Whether its checking a bank balance, sending an email, or just browsing a website, the vast majority of internet users get online literally unprotected against being spied on. Are you one of them?
The fastest growing crime is identity theft, with over 15 million victims every year. In fact, there is a new victim of identity theft every three seconds. Most of these victims falsely believe their safe when they get online with antivirus programs.
Sure, antivirus programs are popular, and they offer some protection for the average user against malicious programs, but they don’t keep one very important thing safe-who you are.
According to a news report, Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George said in 2012 that up to $26 million dollars in fraudulent tax returns were sent to people who used false identities.
“The primary characteristic of these cases is that the identity thief reports false income and withholding to generate a fraudulent tax return,” George said. “Without the falsely reported income, many of the deductions and/or credits used to inflate the fraudulent tax refund could not be claimed on the tax return. The individuals whose identities were stolen may not even be aware that their identities were used to file a fraudulent tax return.”
If you’re using the internet unprotected, you’re name and social security number could be one that these thieves use to get their stolen money. Imagine getting a letter from the IRS, and instead of refund, they’re wanting to investigate you. The only problem is, you have no idea what they’re talking about. Only later do you find out that someone stole your information online.
Identity theft is not the only problem with an unprotected connection. Recently, a mother of four lost a court case, and is being ordered to pay $222,000 in fines. Her crime? Downloading and sharing 24 songs on the internet. In another case, a Boston College university student was fined $675,000 for downloading 30 songs from the internet. Both of these cases caused the people to spend years of their lives in court.
There have also been cases where parents were accused of downloading movies illegally online, when in reality it was one of their children who was on the computer. A simple disciplinary incident between parents and their kids became a nightmare, and it all could be have been avoided if their connection had been protected.
Even if you think none of this will happen to you, if you’re on the internet, you’re vulnerable to having someone see every website you visit and every email you read.
Governments, corporations, and yes, hackers from around the world use today’s technology to track what internet user’s are doing. Recent news has brought to light how the privacy rights of people online take a backseat to being watched. Companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook collect vast amounts of data, and most of their users don’t even know it. They then sell this information to other companies.
Perhaps in the past this didn’t seem like something to worry about, after all, what’s the harm right? But now governments are accessing the data of these corporations, and some news reports speculate they’re even tapping into internet fiber optic cable directly.
The question many people ask is, “why should I care?”
That’s a good question, but first, let’s look at how your activity can be watched.
Everyone Has An Address
Every time you get on the internet, whether you use your mobile phone or your home computer, the company providing your connection can see where you go.
How? They’ve assigned you an address.
Just like the numbers on your mailbox, every connection gets an IP address. Now those addresses don’t come with street names, but they are very specific, and they’re unique to you.
An IP address is just a series of numbers. For example, an IP address from Seattle might be 188.8.131.52. That address connects to a specific computer or user. In fact, you can go to several publicly available websites and see a map of where that address is located!
Want to try it for yourself?
Now, the first thing you’ll notice is how your personal IP address is detected. That’s right, you’ve just been identified as visiting this website. (Don’t worry, we’ll fix this problem shortly).
In the box you can enter any IP address. Try the one provided above. Here’s the result you will most likely get.
It tells you the City, State, and even let’s you click on a link to a map in order to locate the address!
In your home or on your phone, you have an IP address assigned to you. For most users, this is something they probably never think about. The fact that everything they do on the internet is traceable never crossed their minds. But be sure of one fact- what you do online and where you go can be traced right back to you.
You logon to your computer, and the second you get online, your personal IP address is active. That live address is logged by your internet provider, and usually by every website you visit.
- Download a song from iTunes? Recorded.
- Download a movie? Recorded.
- Visit your bank? Recorded.
- Check your email? Recorded.
Your personal address leaves a trail of footprints across the internet, and if someone wants to, they can see a history of everywhere you’ve been and every file you’ve downloaded.
But let’s take this one step further.
Say you go to a coffee shop that has a public internet connection. The shop advertises that you can connect to the internet for free, and it sounds like a great deal. You get your extra large coffee, open your laptop, and decide to get online. When you connect to that free wifi and start browsing the internet, you’re now using the IP address of the coffee shop. So now your privacy is safe, right?
In reality, it’s even more at risk. Everything you do while on that “public” connection is, well, public.
You’re wireless connection at that shop is literally sending all of your data through the air, along with every other person who is connected there. It is a relatively easy process for hackers to see what you are doing, and even to steal your information right from under your nose.
It only takes a hacker a few seconds to steal a single password, and in that few seconds a person’s life can be sent into turmoil.
The real questions are why take a chance with your privacy, and what can you do to protect yourself?
Why Everyone Should Care About Internet Privacy
Most people don’t think about their privacy on the internet. After all, what have you got to hide, right? But think of it this way- would you allow anyone to open your mailbox and read through your mail? What if they could without you even knowing about it?
