Internet service providers (ISPs) around the world are monitoring and recording everything a user does online. Every site you visit, every movie you torrent, and even every Google search query you’ve ever typed is stored in some distant database for your ISP to hand over to your government at any moment.
If this doesn’t worry you, it should. While this information is stored, that doesn’t mean it’s safe. In fact, most hackers worth their salt can easily access your private info. Worse still, there’s growing evidence that many ISPs (See: AT&T) are actually taking this data and selling it to the highest bidders.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to fight back. Here’s a quick look at what your ISP can see and how you can hide from it.
More Than Just Metadata
While it’s true your ISP collects metadata like connection success rate and time on site, it actually goes much deeper than that. At the top level, most ISPs are able to check which sites a user visits and for how long. They do this checking your IP address and the address of all the sites and services your network interacts with. Unfortunately, what most people fail to realize is how much more intrusive this is than it sounds.
Even when you browse HTTPS-encrypted sites, your ISP can still see what you’re doing. That’s because ISPs are able to use your own DNS, or domain name system, to see which sites you’re visiting. This also applies to when you use private browsers; your browsing history won’t show up in search logs, but your ISP still sees and records your activity. Some ISPs are even able to record exactly what a user does on any given website. They can read the emails you’ve been sending, the links you’ve been clicking, and so on.
Imagine what could happen if your insurance company saw which symptoms you were searching for and what medical sites you were browsing. Or, possibly worse, what if your family and friends were able to see which sites you visited and what media you’ve downloaded?
Take Back Your Privacy
Fortunately, there’s a way fight back. A VPN, or virtual private, is an easy and discreet service that lets you browse the internet anonymously. When you connect to a VPN server, you’re able to encrypt your connection, hide your IP address, and browse the internet as if you were in a different location. There are dozens of VPN companies on the market today, and there are plenty of reviews to help you choose which one to use.
Before you start your search we recommend you look for three things:
- Check the VPN’s privacy policies and make sure it doesn’t keep logs.
- Look over the number of VPN servers they offer and where. A good rule of thumb is to look for VPNs that offer at least 80 or more different server locations.
- Take a look at all the applications they support. Make sure the VPN app is available on the device you use before you commit to a particular service.
Don’t let your ISP sell you short. Use a VPN to encrypt your internet connection and browse the internet the way it was meant to be–privately.