It's ok to admit--I won't tell anyone.

When you install software, you probably don't even read those terms and conditions. In fact, you're probably so desensitized to their presence that you hardly notice them, and you see them as a hindrance keeping you away from whatever game, app or website you're trying to enter.

Skipping past the privacy policies and terms and conditions is such a common occurrence that South Park dedicated an entire episode to point out how much companies try to get away with.

However, recently, there have been some glaring violations of privacy that are approaching malicious behavior--and in some cases, may indeed be criminal.

Here are some things to be aware of--and how you can protect yourself.

IoT Devices

While Google made the news recently for not disclosing it included a microphone in its Alexa-enabled Nest Thermostat, the real issue is that people are starting to be concerned about where those recordings go. Alarm company Ring recently had issues when it was disclosed that the feeds from their cameras are visible by Ring employees--whether you've signed up for monitoring services or not.

When you're purchasing a cloud-enabled device, that means that your data needs to go to a server somewhere for it to be processed. Before you activate it, do the research on who has access to it, and what they can do with it.

As such, many of these products may not be suitable for office use, especially if you have confidential meetings--no matter how cool they are.

Browser Plugins

There are a ton of useful scripts, add-ons and tools that work right in your browser--however, these have the potential to do some of the most harm to your computer. Once installed, an extension can run code that hijacks your browser, installs malware and does so usually undetected.

One easy way to stop this is to make sure that you only install plugins that have been updated recently, have updated Privacy Policies and a support site, and have a Content Security Policy. If not, move on.

Mobile Apps

When you're installing applications on a mobile device, you'll be asked to grant that app permissions for it to run properly. Some make sense--Instagram needs access to your camera and microphone. However, an increasingly large number of applications are requesting access to permissions far beyond what they need, and while safeguards are supposed to be in place to prevent applications from taking too much data, some can slip through.

To protect yourself from this, make sure you read all the permissions an app is requesting when you install it--and if something doesn't make sense, refuse access, or don't install it. In most cases, apps will still function normally.

And lastly, remember those Terms and Conditions we were talking about? Whenever you're installing anything new, it helps to take at least a quick glance at them. For help understanding them better, use Tosdr.org--which summarizes any site's T&C into an easily understood checklist.

At least this way, when you find a video of your late-night snack raid on the internet, you'll know why!

Published on: Mar 1, 2019
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