1. Is Mobile Browsing Safe?
Unfortunately the mobile browsers are even weaker and more vulnerable to hack attacks than a common desktop browser. Attacking the mobile devices and tablets through web browsers is one of the easiest ways that the hackers and spy agencies use to exploit the security of your device.
Firefox supported AdBlock Plus app is considerably a good option while looking to secure your mobile browsing. As it turns out apps like Private Browsing, Do Not Track, InBrowser and CM Browser are some of the apps that keep your smartphones, tabs and iOS devices safe and secure.
2. Potential Risks in Web Browsers
Having discussed the potential risks of mobile browsing, we feel it is necessary to mention here that even some of the “top” web browsers are not as safe or as fast as they claim them to be. For starters, we will stick to the commonly used Google Chrome and Firefox and will update this section on regular intervals so you can get an idea about some of the insecure and slowest web browsers.
(i) Risks of Using Google Chrome:
- A security firm Identity Finder has revealed that Google Chrome stores several files on the hard drive of your computer. The file includes all the names, email addresses, passwords and account numbers you use while browsing with Chrome.
- Google fills in your name, email address; password and phone number itself while filling out an online form – suggesting that it STORES your information so you can use it later for your convenience.
- When you use Google Chrome, you have to sign in with your Gmail ID to make its functioning smooth. If you use Google Chrome on two or more devices, signing up with the same ID will sync the data on all of them. Your browsing history will be evident to everyone.
(ii) Risks of Using Mozilla Firefox
- Mozilla Firefox is not a user-friendly web browser at all. If you are new to the world of web browsers, you may find it a bit complicated than Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
- The web page downloading seriously gets affected due to multiple plugins running in the background.
- Not all websites are accessible on Mozilla Firefox due to severe compatibility issues.
- Eats too much of your CPU memory and affects the overall performance of your computer/device.
3. Disadvantages of Social Media
The social networking websites have taken the world of internet by storm. It does not surprise us anymore when someone asks us to ‘add’ him/her on Facebook or ‘follow’ him/her on Twitter or Instagram. While the social media has its perks; it has, in store, a major chunk of disadvantages that come with it.
(i) Identity Theft
- It is known to everyone how the hackers and snoopers come up with new tactics to exploit your personal data. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are not the ideal places to keep a record of your social security number or transaction details. The hackers can wreck havocs in your life if they get access to your social security number.
(ii) Sexual Predators
- Most of you would have come across fake profiles on Facebook and Twitter that are solely used for harassing young boys and girls. Peter Chapman – now a convicted murderer, had a false profile on Facebook with over 3000 friends which he used to prey on young women. He raped and then murdered one of his “Facebook friends” back in 2009 and was charged with the crimes back in 2010.
- A study indicates that 63% of the Facebook users are subjected to stalking without even being aware of the fact that they are stalked online by someone. It is imperative that you double check what you are posting online and what your default privacy settings are because as noted by the security experts, Facebook and other social networks use “Share with Public” as your default privacy settings.
- Social media can be used to attack individuals for voicing their opinions or sharing their pictures or videos publicly. Melody Hensley – a feminist woman claims that she now suffers from PTSD due to the constant trolling and hatred she receives from her “followers” on Twitter.
(v) Online Surveillance
- According to Edward Snowden, Facebook and Google are two of the major partners of NSA who hand over your private data for the sake of few dollars. NSA and other surveillance agencies have created backdoors to keep a track of all your activities. Even when your privacy settings are set as “Share with Friends”, you are unknowingly sharing all your data with the online surveillance agencies.
4. Ensuring Privacy on Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
The root of the security problem lies in the fact that public Wi-Fi Hotspots lack authentication. This gives hackers the margin they need to mess with the system. They can do anything from duplicating your data off the Wi-Fi router, to coming in between your smartphone/tablet and the router so that all your data goes through them first.
The worst part about the public Wi-Fi HotSpot security risk is that there is no way to know if you are being attacked by hackers. Hackers use public Wi-Fi HotSpots as data pools where they sit and violate your privacy to collect your data. At the end of the day they assess the collected data to short-list the people who sent the most relevant data over the internet and launch pre-planned attacks.
For instance, checking your email and bank account on your smartphone might be a routine activity for you, but it is a jackpot for the hacker at the coffee shop at the corner. The hacker will quietly collect your information, and keep track of your accounts; and he won’t make his move until there is a large sum in your account.
