A survey from the Pew Research Center conducted in April 2020, found out that about half (53%) of U.S. adults said the Internet has been essential for staying put during the lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
People at home can work online, use the Internet for education, homeschool their kids, communicate through videoconferencing, entertainment, and more.
More than ever, the Internet has been vital for many people to go through this pandemic. But at the same time, people are also beginning to wonder about the privacy crisis, freedom of speech concerns, data security, censorship, etc.…
COVID-19 Surveillance and Internet privacy.
The ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic has brought new surveillance and privacy concerns to the table from mobile users complaining that the Government is tracking mobiles to monitor movement to some cases of hijacked video conferencing session rooms.
Although personal data collection (such as movement and location) from third-parties or Government could help reduce the spread of the COVID-19, the mere invasion of privacy makes a lot of people upset.
Aside from a noticeable lower Internet performance, the COVID-19 global pandemic has led to a series of impactful and suspicious maneuvers.
For example, NetBlocks, the digital rights and Internet governance agency, reported weird Internet outages in Wuhan during certain nights at the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Strange right? But that wasn’t all…
The Surf Shark VPN also reported that their infrastructure deployed in Iran faced a big connection dropoff of 50% after the pandemic was officially declared. And the Farsi version of Wikipedia was “blocked” in Iran for an entire day.
But Big Brother is not the only one to blame. Hackers, also at quarantine, also pose a big risk to data privacy.
Now, Hackers Have a Wider Playground.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there are more people online than ever before. Also, more companies are shifting their entire business models to e-commerce to survive the epidemic.
This hyper-connected multitude of users is also attracting the opportunistic, exploitative, and deceivers.
For example, the usage of videoconferencing applications has exploded in the last couple of months. Work-colleagues, friends, and family are using applications that allow large group calls. Although Zoom, the most popular video conferencing tool, guaranteed that their app uses end-to-end encryption, countries such as Taiwan have banned their government agencies from using the application for sensitive security matters.
More than ever, hackers are present everywhere, and they are smarter and more sophisticated.
For example, there have also been tons of accusations of government-backed hackers racing to spy and breach the Coronavirus vaccine research centers.
So, what can we do amid these uncertain times?
What To Do?
There are three things you can do to protect from internet privacy.
- Update your systems. Your unpatched computer or smartphone is a gateway for hackers. There are tons of websites online where hackers meet to share vulnerabilities of systems. If you have been skipping that annoying update message, it is time to update all your Internet-connected equipment.
- Use a VPS to connect remotely. Virtual Private Servers (VPSs) provide a higher level of privacy as compared with VPNs, which sometimes keep browsing logs. VPSs operate independently from your local internet provider, have the bandwidth, and work under a different location with flexible jurisdiction. VPSs also serve as online platforms to set up your VPN, create streaming media libraries, or download content.
- Build up your suspicious skills. The web is filled up with misinformation, fake news, and phishing scams. Beware of what you click and check the source of information. Even Google collects data. If you are not comfortable by Google tracking your location information and history of searches, change the privacy settings on your Google account.