It was a long time ago now when browsing the web was a newfound thing, and of course that will be going back to the days of dial-up modems and all the other archaic stuff that we’ve been fortunate enough to leave far behind now. But as much as using the World Wide Web was more of an ordeal back then, the one thing it may have had going for it was it was a much safer and less risky endeavor. We certainly didn’t hear of malware, spyware, or -ware of pretty much any sort and we weren’t at risk of having our data stolen.
No one would suggest devolving when it comes to the Web given everything we use it for these days, and that sentiment is probably universal. For some though the way we’ve swayed to the other far end of the spectrum needs to be a concern, because cyber security risks are more ominous and more of a threat than ever before too. The way the Internet has evolved and continues to evolve is what makes these risks and threats possible in the same way it makes all of the ‘good’ possible too.
What we’re going to look at with our entry this week is research that suggests that upwards of three-quarters of websites are either stealing data, or have the capacity to do so. Here at 4GoodHosting we’re like any quality Canadian web hosting provider in that this is a subject that makes sense to be shared with our customers and those who might be here reading our blog. It’s fine to be reliant on the web safety protocols you either practice or already have in place for your device, but a question for you then – how much of the time are you on the web and NOT on your home Wi-Fi network?
Probably fairly often now, just like the rest of us. So let’s look at all of this in more detail and try to gauge just how much of a problem this is.
Wary of Search Bars
They may seem like nothing out of the ordinary and never a cause for concern, but seeing a search bar at the top of a webpage may need to be cause for caution now and in the future. See one, use it, and there is a chance that your personal information is in the process of being leaked. Leaked to who? Large networks of advertisers who are keen to get as much of your disposable income as possible. This is known as data crawling on the internet, and it’s happening with increasing frequency all the time.
So frequent in fact that research conducted by Norton Labs has come out with an estimate that more than 80% of websites you visit are sending your search queries to 3rd parties, and they’re given plenty of incentives to do that unfortunately. This security experiment crawled 1 million of the top websites on the net, and then once they’d used the internal site search feature on websites they tracked what happened with their searches. The results were a little shocking with how bad they were.
From what we can understand, the search term they used for each was ‘jellybeans’ and the idea behind that was to have search terms easily found in the network traffic. The results showed that with the top websites having internal site search, 81.3% of them were leaking search terms to 3rd party groups in one form or another.
And these are large, and large-profile websites we’re talking about here. For example, the report said that CNN is among them, and for networks we’re talking about giants like Google too. That end of it is probably less surprising, and who knows where the data goes from there when it’s the company behind the software itself that’s after your data. There is also the indication that there are more ways sites are acquiring and selling user data, but HTTP requests made that too muddy to determine exactly.
Policies Come Up Short
The last thing to say about this here is that privacy policies informing users of how data is collected / handled when they visit or search on the site aren’t anywhere near being entirely upfront about it. The estimate was that around only 13% of privacy policies made it clear that search terms could be collected and redistributed as data. Kats said. This makes it so that regular users are not in the know much at all with how their private data is handled based on the complicated wording usually found in privacy policies.
So what is the average person to do? The most straightforward piece of advice is to block 3rd-party trackers so that you are minimizing how much of your data is collected and then shared. You can set this up on Chrome, but some people already prefer browsers like Safari and Brave that have these tools built in. And then of course you have privacy-focused search engines such as DuckDuckGo or Brave Browser.