Cybersecurity Advent – Day 19

Today’s Cybersecurity tip is: manage your privacy while browsing

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that your browsing habits are tracked regularly by multiple sites. If you look at your cookies in your browser of choice right now, there are probably hundreds to thousands of cookies stored there. Those cookies feed information back to their host about sites you’ve visited or preferences you’ve set for a specific site. Cookies aren’t inherently bad; but there are some sites that use cookies beyond their original intent or outright maliciously.

Some might be inclined to just turn off cookies in their browser. However, then you risk losing some of the benefits of cookies. A reasonable alternative is to use one of several browser plugins to help protect your privacy. My plugin of choice is Ghostery.

Ghostery is an easy-to-install browser plugin available for all the major browsers. Once installed, you will be walked through the setup. You will be asked a few questions in which you should consider your browsing habits and preferences about trackers. One of the last steps is to create an account in order to sync your settings across computers and browsers … I’ve never done this if I’m honest; I just set it up again since it’s so easy. But you do what is best for you.

Once you’re setup, you’ll have a little icon in your browser that will show you how many trackers and cookies are being blocked on a site. If you find a site isn’t working for some reason, they may have a cookie that is required for proper use. In that case, you can click on the ghost icon and pause Ghostery; reload the page and verify if it’s working or not. If that’s the case, then you can add that site as a “trusted site” and then resume Ghostery protection.

That’s really all there is to it. Now your browsing habits, sites you’ve visited, and any other online activities will be kept more private by having those trackers blocked. As I mentioned previously, Ghostery is a proprietary company, so they are likely anonymizing your data and monetizing it somehow. I’m okay with it because I receive a service from them for free and they’re up front in their privacy policies how they use your information. If you’re not alright with it, I recommend you find an open source alternative that has similar features.

See you tomorrow!