Ensuring internet privacy is no different than protecting your mail or closing the curtains in your bedroom at night. When you don’t care about your privacy, you are just as vulnerable as if you posted every email you send and receive for the next month publicly on Facebook. (There’s nothing to hide, right?) Everyone has a right to privacy, but it’s up to you to make sure you’re protected.
Here’s another thought to ponder. Say you live in Seattle. Ever go to a search engine, only to get an ad for a dating website, even when you weren’t searching for that? Did you notice the ad says, “Looking for a date in Seattle tonight?”
Coincidence? No! You’re IP address is being tracked wherever you go.
Every site you visit on the internet is being recorded. It’s not a question of if that information will be used for a bad purpose, but when. It sounds like common sense, but why take the risk that your life will be ruined?
How a VPN service can protect your privacy
You might have heard the term VPN before, but if you’re not using one, then you probably don’t know what it is. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Companies have been using VPN’s for years in order to help employees connect to their networks from home and while traveling away from the office, but most people don’t realize how easy it is for everyone to use one.
TIP: Here is a list with the best VPN companies which don’t save logs and really care about your online privacy.
To be blunt, if you want to protect yourself, you should think of a VPN just like you do the lock on your front door. It’s that important.
A VPN is simply a network of computers that is connected to the internet. In order to protect your privacy, you connect to the VPN first, it encrypts your data, and then the VPN connects you to the public internet.
Remember the discussion about IP addresses we had before? This is where the VPN comes in as your personal privacy body guard.
When you login to the VPN, it assigns you a new personal IP address and encrypts your data, and then it connects you to the public internet. Now, everything you do online appears as if it is coming from the VPN.
So, let’s say you live in the state of California. The VPN you connect to has a computer in Virginia. You login to the VPN, it assigns you a new IP address, and now when you login to your email or any other website, what’s recorded is the address the VPN gave you. Plus, your data is encrypted.
Because your connection looks like it’s coming from the VPN, and now your data is encrypted (encryption is a way to lock your data in a kind of code that is virtually impossible to break), no one can see who you are or what you’re doing.
Your internet provider, the government, search engines and even hackers will only see your new IP address from the VPN.
One side note: a good VPN provider, like Faceless.me, does not even log your activity while connected to them. In other words, you’ve got a privacy body guard watching your back!
So specifically what is protected if you’re using a VPN service? If you’re banking or make payments online, use a public wifi at a coffee shop, download movies, or doing any activity on the internet, you’re protected.
No one can see you’re passwords. No government agency or corporation can track what you do or where you go on the internet. No hacker can trace your IP address.
Many different types of users can benefit from a VPN service. But the real question is why shouldn’t you use one?
What to look for in a VPN service
There are several things to look for when choosing a VPN service. (The one we recommend is Faceless.me). The best ones will offer ease of use, a good price, reliable security and connections, and good support.
Your VPN service should offer an easy way to connect you to their servers. This means that you install some software, and you’re connected. In addition, they should offer mobile apps for both Android and iPhone at a minimum. This way, even if you connect to the internet with your mobile phone, you know your protected.
When choosing a VPN service, you should make sure that they encrypt your data, so that none of your information is able to be viewed by anyone but you.
You should also make sure that they do not log your connection. This means the VPN provider does not make a record of your activity when you connected to them, or where you went on the internet. Why is this important?
Say you’ve been browsing the internet, and although you’re not doing anything wrong, a government agency wants to know what you’ve been looking at and downloading. If your VPN provider has no log of your activity while on their connection, there literally is nothing for them to give the government agency.
Review of the Faceless.me VPN service
The Faceless.me VPN service provides a reliable and robust secure connection, that encrypts the user’s data when they are connected. The service offers two levels for users: free and Premium.
The free account works well for occasional users of the internet. Faceless offers a free download for their connection software, and it’s a snap to setup. The software is available for Windows, Apple OS X or Linux computers, and unlike some VPN providers, they offer apps for both iPhone and Android smart phones. The only limits on the free software are connection speed, bandwidth use and your options to choose different servers is limited.
Once the software is installed and running, it will run in the background, providing a protected internet connection. The connection is stable and reliable, and users are completely anonymous whether they’re downloading movies, checking email, or browsing websites. Skype and other sites that have content restrictions based on the region you live in can be used with the service.
For a low price, the Premium Account offers the same great connection as the Free version, only now the user has better speed, unlimited bandwidth and they can choose to change between different servers.
Whether using free or premium accounts, the Faceless VPN service does not log the activity of its users. In other words, if someone browses a website, or they download a movie, not only does the site they’re on have no idea who they are, but Faceless itself has no log of where the user spent their time when using the service. (The only logs kept are amount of bandwidth and the IP address of the user, so that they can login to use the VPN service, and those logs are only kept for a limited time).
Faceless VPN also works from any location. As long as users have an internet connection, they can login to Faceless and their connection will be anonymous.
Published on behalf of Mr. Wade Arnold, a professional journalist, writer, editor and photographer. He has eight years experience working with Gannett publishing (USA Today publisher) as a writer and photographer, and have two books released through a traditional publisher.