Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are collecting an ever-growing amount of data about us, including our personal details, surfing habits and preferences. When you add this to the data being collected by social media resources and individual websites and apps, it’s safe to assume there is a considerable amount of data stored about most people in several different places.
After all the attention the various ways this data is manipulated has been getting, from targetted advertising to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s not surprising people are becoming increasingly vigilant with their data. In Canada, the cybersecurity debate includes an ongoing attempt to come up with the best ways to regulate the use of personal data. According to Canada’s global news agency, the growing demand for cybersecurity experts in Canada is hampered by the global shortage of people with the required skills. The constant evolution of technology means this conversation will continue in line with the developments in the tech world.
Are all of these worries genuine? Which actions can people take to prevent their personal data being used to manipulate them?
Is prevention the future?
While regulation is being updated all over the world to ensure companies need permission to store information about internet users, is it enough? The recently introduced GDPR in Europe means data must be disclosed to the individual upon request, and the website must expressly ask for permission before collecting information on the user.
Security expert Michael Ball even considered setting up a whitehat hack at the CanadianCIO summit to demonstrate just how vulnerable we are when connected to WiFi networks. However, most people don’t really understand the complexities of how data is stored or used, and many will just click “accept” because they want to view the site, regardless of the consequences. Rather than trusting governments to have sufficient regulation, and companies to act in a fitting manner, more people than ever are taking control of the situation by not letting the ISPs or websites collect the data in the first place.
Surfing without being seen
This growing desire for anonymity and privacy is leading many people to VPNs. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network that acts as a barrier between you and the sites you visit. This site breaks down the best VPN services for Canadians, including ExpressVPN, IVPN and IPVanish. VPNs achieve anonymity by providing you with a secure link to a remote server, which is often located in a different country. All your internet activity is then routed through the VPN server, hiding your real identity and keeping your information away from prying eyes.
The websites you visit and the data you transmit all appear to have come from the VPN server, so it shows up as a different IP address in a different location that is completely unconnected to you. In practice, this means that a user in Toronto could appear to be in France or in India. IT World Canada recently published their list of cybersecurity threats for 2019 and, as with 2018, companies failing to identify and close vulnerabilities is a big concern. Even stalwarts like Bell Canada aren’t immune. This is why providing an anonymous or fake digital footprint can be so important.
Choose your priorities
Using a VPN can be really simple and fast. However, some smart home devices can’t be run using a VPN and, if you want to secure all your data, you might need to consider installing a VPN on your home router. Some services, who have different licensing in different countries, such as Netflix, actively discourage and try to overcome the use of VPNs. They don’t want you to circumvent their global web of complex licensing agreements, so they do their best to block most VPN services.
This is an ongoing battle between the companies trying to provide anonymity and the companies that want to know exactly who is using their service. This means the playing field changes regularly, and what works today might change tomorrow.
All in all, VPNs offer the safest option for surfing the web that’s easily accessible to everyone, and that’s why more Canadians than ever choose to use them.