A recent podcast on Recode, “How do I protect my privacy online?” featured digital security expert Tony Gambacorta answering questions about online security and privacy. He said, “The greatest threat is our own ignorance.” In terms of security, on the top of his list were many of the topics that are already in this series of posts, but the part about privacy was particularly interesting. In terms of privacy, his biggest concerns focus on the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, and “smart home” cameras, thermostats, light controllers, security systems, Smart TVs, etc.
These are devices that provide useful features in return for legal access to what most consider their private world such as conversations and activities in their home. For example, some people cover their laptop webcam with tape when their Smart TV has an embedded camera and microphone controlled by much less secure software. Many WiFi cameras that are used to monitor a home fall into this insecure category. Gambacorta also explains that a $20 device can be used in a coffee shop to anonymously eavesdrop on unencrypted web searches, emails, etc. For these reasons, a VPN service is critical when using public WiFi and will be explained in detail in a future post, but in general avoid free VPNs, they are often free because they are not private.
His privacy suggestions for people who aren’t tech-literate?
- Don’t put something like a WiFi camera or Smart TV in a sensitive area of your house (or put tape on the lens).
- Buy from people you know and trust. Buying a $70 Android phone from a user called “ThePhoneBoss” on eBay might not be the best choice for security or privacy.
- Email is never private (unless you’re an expert).
- Use your browser’s “Incognito” feature if you are searching for anything you wouldn’t want somebody else to know about (or something that you don’t want to see ads about in the future). This is also known as a “Private” or “InPrivate” window. As the graphic below shows, it is shocking how little privacy is involved when web surfing.
Well, that’s more than a few words, but let’s just keep that between you and me…