It turns out that the Internet isn’t as anonymous as it seems. This is a hard lesson learned by more than 37 million users of Ashley Madison, a website dedicated to cheating on one’s spouse. In July, the site was hacked by the hacker group, “The Impact Team,” and they’re currently threatening to expose the cheaters by going public with the database. In this particular case, Ashley Madison users should have known better–on two levels.
The first lesson here is to not be a cheater. When it comes to pulling stunts like this, it’s not a matter of if you’ll get caught, but when.
The next “level of duh” we see here is that these cheaters actually believed their activity on Ashley Madison to be anonymous. They bought into a lie, which is kind of ironic when you stop and think about it.
The truth about what you do on the Internet is that there are many different ways to have your activity traced back to you. And forget about the idea of a website that’s completely impregnable from hackers. The fact that, just last June, the United States federal government was hacked and the records of more than 4 million employees were compromised, should be enough to give you the virtual heebie-jeebies.
When it comes down to it, a skilled hacker who’s absolutely dedicated to finding out what you’ve been up to online will be able to. Especially if they’ve got a strong motive, like having their wedding vows trampled upon. And don’t even think about running for public office if your personal email account is connected to something along the lines of an online escort service. This kind of dirt will be uncovered so fast that you’ll think you’ve been hacked by Hoover.
All of this isn’t to say that you can’t take measures to make it more difficult for hackers to track your Internet activity. Also, we’re in no way implying that, just because you take efforts to cover your online tracks, it means that you’re up to no good. When browsing the Internet in today’s volatile world of online security, any actions you can take to make your sensitive information less visible and accessible is always a smart move, even if you’ve got nothing to hide.
Here are five common sense actions you can take to make your online activity more difficult to track.
Delete Your Browser History
Obviously, you’ll want to delete your browser history if you’ve visited sketchy websites. Although, it’s also a good idea to delete your browser history in general. After all, if a hacker were to take control of your PC, they would easily be able to know which of your online accounts they should hack next, just by viewing your browser history. Bonus tip: browsing in incognito mode for Chrome, opening a private browsing window in Firefox, and InPrivate browsing in Internet Explorer and Edge, are all ways to surf the net without your browsing data being stored locally. Just keep in mind that this doesn’t hide your browsing activity from your Internet Service Provider.
Scrap Your Real Name
Not using your real name online should be obvious, yet too many users don’t even try to come up with an alternative name when registering for online accounts. In an attempt to make users more accountable for what they post, websites like Facebook have done away with fake usernames and are instead requiring real names to be used. Still, wherever you’re able to set up a fake name, be sure to do so.
Don’t Use Personal Photos
Most online accounts ask for you to upload an image for your profile. If you don’t want this account to be traced back to you, then don’t use a picture of yourself, or of any other images that are personal in nature, like your house, car, kids, etc.
Keep Your Credit Card Confidential
In addition to having to worry about a hacker stealing your credit card number for fraudulent purchases, hackers can use your transaction information to figure out what you’ve bought. This can come back to bite you if you’ve purchased something that you don’t want the world to know about. Using a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin is one anonymous way to shop online, and so too are using prepaid credit cards, which can’t be traced back to an account in your name.
Don’t Use Your Personal Email Account
Another obvious move is to not use your personal email account to register for websites that you don’t want traced back to you. Setting up a “burner” email account from a free online hosting service like Gmail or Yahoo! is easy to do and doesn’t require the use of your real name. As a bonus, by separating your email accounts like this, you’ll be safeguarding your real email account (with its valuable information) from hackers, in the event that your burner email account gets hacked.
The Internet isn’t the unregulated Wild West that it used to be. Today, there are prying eyes behind every page, which means that you need to know how to navigate the web in a way that keeps your private data safe. For more tips and tools on how to protect your identity from the worst of the web, give Tektonic a call at (416) 256-9928.