5. Wi-Fi Hotspot Safety Measures
You can check out the below mentioned measures to strengthen the online security of your Wi-Fi network.
- Try to use encryption tools to encrypt all the data that is sent/received from your phone. Encryption will render your data useless for any hacker who intercepts it with the intention of exploiting it.
- Make sure that all your browsing sessions are encrypted when you are using the internet for any personal and/or sensitive reasons. Look in the URL field and make sure that it starts with ‘https’. This does not necessarily guarantee impenetrable security but every little bit helps these days.
(ii) Switch off When Not in Use
- You ensure the privacy of your home by keeping the door shut – and you need to do start doing the same for your mobile device. Remember to switch your smartphone’s Wi-Fi off when you don’t need it. This will hinder data transmissions (sending/receiving) from any malware that may have managed to get into your device.
(iii) Fake Wi-Fi Hotspots
- No Privacy Guide can be complete without talking about Evil Twins. The only thing worse than a hacked Wi-Fi, is a fake Wi-Fi! Most people tend to set their phones on auto-detect-and connect for Wi-Fi HotSpots. Hackers know this and love to setup fake Wi-Fi HotSpots (also known as ‘Evil twins’).
- These HotSpots are designed to look like other regular HotSpots in the area and offer a charade of websites for you to access. All the information you enter when connected to these Wi-Fi HotSpots will go straight to the hacker. It is the worst form of privacy penetration because it is almost as if you gave the perpetrator complete remote access to your system.
(iv) Get Confirmation
- Never connect to a Wi-Fi HotSpot until you have verified the authenticity of the connection from an individual directly associated with the HotSpot. So if you walk into a coffee shop and your smartphone picks up a free Wi-Fi HotSpot that sounds like it is for the coffee shop customers, make sure to confirm with one of the staff before you connect to it. Hackers usually set up their data traps in public places.
Every time you make a phone call, or use internet on your device, the NSA collects your data without any regard for legal or ethical obligations/principles. What started off as the PRISM surveillance program in 2007, has grown to a point where the NSA is now collecting users’ data from at least nine tech giants of the cyber world.
We do not mean to offend anyone but people who believe that complete internet freedom still exists are either shortsighted or have no idea about the unchecked surveillance demons of the internet. It may be hard to believe, but the US government has been regularly monitoring your communication over phone calls, emails, VoIP services and other internet means since (at least) 2001.
If you think you are safe from the unjustifiable online surveillance because you have done no harm to anyone, you are sadly mistaken. The US government states very clearly that it will do EVERYTHING to ensure that the general public remains safe and peace prevails in the region.
7. Is the Surveillance Umbrella limited to US residents?
A simple and short answer to this question is: no. The official NSA website has a map that is meant to describe the degree of surveillance that is carried out across the world. For the record, this map is bull!
Regions Affected by Online Surveillance of NSA that show privacy violations (Green = Minimum Surveillance, Yellow = Moderate Surveillance, Orange = Heavy Surveillance, Red = Maximum Surveillance)
The NSA claims that it internet surveillance is moderate in the US and heavy monitoring is reserved for South Asian countries. Security experts and whistle blowers consider the map to be a blatant lie. An increasing volume of evidence proves that American users are the ones who are actually heavily monitored.
Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, has exposed the NSA’s suspicious activities. He is hiding from the intelligence sources like FBI in Russia and Japan. Mr. Snowden has recently claimed that the US and UK, in a collaboration, have hacked into the world’s biggest SIM manufacturing company – renowned for distribution of SIM cards all over the world, to keep a track of your movements and to tap all the communication made over the phones.
8. Is There Any Way to Stop the Online Surveillance?
While people may not know this but there is a certain way with which you can not only prevent yourself from being spied on, but you can also achieve 100% anonymity over the internet. Some of you might be familiar with a VPN service; it assigns you a new IP address and encrypts your data with numerous algorithms to make sure it remains safe from the claws of the NSA.
The NSA, on the other hand, if somehow manages to trace your data, is left with no other option but to dispose it off because it cannot be decrypted. Various VPN service providers work their best to keep your data protected. The implementation of military grade encryption by VPN service providers is an indication of how seriously do they take the online security of their users.