Recently, the discussions about the internet, as well as online privacy and security have been recurring. With the heated discussions about net neutrality going on and the excitement about advances in the Internet of Things, online security and privacy seem to be taking a backseat. However, this is a critical moment to really think about the implications of being able to use the internet freely without the fear of our privacy and security being violated. The internet is a safe haven for everybody and we all share a responsibility to ensure that it remains safe for everybody.
The internet presents with numerous benefits, but these advantages of advances in internet technology bear their own costs in the form of a loss of privacy. These advances have also made the average internet user vulnerable to threats which include identity theft, data breaches and other crime committed in the cyberspace. Trusting online vendors and internet service providers to provide you with adequate privacy and security is not enough. There are several things that can be done to improve your privacy and the security of your data online.
Online data breaches have been on the internet since the first networks were created. With advancing technology and our increasing reliance on technology to perform even the most mundane activities, the threat from hackers and cybercriminals continue to grow. Even threatening to reach epidemic proportions. The fastest growing crime category in the U.S is cyber fraud. Even if legislation supports total freedom of internet use, these threats undermine our ability to exercise our freedom.
Internet privacy and security should not be left for one party to safeguard. An effective strategy to approach this threat is a collaboration of efforts both collective and individual. An individual tackling an epidemic of this proportion is like a battle between an elephant and an ant. The digital identity of internet users is very vulnerable to digital epidemics. Antivirus software was initially deployed to keep data security intact when data storage was predominantly on hardware. The recent migration of IT to cloud technologies mean that most of our digital communication needs to secure behind some sort of wall. It has to be a mass effort, the more people that take security measures against phishing attacks, hacker intrusions, or malware attacks, the safer every user of the internet is.
It’s a really simple mechanism; if one person establishes adequate barriers to any cyberattacks, then he is safe from unwanted intrusion. This also means that he cannot transmit or spread malware to other people. All it usually takes I the weakest link. One email or Facebook attack is hacked and is then used to send a spear phishing request to several people in his network that include friends, or colleagues thus leading to an even more extensive data breach.
A critical part of this fight against emerging cybercrime is the part where every individual user of the internet takes responsibility for their online privacy and security. But this is not the complete solution. The government and law enforcement also have a crucial role to play. The data collection laws are not currently comprehensive and all countries have varying private acts, initiatives and laws.
In the U.S., there have been several Supreme Court ruling to guarantee internet users privacy rights over the past fifty years. These rights that were not explicitly guaranteed by the U.S constitution, and thus, certain agencies still do not abide by these rulings till date. It is a positive development to see several discussions about online privacy and security making headlines. It is very important that the right arguments are the ones that are the loudest.
No real progress has been made without a crucial dialogue between the government and the people. Racial equality, gender equality, marriage equality and all the other social and legislative issues that concern the people are as a result of constant open dialogue before the right legislative agenda that will make a society more progressive is enacted.
When it comes to online security and data privacy, it is up to every single individual internet user to demonstrate in words and in actions that privacy and security in the digital world should be seen as a basic right and violations thereof constitute a violation of this right. There should be a willingness to engage in both individual and collective action that will serve as protection to both our freedom and our privacy online.
While there is increasing awareness of the importance of safeguarding the internet, especially with the increasing use of the internet by children, an increasing amount of personal affairs is being carried out in the cyberspace causing a corresponding increase in the threat to safety and privacy. This makes it obvious that people need to do even more. The higher the levels of security deployed, the lower the possibility of a digital pandemic.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ico.) reports a 46% increase in reported breaches related to email in the second quarter of 2017 and a 20% increase in loss or theft of paperwork. General businesses, local governments and education sector had the greatest number of reported incidents in the first quarter of 2017. The best way to create a sustainable defence against data breaches and security hacks is to disable them from being anything more than minor inconveniences. The anti-viruses were once effective measures against these threats but are now no longer enough.
What needs to be done is a major adjustment to online behaviours while being vocal about the importance of online security and privacy. Actions that serve to improve online safety include:
- Choosing secure passwords
- Limiting as much as possible the sharing of sensitive data online
- The use of VPN to encrypt data every time you use the internet
- Being very picky about what sort of personal information is shared online
- Using the privacy settings when you use social media sites.
While the government and law enforcement definitely have a role to play in protecting the internet for all users, the majority of the responsibility lies with all internet users for now.