“Jane, did you know that your online surfing habits are visible to your ISP?” “Yeah, I’ve heard about it. But they can’t see EVERYTHING I do, can they?” People generally don’t give a thought to ISP tracking, assuming that ISPs can’t see everything. The truth is that your ISP can see all that you do online. This includes everything from your emails and passwords, downloads, streaming, to all that you ask Google.
Your Internet Traffic Is Handled By Your ISP
Your entire Internet traffic is handled by your ISP so they can easily monitor your online activities. They can even gather your private information. By just analyzing your search habits, they can figure out your interests. This data can then be sold to third party advertisers.
While you might think that you have nothing to hide, the truth is that your information can be used against you if it falls into the wrong hands. If you are a privacy conscious person, you will not want your ISP to keep a tab on your internet activities. The only way you can prevent the authorities (and hackers) from seeing your online traffic is to encrypt it.
What Your ISP Can See
Here is an overview of what your ISP can see when your traffic isn’t encrypted.
The URLs of All the Sites You Visit and Your Login Details
If you visit an unencrypted site that uses HTTP instead of HTTPS, your ISP can see all that you do on that site. It can find out all the URLs you visit, you login details (including your password), and if you buy something, your ISP can also see your payment information. However, if the site uses HTTPS, your ISP can only see that you visited that site. It cannot see what you did on that site.
If you do financial transactions online, make sure that the sites you visit use HTTPS. Do not visit websites with invalid or expired SSL certificates.
If you seek total privacy and anonymity, your best bet is to use a VPN service. A good VPN will encrypt all of your traffic and prevent your ISP from seeing what you are doing online.
If your email service does not use Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption, your ISP can easily read the content of your email. If you use an email provided by your ISP, there is nothing that they cannot see.
Using an email service with a TLS encryption is the solution to this problem. Some free email service providers do not use TLS. A paid email service is definitely the best option if you can afford it.
Do you use BitTorrent to download files from the internet? Even if you downloading legit and legal files, your ISP can monitor your torrenting activities. Your ISP probably isn’t concerned about the content of the files you download.
But if you do too much torrenting and use excessive bandwidth, they may throttle your download speeds to stop you. Using a VPN is the easiest and safest way to prevent your ISP from keeping tabs on your torrenting activity.
Your Bitcoin Transactions
Ordinary Bitcoin clients are more likely to send unencrypted messages to TCP ports. This allows your ISP to find out whether you use Bitcoin. Here again, using a good VPN is the safest way to hide your Bitcoin transactions from your ISP.
What If Your Data is Encrypted?
If all of your internet traffic is encrypted, your ISP cannot see much. However, your encrypted web data is followed by unencrypted metadata and your ISP can analyze it. Using this information, they cannot find out which site you visited or what action you performed on those sites.
However, from the size, timing, and frequency of your Internet traffic patterns, they can make some strong guesses. Studies have shown that even encrypted traffic gives a lot of information about your online activities.
For example, each Youtube video has a specific traffic pattern when it is streamed to you. By simply checking this traffic pattern, your ISP can find out which video you are watching. If you use internet on multiple devices, connecting them all through a VPN-enabled router will make it nearly impossible for your ISP to find out which device you are using at what time.
Another smart strategy is to ensure that you have constant traffic coming in and going out of your home. This way you can avoid traffic spikes that will alert your ISP.
VPN for Anonymous Browsing
There are several tools you can use to hide what you are doing online from your ISP. Tor, VPN, and proxies all prime example. A virtual private network, or VPN, is by far the best, and most secure, tool you can use to prevent your ISP from tracking your browsing activities. Follow these steps to prevent your ISP from tracking you online.
- First, sign up with a VPN service like ExpressVPN.
- Then download their VPN app to your laptop or smartphone.
- Once that is done, launch the app, sign in, and connect to a VPN server from within the application.
- All your Internet traffic will now be securely encrypted.
What Can Your ISP See? Final Thoughts
Do you still use the unencrypted internet? Without a VPN, your online usage is easy to monitor. Any hacker with the basic knowledge of hacking can read your data packets as they flow through your system. When you buy a VPN service, make sure you read the reviews to find out the best and the most reliable VPNs. When you’re protected by a good VPN, your ISP will not be able to see any of your data.