By Ashley Leonard, President & CEO of Verismic Software
Technology advancements from social media to virtual reality are transforming the way individuals interact, share information, conduct business and access entertainment. One of the most disruptive innovations is the ubiquity of the smartphone and mobile devices such as tablets. In a report from Flurry Insight, a Yahoo-owned analytics firm, time spent on all mobile devices surged by 117 percent from 2014 to 2015. Much of the activity comes from apps. According to Flurry, app activity grew by 58 percent in 2015, accounting for “the average U.S. consumer spending 198 minutes per day inside apps compared to 168 minutes on TV.” If mobile web browsing is included in the calculation, the average American spends three hours and 40 minutes per day on mobile devices.
This means a significant amount of reading, shopping, banking and streaming video is occurring. According to Flurry, “in 2014 app stores generated $21 billion (USD), and 2015 in-app purchases are expected to exceed $33 billion.”
It also means that a massive amount of user information is exchanged, tracked and disseminated. This lack of anonymity can lead to loss of privacy and identity, financial theft, and unsecure data and files. Here are five apps and technology solutions for remaining more anonymous in the digital world.
One of the most common practices on the Internet is searching. Although engines such as Google and Bing provide the information you need when you need it, they also monitor user behavior including what sites are visited and search histories. This personalized information is then shared with third parties including advertisers and businesses. An interesting alternative are search engines that do not track or exchange search data. One of the most popular is DuckDuckGo, a service that promises not to track user searches, or collect and share any personal information. The company, founded in 2008, has surpassed 10 million searches a day in 2015. DuckDuckGo also offers a mobile app named a Top 50 iPhone App of 2013 by Time Magazine.
The storage of proprietary information is increasingly a focus of business, and with more information moving to the cloud there’s an increased concern with its protection. Services such as Dropbox and iCloud are well known, but Box is a service that adds layers of encryption and security to the storage platform. According to the company, “over 39 million people and 50,000 organizations – including over 52 percent of the Fortune 500” utilize Box technologies.
Purchases and Payments
Consumers are increasingly using devices to conduct transactions. Not only is this a convenient means of purchasing, but is also more secure than debit or credit cards. According to Accenture, Apple Pay is the dominant player in mobile payments accounting for 68 percent of U.S transactions. The innovation behind Apple Pay is that credit or debit card numbers are never stored on the iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch, rather in each transaction the software creates a unique identification number. This method along with the user authenticating the device with their passcode, provides an enhanced level of payment security, as card data is never transmitted and merchants never have access to the actual credit or debit information.
Stuck in Traffic
One of the biggest anonymity concerns in the digital sphere is traffic analysis, which allows authorized and unauthorized third parties to monitor user activity across networks. This type of surveillance is a significant threat to privacy and security, as the sites and individual visits can be viewed, and those sites can determine the physical location of the user.
One of the most effective methods of avoiding traffic analysis is the use of a secure network called Tor, originally designed in cooperation with the U.S. Navy to provide secure information exchange.
Tor prevents traffic analysis by pinging users’ communications across multiple places on the Internet opposed to simple one-to-one information routing. The technology works primarily by disguising the path of data flow. Those monitoring the knowledge exchange will have a greater difficulty identifying a data packet’s header which discloses source, destination, size, timing, and other critical information.
Passwords can be taken and used by others to invade privacy, and steal identity and property. Users have many passwords for financial accounts, email, shopping sites and dozens of others, and any one can be compromised. The solution? A password manager service such as 1Password, which protects all passwords under the umbrella of one master password that only the user knows. All information is secure through encryption and across all devices. A user’s online security is even safer with the protection of a management software solution that integrates and guards the digital information, which an individual chooses. 1Password offers 18 information templates including social security, bank account numbers, driver’s license information, notes and rewards programs.
The digital universe is growing rapidly. Information is exchanged in larger quantities at faster speeds over more devices. The International Data Corporation estimated that 14 billion devices are connected to the Internet as of 2014, and the digital space holding 4.4 trillion gigabytes is doubling every two years, set for 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020.
Individuals need to be aware that their valuable and personal information is at risk. The use of innovative solutions can develop a more secure presence of anonymity in an evolving technology sphere.
This article was originally featured on engadget.com.