How many messages do you send in a day? How many emails do you send at work and personal email? How many sites do you browse in a day when you’re at work or simply because you’re bored?
You cannot keep a count of everywhere that you have ventured digitally unless you look at your search history. This is an inevitable truth of today’s digital era. We live on the internet and it surely is a necessity. Irrespective of how certain you can be about your browsing history, you should know if your messages, data and all your web visits are safe.
Tim Berners Lee invented ‘web’ in 1989, and it seems like an appropriate metaphor for the consortium of links, the interlinking of the world because of it, as well as how all of us are just simple beings caught in the worldwide web.
While we use an array of devices every day to communicate with the web, it is essential we ensure of all our communications on it are safe. It does not simply mean installing anti-virus and declaring yourself safe—you must be aware of how your data is traveling, who can possibly read the sensitive information that you share and how you can improve your security.
How does your digital communication happen?
It is important that on a broader level, all of us are aware of what goes into sending a message over the internet or the work that is done to ensure we get access to the website of our choice in seconds.
Every URL has an IP address associated to it, which is how your IP address can essentially talk to it. It is like a phone number associated with the website of your choice, without which you cannot communicate. The Domain Name System (DNS) is a database, which keeps a track of all the websites and their IP addresses.
When you make a request on your computer, to access a URL, your browser finds the IP address needed and through your Internet Service Provider (ISP) it traverses several gateways to reach the ISP of the website you want. Once the request is received, the website will provide you with a copy of the necessary information as per your requirement.
This was a simplified example of how your communication happens over the web. Likewise, when you send an email, in a firstname.lastname@example.org format, it is sent over the internet through Simple Mail Transfer Protocol(SMTP), which then looks up the IP address of your recipient’s domain through the DNS servers and checks if the domain has a dedicated mail exchange server—after confirmation of which the email is received.
When such intricate aspects are associated with online communications, the chances are high of it being tracked either to avail your online habits, record your digital trail or even to extract specific information.
Your communication privacy can be compromised due to various malware on your device or Wi-Fi router and even your internet provider may track your data. And, there are always threats of being under surveillance from hackers, organizations or even the government!
There are a lot of such risks associated with digital communication and as the world has become smaller to ensure productivity it sure has led everyone to a state of data ambiguity.
So how can you make your digital communications private?
It is a way of masking your data into a collection of words/numbers which cannot be deciphered unless there is a “key”, this key may be a password which is needed to uncover the data. Every information that you want to communicate can be encrypted and only the receiver must have the key to decrypt it.
There are several tools made available to encrypt data today. Yet, this only works until the key falls into the hands of an unintended person. To avoid such cases, there are popular tools which provide session wise keys, which completely nullifies the wrong usage of the same key.
2. Email habits:
Irrespective of how secure you think your emails are with a simple password, it is always important to follow certain habits. This is especially true for emails which contain sensitive data like financial information.
- Disallow forwarding of the emails from your end, so that your information stays within the intended audience.
- Emails can stay in a recipient’s inbox for eternity, which means sensitive data can be breached any time—set dates of expiry for certain emails so you know for certain that they cannot be accessed beyond a point of time.
- Encrypt metadata, which is “your information” on an email—be it the time, date, sender’s and recipient’s details. Using this information, hackers could track your web history or communication habits, get into your trail of data and use it to violate your information. Metadata encryption can be done using several tools too.
3. Beware of the information you share on social media because privacy is a tricky thing on such platforms. With imposter accounts, birthdates, personal information like place of work—all of which can be used against you in a cybercrime.
4. Understand how the internet functions, for example: if a web address begins with HTTP: // instead of HTTPS: //, then it means the connection is not encrypted—because the latter is secured using Transport Layer Security(TLS)– be sure to not access it or share personal details on websites which do not use TLS.
5. Use secure password managers which can handle your passwords for you. They can help you set policies for a strong password, and eliminate the habit of noting down passwords. They can remember your passwords for you!
6. Use efficient Identity and Access Management solutions:
- Which can enable you with multi-factor authentications to really ensure it is you who wants to access your data.
- Can govern the accesses of everyone within the organization for you.
- These solutions can even notify you of login attempts from the unfamiliar IP addresses, location, time or repeated login attempts within a small window of time which can be a sign of credential stuffing.
Know when you are under threat!
Along with knowing what measures are to be taken to safeguard yourself from unwarranted access, data breach and maintain your digital privacy, it is important you are aware when you are under attack.
Your account may have changes which you did not initiate, you may get an email notifying a password reset request, people associated with you receive messages/email from you which you are not aware of, you are being notified of web visits which you have not made, there are financial transactions made in your name.
These are some instances which can indicate that your account is compromised. As soon as you get a whiff of such things, be sure to quickly take the necessary actions to secure yourself.
In the digital era, it is quite impossible to be devoid of any interaction with the internet unless you have completely forsaken any digital communication and moved to the mountains! Be sure you are aware of how the internet you interact with functions, how every online behavior of yours can have an impact on your digital identity and mainly on how you can keep your digital communications private ensuring complete security.