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How to Browse the Internet Safely?

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Cybersafety is known as the safe and responsible use of the internet to make sure of safety and privacy of personal information and not posing threat to anyone else’s information. It is basically a proper set of measures that promote safe and secure usage of the internet and exclude threats of the internet. Nowadays browsing safely on the Internet is also one of the major concerns because whatever sites we visit, or whatever things we do online, we leave a trail of data behind it, this trail of data is used by websites to track us. So in this article, we will learn about website tracking and how we safely browse on the internet.

What is website tracking and why is it needed?

Web tracking or website tracking is a process by which the websites operators, as well as the third parties, collect and store data of users that visited their website. They can also share users activities with others. Tracking user’s activities is important to get into details about users preferences without intervening in users private data. There are data privacy laws that ensure no such privacy leak occurs due to user tracking. A website generally tracks users interest in order to understand the kind of product liked by users thus helps in advertisement campaigns. Another aspect of website tracking is some websites don’t work properly without tracking. So, for a website’s proper performance, tracking is essential. Website tracking is legal till the data privacy laws are in compliance, if a website tracker harvest user’s sensitive and private information without users consent, that is illegal.

What data can a website collect?

Websites collect data from the user using forms such as feedback forms, other forms, etc. Some websites collect a variety of data whereas other websites don’t collect data at all. It all depends on the monetization of the website and its services to customers. Website tracking tools collect various kinds of data ranging from information about users such as gender, location, name, age, browser history to how the user interacts with the website like on what products they click on, their purchasing trends, where they go afterward, etc. one such website tracking tool name is google analytics. Apart from users personal information, websites also collect IP address to find users location, information about browsers and the device the user access the website with.

How do the websites track users of the internet?

User tracking on the internet is essential for collecting data about users and their behavior online. There are various technologies that are used to track users of the internet. Websites also collect data to target user-specific advertisements. Below is the list of the most common ways to track users.

  • IP address is a unique address of the user device. From this IP address, a website can identify the geographical location of the user. An IP address can change over time but when it is used with other tracking methods, it can pinpoint the user. It is the most basic way to track a user of the internet.
  • Cookies are small pieces of information the website can store in the user browser. Using these cookies, the websites can track the users. Cookies are generally stored by websites to remember particular preferences related to users. Thus cookies are pathways to track users from one site to another. The type of cookie determines how long it can track a user. Session cookies are only stored on the user’s computer for the duration of their session, they vanish when the user closes the browser.
  • Whenever you visit a website, your web browser loads the web page and tells the website about you using the HTTP header. The referrer header passes user’s information to the webpage you are currently on. It can be turned off in the settings. The HTTP header also sends users information when the content is loaded.
  • Web browsers can also provide search history to the third-party websites which use this to track the targeted users. The browsers actually give information about user’s operating system, font type and size, screen resolution, time zone, and a lot more. Therefore, browsers must be properly configured to prevent unnecessary leakage of information.

What are cookies and should we be worried about cookies?

Cookies are text files that store the information about users browsing behavior of the website which they visit. The reason why cookies stores browsing information is to make the internet experience more efficient. An example of a cookie is getting auto-logged into the website which we most frequently visit. Cookies are also used to advertise the appropriate product based on users browsing history. Cookies are of harmless nature, there is nothing that needs to be worried about them, they just store data of the websites visited by you. Some cookies are even essential for the proper functioning of the sites.

How to browse safely on the internet?

1. Anonymous browsing: It allows users to view websites without revealing any personal information like location or IP address etc. Anonymous browsing is achieved by opening websites in incognito mode. Incognito mode doesn’t track user activity. It is particularly useful if the user enters sensitive data like bank details into the browser. Pressing ctrl+shift+N  opens the incognito mode.

2. Firewall: Firewall is a hardware or software whose main function is to protect the network from unauthorized access. A firewall monitors both incoming as well as outgoing network traffic data and traps the illicit ones. Most of the operating system comes with a fire installed. So always turn on farewell to protect your system.

3. Control browsing setting to block tracking: As we read earlier that websites can track IP addresses and related information about users. Search engines generally record user’s queries together. We can change this setting by turning on our default browser setting to exclude cookies. In google chrome, open settings->privacy and security->site settings->cookies-> block third parties cookies.

4. Ensure site safety before browsing the site: Sometimes, users need to enter crucial details like credit card numbers on the site. So, Before typing such data, ensure that the address bar starts with HTTPS and a lock sign. Like as shown in the below picture:

5. Beware of free wifi: Public wifi connections are available in railway stations, airports, etc. while using this wifi, make sure you don’t open any personal email or provide any sensitive pieces of information on any website. Most of the free networks are prone to tapping as it’s not encrypted, thus can be used for fraud purposes.

6. Some useful plug-ins: There are several plugins available on the internet which can protect us from falling prey to data theft. For example-Ad-blockers are great for blocking ads, unwanted pop-ups that might trick the user into giving out confidential pieces of information. 

7. Use a VPN: Virtual Personal Networks(VPN) help you maintain your privacy by encrypting the data and internet requests before forwarding them to the internet. The encrypted data is first forwarded to the VPN server which decrypts the requests before sending them to the online destination. The information is then sent back via the same process. Sites, advertisers, and internet service providers can’t track you at all.

8. Use Antivirus Software: Antivirus is software that protects your system from harmful viruses, worms, etc., so always use an updated antivirus in your system to protect yourself from harmful threats.

9. Clear cookies and cache: Regularly clear cookies and cache memory of your browser. 

10. Use a strong password manager: As we know the password is the important part. So always use a different range of passwords for different websites. If you use the same password for a different website then it is easy to hack. But it is not possible to remember all the passwords so use a strong password manager that encrypts and safely stores your password.

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Last Updated : 21 Aug, 2021
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