Beware! Your “Anonymous” Browsing Data Could Be Exposed
Updated on July 13, 2021: From now on, traffic filtering, malware protection, and suspicious DNS activity blocking are available as a part of the separate DNS Firewall app.
Don’t be in a hurry to rely on the incognito mode when you share your private data through the web, believing it is fully protected. Let it not seem to you a hundred percent guarantee of anonymity and confidentiality, inasmuch your browsing history may not be as secure as you guess. Just keep in mind that information about each move you make online may be obtained through the internet by everybody who intends to get it. While the vast majority of third parties uses this opportunity for marketing purposes, there are others who will purposefully harm you. Hacking into the database with personal info about 3 million Germans is an example of the latter scenario.
How did that happen?
Svea Eckert, a journalist, together with Andreas Dewes, a data scientist, have presented а shocking finding at DefCon, the hacking conference in Las Vegas. It turns out that the most sensitive private data, such as sexual preferences or medicines people take, may easily end up on the open internet.
To showcase this, the experts created a fake marketing company. At first, they put up a website filled with attractive slogans and pictures, and created a LinkedIn account for a fake CEO. Then the pair started a search for a company or an individual which would provide them access to a real database with tons of users’ personal data.
They introduced themselves as the developers who had created a machine-learning algorithm. According to their statement, this algorithm may help people to market goods and services more effectively to potential customers. But before they release a product to the market, they need to test it on real users.
An interesting fact is that they contacted nearly a hundred different companies to purchase this private information but failed. It turned out that to get users’ information for free was easier than to buy it. Some data broker provided a database of 3 million German users just for the sake of the “promising” product testing. Part of these users were rare guests on the internet who visited only a few dozen sites during one month. The others had thousands of data points that provided a full report of their virtual lives.
Where does the data come from?
There are a number of techniques that can be used by that broker to reveal personal data of German users. Take a look at some of them below:
|Twitter is one of the easiest way to uncover a user’s identity. Whenever you click your analytics page on Twitter, the URL with your Twitter nickname is automatically saved to your browsing history. This record is available to you only. However, any malware that collects victim’s browser history may easily link Twitter statistics with a specific person.|
|One more method to reveal users’ data is connected with the name of the world’s largest streaming service, Netflix. It allows to de-anonymize ratings of movies published by the service and compare them with public profiles on IMDb. This leads to exposing users’ sensitive details, such as their attitude to religious films.|
|Google Translate is the third service in this list that hardly can be associated with confidentiality and online safety since it stores all users’ queries. As an example, the officer involved was using Google Translate in the German cybercrime investigation recently. This allowed researchers to easily learn operational details about it.|
Is there a way to escape from data theft?
According to Svea Eckert, “we live more and more openly, we live more and more on the web” and as practice shows the virtual world is full of deceptions. There are some good lifehacks for those who seriously worry about their private lives, careers, and even physical safety. The first one is to avoid the plugins and browser extensions which request some unexpected permissions, for instance, access to your contact list. One more option to protect yourself is to use a reliable VPN service, like VPN Unlimited. This top-notch security app will help you mitigate the risk of stealing your private data and provide you with a high level of encryption, passing all your traffic through a secure tunnel.
Keep your trusted shield always on to protect yourself from any malicious actions. Download VPN Unlimited now!