BY KIMBERLY EVANS
Hacks and security breaches have sadly become an integral part of our lives. Whether it is shopping, banking or anything in between, we tend to use the Internet and this has greatly opened many risks for us. A lot of these risks come from hackers who want to steal our personal information to make some extra money by selling it in the dark web world.
But they aren’t the only ones who are snooping into your online activities. Many national governments also tend to monitor the activities of its citizens and residents as a part of their national security policies. A case in point is a program called Tempora where the GCHQ and NSA work together to gather information on emails, Facebook activities, browsing history and more by tapping directly into the transatlantic cables that end in the shores of the UK.
Such threats to security and privacy means you can’t simply use the Internet, especially when you want to do some research privately. You should take certain precautions to ensure that your work and research is private, away from the prying eyes of both hackers and intelligence agencies. Here are four tips to stay safe while doing online research.
- Use your web browser’s private mode
All modern web browsers offer have a private mode, in which browsing history is not saved on your computer. In other words, no browsing history can be viewed by anyone who accesses the same browser or computer later.
But remember, it is not a complete foolproof system because your service provider and online services will still know what you’re browsing. Still, it is a good first step especially when you don’t want your colleague or family member from running through your activity.
So, if you’re wondering how to set this private mode, here are the steps in different popular browsers.
- Internet Explorer: Navigate to Safety > Tools > InPrivate Browsing
- Firefox : Menu >New Private Window
- Chrome: Menu > New Incognito Window
- Safari: File > New Private Window
- Opera: Menu > InPrivate Browsing
- Use a reliable VPN service
The best reliable option available out there is a VPN. If you’ve never heard of it, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and as the name suggests, it sends all your browsing activity through a tunnel, so that no one else knows what your browsing. Even your IP address and location is not visible to others, and this gives you the highest possible privacy while doing online research.
With such an option, search engines can no longer log your search activity and you can even bypass contest restrictions laid down by your country. Above everything, even the best security agencies in the world can’t exactly know what you’ve browsed and the IP address from which you have accessed a particular content.
Due to these advantages, there are a ton of VPN services out there, but not all are built the same. So, make sure you do your research to zero-in on the best VPN service.
- Sign out of online accounts
Another option that can help you stay safe while doing your online research is to sign out of all your online accounts. For example, let’s say you have signed into your Google account to check emails and Facebook account to check for messages. Once you’re done, make sure you sign out of those accounts to ensure that these online services do not monitor your web activity.
You might wonder what’s wrong if Google monitors your online activity, especially when you’re searching for safe content. Well, it is mostly harmless because Google is not going to do much harm except maybe provide contextual ads for you.
The problem with staying signed on is not Google or Facebook, rather the NSA, as all browsing information reaches them. This means, you may get flagged, especially if you search for any sensitive information.
- Web browser extensions
Web browser extensions prevent third-party websites seeing your browsing activity. This ensures that you continue to stay private while doing your online research. These browser extensions block ads and cookies third-party services use for tracking your activity. This will ensure that your privacy is protected while you browse.
In short, private browsing is not so difficult to implement and hopefully, you’ll be able to pick one of the above four options to do your online research.
Kimberly Evans is a writer, traveler and Internet chatter. She covers stories about businesses and lives that inspire her. Email: KimberlyEvansPen@gmail.com