Every year has been an unfortunate year for online privacy for the past few years. Data breaches and social engineering attacks are at an all-time high, and the concept of online data privacy is challenged to its core, with millions of users being affected every month.
IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report highlighted that the average data breach cost increased 2.6%, from USD 4.24 million in 2021 to USD 4.35 million in 2022. Come to think of it, we live in an era where data privacy laws are being enacted across continents with harsh penalties for non-compliance. Yet, companies are unable to secure their digital infrastructure.
What’s astonishing is that 67% of internet users in the US are unaware of their country’s privacy and data protection rules. According to a poll, 79% of internet users worldwide feel they have completely lost control over their personal data and online privacy.
Speaking of online privacy – the degree of privacy protection a person enjoys when using the internet, many myths revolve around the existence and applicability of online privacy. Let’s clear up the confusion regarding common online privacy myths to create a better and more secure online environment.
Myth 1 – Using a Private Browser Ensures My Data is Kept Private
Be it Private Mode, Incognito Mode, or whatever your preferred browser names it, these browser modes are designed to enable users to browse the web without leaving behind digital footprints of their online activities, such as online history, passwords, cookies, and other random bits of information.
Although the private mode session is designed to discard your data whenever you end a private session, your online activities are still accessible and recorded and may even be shared or sold to stakeholders such as third parties.
In short, even though a private browser mode stops your data, such as browsing history, online activity, and downloaded cookies, from being automatically kept on your device, your online activities are still accessible to both your internet service provider and the company that manages the internet connection.
Myth 2 – Hackers Only Target Large Enterprises
According to Barracuda, small firms are three times more likely to be attacked than larger organizations. These businesses have suffered not just financial losses but also legal costs, compliance fines, reputational harm, and customer loss. Consequently, several small enterprises are unable to bounce back from these losses.
No matter the size of your company and how much data and money your business moves, it is susceptible to online attacks if it has an online presence and conducts business online. Hence, online businesses ensure their digital infrastructure employs robust mechanisms and security procedures, which make it difficult for hackers to infiltrate and steal.
From the eyes of a hacker, small and medium-sized enterprises are often unprotected and don’t employ security safeguards, making them easier to target. Hence, large enterprises aren’t the only ones at risk.
Myth 3 – Public WiFi is Secure if it Has a Password
It's no secret that Wi-Fi hotspots have become a standard for internet access. They’re usually free, easier to connect with, and typically found across public spaces, including airports, hotels, sports stadiums, and schools.
However, what’s not commonly known about public WiFi hotspots is that they’re a breeding ground for hackers. Using a public WiFi hotspot comes with grave risks, as a hacker could disguise the original network and gain instant access to your online activities.
Additionally, using the same WiFi hotspot as everyone else carries hazards, even if it is an authorized hotspot. This is because cybercriminals may use tools to hijack your device. Also, there’s a great saying; if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. It only makes sense why something would be free when we all live in a capitalist society. The owner of the public WiFi hotspot may sell your online browsing data to interested parties.
Another misconception is that a public Wi-Fi hotspot is secure if it has a password. Come to think of it, all online accounts have a password, yet they get hacked. If the password of a public Wi-Fi hotspot is widely given to everyone who asks for it without any restriction, it isn't much safer than not having one.
When you’re in a public place without a cellular internet connection and have to use the internet for something important, don’t log in to social or financial accounts or enter personal information like usernames and passwords. If you have to make a financial transaction, use your cellular internet connection or private WiFi hotspot instead.
Myth 4 – IT Professionals are Responsible for Online Privacy & Security
Another myth is that only IT individuals are well equipped to handle cybersecurity and achieve online privacy. Sure, IT professionals are better equipped to cope with evolving online threats by employing robust defense mechanisms; everyone who works with data should have a basic understanding of online privacy and data security.
All personnel working in a corporate environment should be aware of and practice the industry’s best practices when handling the personal data of individuals. In a personal capacity, personnel should avoid clicking suspicious links in an email, ensure the privacy of the information shared, be cautious when sharing data and use security protocols wherever applicable, and understand fundamental security processes.
For everyday individuals, getting a grasp of privacy and security fundamentals is essential, much like learning key concepts in math or physics. Data privacy resides in the hands of each individual who chooses to share it online. For utmost privacy, individuals should limit the amount of data they share online, access the internet solely through an exclusive internet network, employ two-factor authentication on online accounts, change passwords frequently and use solid alphanumeric passwords.
Remember, no one is more responsible for data other than its rightful owner. Sure, some data is shared with organizations, and laws mandate organizations to safeguard user data. But with data breaches on the rise, it’s crucial that everyone upgrades their understanding of online privacy concepts and practices online safety measures.
About the Author: Anas Baig is a cyber security journalist who covers cyber security & tech news. A computer science graduate specializing in internet security, science, and technology, he is a security professional and a writer with a passion for robots, IoT devices, and cars.
Follow him on Twitter @anasbaigdm or email him directly by clicking here.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.