No matter if you had password protected your laptop and kept every data secured from your wife, husband or another family member.
ISP can see everything!!
- Websites you visit, when you visit it, and the time you spend there.
- Your emails and its contents
- Torrenting and streaming stuff
- Your Bitcoin transactions
Your emails account passwords, and financial credentials, all is visible to your internet provider if you still haven’t encrypted your traffic.
Between you and your internet, it is your ISP who handles everything and keep an eye on your browsing history. In short, they know the website you visit, when you visit the site, and the time you pass there.
Bitcoin transactions are visible too.
Let’s see what things your ISP can see if your traffic is unencrypted. Also, find a solution for your concerned exposed data.
When and Why Your ISP Track You
ISP tracking is not a sudden thing, and your service provider is not monitoring your traffic without any purpose. With the DNS query resolving process, your ISP gets to know every website you visit as soon as you enter the URL into the search box.
There could be two main reasons for ISP tracking your browsing history.
- The laws of the country or region you are living in.
- Net-Neutrality rules (ISP want to promote their own services and to display ads according to your browsing preference).
Country Laws Regarding Citizen Privacy
Although every country has some regulations regarding citizen privacy which include the online data processing clauses and details too, these laws could be present in different forms with different names.
Some countries have lenient laws which don’t force ISPs to keep user data (instead of some suspicious individuals). But, many countries maintain laws with the rules to keep user data for a certain period. This period may vary among the regions. A popular kind of such regulation is, “data retention law” which is in the rule in many countries around the world.
It is probable that your country has net-neutrality rules which promote equal right to every content without favoring or prioritizing anyone. However, ISPs still do such activities without acknowledging users.
Sadly, if you are living in the US, then your ISP can openly sell user data and prioritizing content after the repeal of net-neutrality rules.
ISPs can profit from user data and traffic in many ways. But, the prominent ways are;
- Through selling your data and browsing preference to third-party organizations in exchange for money. Almost all of the individuals have experienced the popup ads while browsing. But the thing to notice is that commonly these ads match our previous searches. For instance, if you are looking for a T-shirt, the next day your screen will have a display of any popup ad with tagline “cool T-shirts at a low price” or any other attracting phrase.
- They are promoting their own services to get more traffic. For instance, if your ISP see that you stream videos on YouTube, then it is possible that they show you their own video streaming website higher in results.
What ISP Can See When Your Traffic is Unencrypted
1- Passwords and Details of Website You Visit
If you visit an unencrypted website, i.e., HTTP version, your ISP will get the exact name of that site. For instance, you visit an online shopping website, create an account or log in to the existing account, and purchased anything. Now, your ISP will get the website name, the thing you purchased, account password and other details, and the payment information (if you entered any).
2- Your Personal Emails
There are two conditions when your ISP could see all of your email content.
- When you are using an email provider which is not using Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption.
- If you are using the ISP email service.
Most likely, you fall into one of these conditions.
How to get rid?
Use an email provider with TLS encryption. For instance, STARTTLS which is a popular secure email service from EFF. But, you should know that the email provider can see your emails.
Also, some services like Google Mail symbolize a threat with a small red lock if TLS is not correctly used by any recipient or sender. To resolve the issue, you can ask for another email or notify the recipient.
(VPN could get this resolve most efficiently)
3- Torrenting and Streaming Stuff (Reason of ISP Throttling)
Many of you might be aware of perils if you get exposed while torrenting. Your sensitive details such as location and IP are visible to many people while you torrent and your ISP has more stuff to look at.
Even if you are torrenting legal stuff, your ISP is likely to throttle your internet speed due to many reasons. Commonly they throttle to remove load from their servers.
Also, you can get notices from your ISP.
4- Bitcoin Transactions
Despite the common perception of Bitcoin transaction being anonymous, your ISP can easily spot Bitcoin usage in certain conditions.
For instance, if you are an ordinary Bitcoin client sending standard and unique formatted unencrypted messages to well-constructed TCP ports, your ISP can get you.
Your ISP can easily predict that a transaction is created by you by looking at the traffic you send out, but it is not received by someone else.
ISP Vision – When Your Data is Encrypted
Have you encrypted all your traffic? If yes, you are secure from hackers, snoopers and ISP looking at your exact data.
But, still, there is a chance of ISP snooping.
Although your ISP cannot know the exact data after encryption, they can still trace the unencrypted metadata to infer your browsing patterns and practices. ISP can make strong predictions through noticing the size, frequency and the timings of traffic patterns.
A study revealed that a YouTube video has a particular pattern when you stream it on your device. Therefore, ISPs can get to the exact video if they want to do so.
For most of the people, it is okay if their exact data is protected and ISP is getting just you routine browsing patterns. But in some cases, your data can get exposed too. A study on IoT devices states;
“An ISP or other network observers can infer privacy sensitive in-home activities by analyzing Internet traffic from smart homes containing commercially-available IoT devices.”
Therefore, a VPN encryption (which is secure and makes it almost impossible for ISP to spot the device you are using) could be undermined if you have one IoT device or various devices sending out scattered traffic.
How to Block ISP Tracking – Useful and Easy Preventions
Now when you are completely aware of ISP tracking, I am sure you are curious about knowing the ways to stop ISP from tracking you.
Luckily, there are effective ways to get rid of this situation and the privacy threats linked to ISP tracking. However, you should keep in mind that not every method provide you with complete protection.
The ways I am going to discuss with you could work well in combination with another solution or could be enough alone.
Let’s find out.
- Browsing HTTPS Websites only, ensures that the data inside that particular website is encrypted before transferring. You can use HTTPS everywhere plugin to make sure the websites you visit are encrypted (have HTTPS in the URL).
- Using a VPN is a solution to stop every kind of tracking discussed above, and you don’t need to implement any other solution. This is because the VPN tool is designed to encrypt all the internet traffic of every app, every website (HTTP also), and other traffic going towards the internet.
Make sure a VPN you are selecting supports torrenting and has a kill switch (to prevent identity expose while VPN connection drops). You can go for NordVPN which has advanced privacy features, torrenting support (with kill switch), and US Netflix access too.
- Tor (Onion Routing) is also a way to anonymize your browsing history. But, it is important to mention that because of the wide network of virtual tunnels and numerous nodes, you will face obvious speed degradation.
- Adjust your DNS settings to a third-party DNS (if you are using VPN, it will automatically set the anonymous VPN DNS server). Setting change is necessary because most of the devices are using ISP DNS to resolve the DNS query. Popular choices for third-party DNS providers are OpenDNS and GoogleDNS.
- Use an email provider with TLS encryption (this will only secure your email content). For instance, STARTTLS which is a popular secure email service from EFF. But, you should know that the email provider can see your emails. Also, some services like Google Mail symbolize a threat with a small red lock if TLS is not correctly used by any recipient or sender. To resolve the issue, you can ask for another email or notify the recipient.
Is Your ISP Spying You?
The simple answer is, YES!
It is not that they have set any surveillance team or entities who are continuously tracking your browsing history, but they are getting a lot of information which you haven’t realized yet.
There are some scary aspects of the ISP spying which I have mentioned above in the article. And, every ISP is into the business in one or other way, it could be cookie placement, data selling to third-party organizations, and device settings for hidden spying.
Make sure to have a prevention or else be prepared for privacy loss.