Block Your ISP from Collecting your Data
With most people being forced to work from home in the past few weeks, having a private and secure home network has become more critical than ever. During this time, it’s essential to understand what data your ISP has access to and what you can do about it. In this week’s Zlog, we’ll talk about some of the most common reasons why ISP’s track their users and share with you some quick tips on how you can block your ISP from spying on your online activities.
Why do ISPs Track Users?
There are many reasons why different ISPs track their users. Here are the most common ones:
- Information Retention– Many governments around the globe require ISPs that operate within their jurisdiction to monitor and collect customer data. These activities are often presented as necessary in the fight against crime and terrorism. But, as Edward Snowden revealed, ISPs can also use data tracking to monitor the activities of millions of online users easily, without any reason.
- Monitoring of Torrenting Activities– In line with the previous reason, some countries deem P2P file-sharing illegal and have strictly defined fines. For that, every ISP that operates in a country with such laws must monitor user activity to identify any torrenting activities. If they find out anything, they are obliged by law to send the data to an appropriate agency that then targets the user with a legal action or fines.
- Extra Income– Some ISPs collect user data so that they can sell it to interested third parties. While this seems like a very unethical thing to do, surprisingly, it is entirely legal in a lot of countries, including the US. The most common buyers are advertisers who use this data to create targeted ads for specific demographics.
- Bandwidth Throttling– We’ve covered this phenomenon in great detail in one of our previous blogs. In short, bandwidth throttling is when your ISP purposively slows down your internet connection. This can be to prevent server crashes when there are a lot of users or simply to boost profits at the expense of the user experience. More specifically, an ISP may throttle your bandwidth on specific sites, which means that they need to monitor your traffic to do so.
What Data Can The ISP See?
If you like to keep your browsing privacy on the hush-hush, you won’t like this part. In short, everything you do on the Internet is monitored and logged by your Internet Service Provider. Since your ISP provides you with your Internet, it’s easy to understand that everything that you do online goes through their servers and is, in most cases, logged into their database. Here are just some of the most
- Session times and dates
- Your physical location (on both desktop and mobile devices)
- Information that’s shared on unencrypted websites and messaging platforms
- Online searches and downloaded files
How to Block your ISP from Tracking You
If you’re a privacy-conscious online user who’s uneasy with such a significant level of access your ISP has on you, here are the four most effective ways on how to stop them in their tracks:
Use a VPN
Using a VPN is the most effective way to block your ISP from spying on you. You can set it up for every device in your household and protect every bit of data your upload or download from the Internet. Since the VPN encrypts your data and sends it through a remote server, your ISP won’t be able to see any of your online activities or collect any of your sensitive data.
Tor is an encrypted browser specifically designed to provide users with maximum privacy and anonymity. Just like a VPN, Tor encrypts your information by sending it through secure servers, making it very hard for ISPs to track where the original traffic is coming from. With this said, although it will help you block your ISP from collecting your data, keep in mind that Tor only works for your browser, unlike a VPN, which protects every bit of information you share with the Internet.
HTTPS is the most basic way to encrypt your network connection and partially block your ISP from spying on you. It will be able to encrypt the data sent between you and the site you visit, but the ISP will still be able to see some information. When you use HTTPS, your ISP will still be able to see which websites you visit, when you visit them and how much data you’ve downloaded. While this isn’t enough to get you in trouble when torrenting, you’ll still be much safer if you opt for a VPN or Tor.
Use a Proxy
This is not that common of a privacy tool but is still a very effective method in blocking your ISP from collecting data on your online activities. Using a proxy will help you access geo-restricted content and avoid bandwidth throttling from your ISP. However, since proxies don’t encrypt your traffic like VPNs, you’re still vulnerable to specific online attacks and monitoring attempts.