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Online privacy and the Coronavirus

We can all agree the coronavirus already had a huge impact on our lives. But what none of us can afford is for our online privacy to be completely destroyed.

facebook profiles under a magnifying glass for facial recognition
Image: Pixabay

Cybercriminals are sharp-eyed and ready to jump on any easily exploited weakness to make money. And as the governments of the world continue experimenting their way through the coronavirus response, there are far more risks to online privacy than most people are aware of.

Even worse, it’s more than just online scams and the new coronavirus-themed ransomware. Let’s get digging. 

Big Brother’s Watching You…

In early April, we published a post revealing how Google is using location data to track the world’s population. While that’s really nothing new, the company did say it was going to be using that data to help public health officials understand how the coronavirus is spreading.

Facebook is actually doing the same. And while both companies claim to anonymize that data before it’s handed over to the authorities, neither of them boast good track records there.

This raises some serious questions regarding the ethics of corporations effectively spying on us. Granted, you could argue this rather blatant breach of our online privacy is for the greater good…

However, Mandee Rose of VPN comparison site TheVPNShop.com, says “Given the history of global surveillance, government overreach, and inadequate security, you can’t afford to trust them to protect your online privacy.” 

The New Apps Making it Easier to Spy on You

Back in March, the White House was already admitting to talking with companies about how to use your phone to track you. More recently, the MIT Technology Review published a post detailing how many apps are already being used around the world for this same purpose.

By the end of May, North Dakota had become the first US state to launch official “coronavirus contact tracing” apps. Emphasis on the plural form – one app uses location tracking and a second uses Bluetooth.

Online Privacy Concerns with Other Government Sites

If you thought that was the end of it, think again – because the (still relatively new) IRS coronavirus stimulus check portal, Get My Payment, is a whirlwind of online privacy and security concerns too.

The complaints made about the portal’s usability already raised concerns of cybersecurity issues such as:

  • Broken authentication systems
  • Unvalidated redirects
  • Injection flaws and/or cross-site scripting
  • Sensitive data exposure

These are all among the most common cybersecurity flaws allowing cybercriminals to steal user information. And with a site like Get My Payment, that information includes your Social Security number, date of birth, and address.

Remote Work

Another area that poses cybersecurity risks for businesses especially is the need for increased remote work in the coronavirus economy.

While we’d all like to think everyone is relatively savvy when it comes to online privacy, the truth is human error is an incredibly common way hackers are able to steal sensitive data. It’s worth making sure your employees have at least a foundational understanding of how online privacy works.

One of the most important steps you can and should take is to make sure all your employees who are working remotely are using a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). It’s so fundamental that we recently posted an article explaining why you should always use a VPN to protect your cybersecurity!

As we explained there, it’s important for you to read different VPN reviews before deciding on the right one for you. But to help get you started, here are some suggestions for the best overall VPN providers:

  • CyberGhost
  • ExpressVPN
  • NordVPN
  • Surfshark VPN
  • VPN Area

Conclusion

We can all agree the coronavirus already had a huge impact on our lives. And it would be folly to think it won’t continue to have an effect on things like the economy for the foreseeable future.

But what none of us can afford is for our online privacy to be completely destroyed.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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