5 Facts To Know After the Equifax Hack

The state of the Internet today is like the wild West: It’s fun, exciting yet borderline dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Just like you would take certain steps to survive in the middle of the desert, you need resources to help you navigate the Internet. How do you protect your privacy and maintain security when getting access to your data is hot? Here are some facts you should know about the wild Internet, especially in light of the Equifax hack:

1. If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.

Unless you’re living off-the-grid with no debt, credit cards, or social media accounts,  information about you is highly accessible. The way in which this information moves through the interwebs depends on a number of factors. Companies can find data about you from:

  1. Your own devices and Internet providers (Apple, Verizon, Comcast)  
  2. Consumer credit reporting agencies (like Equifax and TransUnion).
  3. “Free” apps that you download to your phone (e.g., Facebook, Apps, Dropbox, Slack).

The good news: You can take small steps to protect your privacy and security.

The bad news: There’s no such thing as “free.” Unfortunately, many people are learning this the hard way.  

That’s where the almighty VPN can come into play: VPN stands for “virtual private network” and it’s a connection between a secure server and your computer through which you can access the Internet. We live in a world where Internet service providers may invade your privacy by selling data about your online habits to advertisers. A VPN can eliminate those risks.

But it doesn’t eliminate all risks (Keezel can help with some risks). 

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According to a study published recently that analyzed the privacy and security risks of Android VPN-permission apps, it was found that users have little if any guarantees about the presence of malware, third-party library embedding, and traffic manipulation.

While many VPN services promise to deliver security and privacy features to users, no VPN is the same – and it’s important to do your research before you download anything to your phone or computer. Knowing where your data is being seen and stored puts the power in your hands…

2. Your privacy is (literally) in your hands.

If you’re like most people who function in the 21st century, you regularly give up privacy for convenience.  You probably think “What’s the worst that can happen?” The convenience of a “free app” is often more important than security. As wild as the web may be, it’s important to remember that you have a choice.

According to cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier: “Consumers…feel powerless and are often resigned to the privacy invasions because they don’t have any real choice.”  So, what can you do if you want the choice? Can you remain a functioning member of society without getting rid of all technology to live on an Ashram?

The answer is somewhere in the gray right now.

For better or worse, the ugly truth is that your privacy is being taken away as part of a partisan political struggle. According to The Washington Post, the rollback of privacy was the first step by the Republican-led FCC to overhaul Obama-era net neutrality rules.  Schneier believes that we must force our legislators to change the rules and take it up with our representatives during midterm elections.

3. You have the right to choose what the Internet knows about you.

According to the Global Survey on Internet Privacy and Freedom of Expression, privacy in the modern world has two facets: Firstly, it involves issues that have to do with the identity of a person. Second, it it has to do with the way their personal information is handled. The survey goes on to say that:

“There is a tension between the right to freedom of expression – in particular the media’s exercise of the right – and the right to privacy. Freedom of expression, whether exercised by individuals or by the media, and the ability to exercise it, is an essential feature of any open, liberal and democratic society. It is only through exercising free expression that societies can sustain real democratic accountability.”

 While there’s not much you can do about the Equifax hack, advanced ways to protect your privacy online (like a VPN or learning more about Keezel), can thwart potential malicious hackers.

Here are a few simple steps you can take:

Graphic by Rebecca Coleman/Harvard Staff

4. Your privacy is under attack every day

From Apple’s landmark case against the FBI to the Australian government forcing tech giants to give up encrypted messages, many countries are proposing laws that would force technology companies to make their systems decryptable. If the decryption of secure messages become the norm, say goodbye to any form of privacy.  

The five countries have a commitment to “develop our engagement with communications and technology companies to explore shared solutions” and they are: Commonwealth US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia. We don’t want to scare you so you can read more about the rear window into encryption here.

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5. You no longer need a computer science degree to make privacy happen.

The Internet is the wild web. The technology that used to only make sense to data scientists and engineers, now exists in layman’s terms for just about anyone. This is of benefit to the general public – especially if you want to learn more about your online privacy rights. While we can’t prevent hacks like the Equifax security breach from happening, we can help you find more peace of mind.

If you’re looking for ways to protect your devices on any network with the push of a button, consider investing in Keezel today.