TechBytes: Is Private Browsing really Private?

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Most people will use Private or Incogneto browsing to hide their internet traffic… but is it really Private? 

TechBytes, Bite Size tips to improve your Tech knowledge.

In this video and article we discuss private browsing 

Is it really private? 

You may be on your on your phone or computer, browsing for that special something for your partner and you don’t want them to know what you have been searching for or what websites you have been visiting to find it. 

Most people would immediately think to open private or incognito browsing on your phone, computer or tablet so that their web traffic is hidden…. right?  

Wrong! 

Whilst your traffic may be hidden from anyone who uses the same device and they can not see your search history or website visits on that device. That does not mean that your web traffic is completely hidden and there are a few things you should consider. 

Network Monitoring 

There are many home made tools that allow people to do network monitoring and content filtering. Some of these tools are even built into your home or business router. Devices or services such as this allow you to monitor all web activity on your network across all devices and there are even Web Based tools that you can set up to be able record this information. 

Meaning if you wanted to see the web activity of all of your partners or colleagues you can, regardless of if they are using private browsing or not. 

Even with a little device such as a Raspberry Pi, and a bit of software loaded on to it, you can see all of the websites visited by anyone on your network with just a few simple clicks. Similarly, by using the same tools you can also block access to particular websites across your network or even block adverts from appearing on web pages. 

For businesses there are much better Pro Tools which allow you to monitor web pages visited by all staff members and even block websites based on a Theme, Such as Social Media, Gambling and so on. 

Internet Provider – Traffic Retention 

Not many people know that in the UK in 2016 the government passed a law by the name of the “Investigatory Powers Act”, which was later nicknamed by many as the “Snoopers Charter”. Part of this law was that ISP’s (or Internet Service Providers) such as Sky, BT, Virgin, TalkTalk, PlusNet and so on were required to keep a complete list of all websites that you have visited for a minimum of 12 months. Not just this, but there was a list of more than 70 Authorities could access this information. Including Police Services, The Defense Department and even the NHS and Food Standard Agency. 

Thankfully in 2018 the Act was amended to state that the information could only be accessed by an agency in for the express purposes of investigating a “Serious Crime” and that all requests must be passed through the Independent Investigatory Powers Commissioner. 

However, there was a brief time there where you could theoretically go to the hospital with a sprained wrist and the NHS could ask your internet provider if it was related to a…… tennis related search query. 

However, the security of this data has been brought into question on many occasions, especially as some internet service providers have been exposed in hacking attacks in the early part of the last decade. 

In 2015 TalkTalk was hacked and more than 150 thousand accounts were accessed. [Link this to article.] It is even estimated that TalkTalk lost more than £77 million in the attack and were fined £400 thousand pounds in the attack, not to mention any other losses as the result of a loss in reputation. 

In short, your internet provider keeps a record of all of your web traffic for 12 months and in the event of the investigation of a “Serious Crime” it can be accessed by the relevant authority. 

Is there such a thing as private browsing? 

So is there such a thing as truly private browsing? Well as a matter of fact there is. 

VPN’s (Virtual Private Networks)

Virtual Private Networks been around for many years. Originally deployed as a way of employees being able to connect back to their offices, or businesses being able to link between multiple sites to access their work network and files. They have evolved over the last decade and a unique version of VPN’s known as Proxy VPN’s have become very popular in recent years, for a variety of different reasons. Such as a way to circumvent regional restrictions on some websites such as Netflix which offer different content in different regions. 

These Proxy VPN’s are designed to create a securely encrypted data tunnel over any network to a secured remote proxy server, this hides all of your internet traffic over any network, including your home network and insecure Public WiFi networks. If you want to find out more about insecure Public WiFi networks we made a video on that here. [link to video] 

Proxy VPN’s come in both Free & Paid for services, however some VPN services, especially some free ones, do record internet traffic passed through their services. Meaning that your data is still being recorded. At One2Call we can offer you a variety of different VPN solutions to suit you or your business’s needs, and our services do not record any of your data, and you can be secure in the knowledge that all of your data is safe, secure and most importantlyyours. 

When installed on a home router you can set these Proxy VPN’s to completely encrypt all internet traffic on your network, hiding all this information from your internet service provider. Or on a particular device you can encrypt all internet traffic from that device. So, lets go back to our original question, 

Can you hide the internet traffic of what special gift you have been looking at buying for your partner? 

Yes! 

By using a combination of Private Browsing and Device based VPN you can create a secure encrypted connection from your device and no one on your network or your internet provider will be able to see what you have been looking at. 

If it is creating a secure connection back to your business from your home, on the go, from a secondary office or even protecting your employees on insecure networks, our consultants can advise you the best solution for your needs. 

If you want to find out how we can help your business with VPN Solutions or Web Traffic Monitoring then reach out to any of our consultants from the form below to find out more. 

We’ll also be producing more content on this and other tech topics in future, so be sure to subscribe to our socials and subscribe to Techsplained and TechBytes to be the first to know about future content. 

                              

We hope you have found this information useful. Leave us a comment over on our YouTube Channel to let us know what you think or to ask a question. 

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