3 Big Threats to Your Online Privacy


Individuals and businesses are spending increasing amounts of time online, as cloud-based applications become commonly used, social networking continues to grow and constant connectivity becomes the norm. But being online introduces a few risks to your personal or business security. Here are a few threats to your online privacy

Cookies Track Your Every Move

Cookies sound innocent enough. But these tracking mechanisms are used by social networks, search engines, retailers and virtually any website to monitor your actions online. In some cases, cookies are used as a means to target advertisements to users, but the amount of data they can collect about your habits is staggering.

In 2012, the Obama Administration proposed a Privacy Bill of Rights which would include something called “Do Not Track” legislation. This rule would allow consumers to decide whether to be tracked and under what circumstances, but the proposal hasn’t yet gained any traction. Currently, marketers can still choose to ignore Do Not Track and are free to build ways to work around any Do Not Track mechanisms, which are being built into major browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox.

Cookies pose security risks if they’re intercepted by third parties and used to gain unauthorized access to password-protected websites and company networks. Steps must be taken to protect cookies from interception to avoid these concerns. There are a few things you can do to reduce the potential threats from cookies stored on your machine.

Theft of Data Stored in the Cloud

The cloud is an incredible resource for backing up data, enabling you to access critical information even in the event of a mechanical failure on your local machine. But the cloud opens the door to a few new security risks—in particular, unauthorized access and data leakage. Gartner predicts that 36 percent of consumer content in the U.S. will be stored in the cloud by 2016.

While many cloud storage services encrypt data stored on their servers, some store it in clear text—making it easier for unauthorized access and interpretation by third parties. And like cookies, data stored in cloud services could be shared with marketers or potentially used in advertisements. This data also has less stringent legal protections than data stored on a personal machine. For instance, data stored in the cloud by a healthcare provider might not be subject to the Health Insurance Portability Protection Act.

So how can you protect yourself against the risks associated with cloud computing? First, ensure that the service you’re using encrypts data. This makes it more difficult for third parties to access and interpret your information. Find out how the cloud service provider protects its data, how often security measures are tested, and what the procedures are if security is breached. Choosing cloud service providers wisely—and using them wisely, by only providing access to authorized individuals who need to access specific information—can help you use the cloud securely.

Social Networking Hacks

As social networking continues to grow, and more consumers are making use of at least one social networking site, the associated risks of social media increase as well. Social users make an easy target for hackers, as users don’t always keep security top of mind. Hackers can obtain significant amounts of personal information just based on what you’ve made publicly available on a social network.

Social networking platforms have become prime vehicles for cyber criminals to spread Trojans, worms, and even execute phishing attempts, click-jacking and more.  The information you post to social networks is no longer private, even if you’re using the highest security settings available. To protect yourself, be careful with the amount of personal information you post to social networks, use caution when clicking links and opening attachments, and be wary of any user attempting to lure you into revealing information or login credentials.

These three threats comprise some of the most significant and common threats to your online privacy today. The Internet has provided a valuable resource for individuals and businesses. But unless users take adequate security precautions, your online activity can provide the means for hackers to steal your personal information.

Author bio:

Fergal Glynn is the Director of Product Marketing at Veracode, an award-winning application security company specializing in Veracode rootkit removal tool and other security breaches with effective risk assessment tools here

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