When the internet first became mainstream in the early 90s and thereon, one amongst its key components was anonymity.
Nobody used their real names and you could live a second life online, at a blazing 30 kbps.
The internet of today is extremely different. Not only is there a robust push to de-anonymize people, but the websites you visit on a day to day also can record and capture all kinds of information about you. What sorts of information?
Your IP Address
This is the most common type of information that a website will log. Your IP or Internet Protocol address is a number that denotes where on the web you’re located.
It’s basically an identical thing as a real-world address. If someone wants to send you a letter, they’ll write your address on it. once you receive it, their address are going to be on the back. So you recognize where it came from.
If you replace “letter” with “internet packet” you basically know how an IP address works. The problem is that a website can actually find out quite lot of personal information about you from just your IP address.
They’ll know more or less where you’re browsing from and which ISP you’re using. With a bit more detective work (and perhaps a legal warrant) an IP address can lead someone directly to your door.
This is why numerous people are using VPNs (virtual private networks) lately. The VPN acts as a middleman, so only their IP address is visible to the location you’re visiting.
Hardware & Software Details
Web browsers report all kinds of information to a website that asks for it. This includes a wealth of data about the PC you are using.
The site will know your OS, processor, GPU and more. this might seem innocent but can be used to track or identify a particular machine.
One way to get around this is often to browse from within a virtual machine, which can provide generic system information to the website.
1st & 3rd Party Cookies
A cookie is a small file that a site leaves on your computer to keep a record of things like your site preferences. Therefore the next time you visit, it’ll already know things about you.
Cookie technology isn’t a bad thing in itself. Session cookies, for instance, delete themselves once you close the browser.
You also get first-party persistent cookies, which are those saved to your device by the site for its own use.
A tracking cookie is a persistent, third-party cookie which is read by sites aside from the ones which created them.
That cookie accumulates information about your web activities and that information can then return to the cookie’s creator.
If you disagree with that policy then no cookies are going to be stored on your machine.
However, there’s nothing stopping a rogue site from peppering your machine with tracking cookies without your knowledge.
Luckily you’ll be able to use your browser’s privacy settings to block and delete cookies as desired.
Cookies are perhaps one example of an invisible tracker, but as a larger category, invisible trackers also include web apps and external sites embedded in a legitimate site.
Major news sites and other popular sites often have advertising content embedded at the bottom of an article which incorporates some sort of tracking. Google does this also.
This is often why when you look for a specific product in Google you’ll see ads for it pop on every other site that features Google Adsense.
Luckily there are privacy-focused search engines like DuckDuckGo which explicitly don’t track you.
Modern browsers now also support a feature referred to as “do not track”, which tells a site that it should shut down its tracking technology when you visit.
However, this is often a voluntary agreement that the site can ignore it if it wants to.
The most effective tool in the fight against invisible trackers is the EFF’s, Privacy Badger.
You’ve probably noticed that when you need to fill in shipping details on a new site you’ve never visited before, your browser automatically fills in details like your name and address.
It’s a convenient feature, but it’s also a privacy nightmare.
Unscrupulous sites are often coded to capture that information the second its autofill. this implies that the site has now captured your full details without your knowledge.
As you can imagine having information like an address, full name or Social Security number are often used to wreak havoc within the wrong hands.
It’s best to simply disable autofill in your browser settings.
There are many ways your data may be leaking which we will include in future updates of this post.
How To Check What You Are Leaking
Several websites exist which will assist you to discover where and the way you’re leaking information. Panopticlick and Coveryourtracks are great tools by the Electronic Frontier Foundation which does just that.
Just click the large “test me” button and every one your paranoid fears could also be confirmed. Luckily there’s never a bad time to sharpen up your privacy practices.
Many people do not care about the type of browser they use to access the internet. Also, people seem free to enter their personal details on public computers without VPN’s.
This sometimes leads to data theft and all other forms of internet impersonation when your data gets to the wrong hands. In this article, I have elaborated on the data your web browser may be collecting you might not know.