How to know and protect yourself from being tracked online


In these times of always online, it is very difficult to make sure your personal information stays personal. Where you go, what you order, what are your likes and dislikes are all stored with Internet giants for various purpose. Read this article to know how this tracking works and what all you can do to minimize your personal information getting leaked into the digital world.

In a world where we are largely going online for a lot of our needs, it is quite difficult not to be tracked by different agencies. It is more who is tracking you that you should worry about rather than about any tracking at all. If you don't want to be tracked at all then probably the only thing that comes somewhat close to that is going completely offline, that means no mobile or computer and no online presence like on social networks, online shopping or payments. You get the idea.

Since you are reading this article online let's now delve into how you can reduce your online footprint and save your privacy. First, let us discuss how exactly are you tracked online. Online tracking is so common nowadays that probably it will come as no surprise to you that the websites you visit the most are the ones that track you the most. Facebook and Google, of course, top the list. Your search history, browsing history on Google Chrome, the YouTube videos you watched, the shopping you do online, the newspaper websites you check online and more are all recorded and that is why it is said that Facebook and Google know you more than your own parents or your spouse. However, these companies collect this data to show you relevant search results and advertisements and have strong mechanisms to not share this data with a 3rd party unless the 3rd party is Government and that too comes with proper instructions from the court to be allowed to access this data. It is the cybercriminals you should be worried about who can wreak havoc if they get your personal details like your parents' name, your birth date or even worse your credit card numbers.

Why the tracking?


Let us be clear on a few things, nothing in the world comes for free. The free email services you use, the free space you use to store your photos and documents online, the videos you watch for free, the free online knowledge you are able to access is just because you indirectly pay for it by the power of advertising. Google, Facebook, online content websites like newspapers and our own Techulator is able to serve you content free of cost by the power of advertising. The other option would be charging our readers before letting them access our content. So to keep this free world going quality advertising is necessary and for that, it is important that the companies that serve these advertisements are able to show you advertisements that are useful to you. And to know what is useful to you they need to gather your online footprint.

You are tracked even on third party websites!


I guess you would have noticed that when you visit some e-commerce website and afterward when you are going through your Facebook feed or some other website with Google ads, you are shown ads for similar products. This is because companies like Google, Facebook, and other advertising companies make use of cookies to keep track of all your browsing history. When you use Google or Facebook and don't log out before visiting other websites, you are allowing them to link these details to your personal account and make a digital footprint of you.

Know the good from the bad


However, as mentioned before, it is not these big companies that you should be too worried about, it is those with malicious aims that you need to protect yourself from. Cybercriminals tracking you can install malware on your PC that can control your webcam without you being aware of it or they can install keystroke tracking software which can capture your banking or other financial credentials. Thought it is not 100% possible to protect yourself from such attacks but a few simple precautions can go a long way in keeping you safe:
  • Use a Linux operating system if possible. Windows OS being the widely used OS is the major target for Cybercriminals. However, software written for Windows won't run on a Linux or OS X operating system. Also, Linux is inherently a secure OS where software installation is not a straightforward as on Windows.
  • Keep your webcam covered when not in use.
  • Check your outgoing traffic - Launch your command prompt in Windows by clicking on the Start button, typing "cmd" and pressing enter. Close all internet applications except your frequently used browser. In the command prompt, type "netstat" and press enter. This will show you all IPs where your PC is sending data. Note down all the IPs. Enter these IPs in an IP tracking service like https://www.iplocation.net/ It will tell you the geographical location where your data is going which might help you track down which communications are legitimate and which are not.
  • Log out from your online accounts when not using them. Facebook and Google, the major companies that track you online won't be able to link the browsing details to you if you are not logged into your account.
  • Use Incognito/Private mode when you want a little privacy when browsing.
  • Make use of VPNs if possible to hide your IP addresses from the websites you visit. Your IP address can be linked to you and along with some more details is used by Government agencies too to track your precise location. By using a VPN you can avoid any such type of tracking.
  • Check the applications running in the background to spot any malware installed on your PC. For this, open your task manager (Ctrl+Alt+T) and close all applications on your screen. Now go to Processes tab and see any process that is not running by your username. It could give you a hint of a malware process. However, be careful in killing any process because it be a little difficult to identify malware processes from system processes.


Few simple activities like visiting trusted websites, using Virtual keyboards on finance/banking websites, making sure the website URL is "https" and not "http", keeping your PC powered off when not in use, installing regular and using original software can go a long way in protecting you from any financial frauds due to online tracking. For those looking for high-end privacy can make use of VPNs, Incognito browsing and software like Tor to keep them completely masked when online.


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