specific instances of data. When browsing the internet, your ISP logs your metadata and can use it to track your internet activity. That’s one of the ways through which internet users leak sensitive data without their knowledge. You can use a VPN to block your ISP from logging your metadata.
Who doesn’t love free Wi-Fi? It’s the perfect opportunity to check your email, send a tweet, or take a peek at your Facebook feed. But you need to be very careful when using public Wi-Fi. Often, public Wi-Fi networks are unencrypted and full of hackers looking to steal your personal information. By logging into public Wi-Fi, you are also giving the carrier an opportunity to log your device and collect sensitive data without your knowledge. Always use a VPN when logging into free Wi-Fi to be safe. If you don’t have a VPN, make sure that that the website you interact with uses the encrypted HTTPS connection.
Encryption is one of the best ways to ensure that sensitive personal data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Encryption helps you keep hackers from intercepting, snooping on, or altering personal information sent over the internet. Encryption scrambles communications thereby preventing prying eyes from looking into your messages while they’re in transit. Even if hackers were to get hold of encrypted data, they wouldn’t be able to make sense of the information. Today, there are numerous apps that can help you encrypt sensitive data in your phone, tablet, or computer. In fact, modern smartphones come with built-in encryption.
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Connecting to Apps Through Facebook Or Other Social Media
Connecting to apps through Facebook or other social media is one of the most common ways internet users leak sensitive data online. Your private information is more likely to get leaked when services are linked together. Some accounts are set to private and others are set to public. If you link an account that’s set to private to an account that set to public, you are exposing information that you’d prefer to stay private. For instance, by linking an app with a social media site such as your Facebook account, you might end up giving the application unwanted access resulting in the leakage of private information.
Millions of people leak personal data online every day without their knowledge. Most come to the realization that their data is out there when it’s too late. Being aware of the ways in which you may be leaking sensitive information will help you take the necessary steps to protect your privacy online.