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Supercookies and Recovering from Hacks

Marketing firms have long taken advantage of snooping technology to make tons of money. They use tracking software to spy on people’s online activities to gather information about their likes and habits. We of course are mostly unaware of this online tracking, because most of us would probably choose not to be tracked if they gave us a choice. Supercookies are one of the most popular ways to track people these days because there are already many types of software that help us defeat your run of the mill tracking cookies. These supercookies are very hard to beat, but worse than the tracking, they put us in danger by opening up our traffic to more malicious elements. Getting hacked is almost inevitable in this day and age without all the proper tools. But the good news is that we can learn to be prepared for a hack and know how to recover if it does happen.

How To Stay Safe from Supercookies

Advertisers are not going to relent when it comes to tracking Internet users. They make most of their money from the marketing research that they are able to put together from the data they scrape from the millions and billions of people online. They now use supercookies to learn what services we are likely to sign up for and what items we are looking at and purchasing at online stores. This makes them much better able to develop advertising spiels for their customers, the companies that provide various goods and services. So they need to keep tracking us to keep making money.

The supercookie is a tracking technology that uses a unique identifier, otherwise known as a header. This header is what allows marketing companies to see what pages we visit on the Internet, and how long we stay on each one. The cupercookie is also known as X-UIDH. This is the very same tracker that Verizon is using to track mobile Internet users. X-UIDH is part of the Relevant Mobile Advertising agenda of Verizon. All Verizon mobile users’ Internet traffic is tracked by this supercookie. The supercookie also monitors the apps that Verizon subscribers use on their phones. Verizon shares this information with marketers who in return send these Verizon users personalized ads. It is a very profitable arrangement that abuses customers. Even if as a Verizon customer you choose to opt out of the advertising plan, the supercookie stays with you. So technically it is still working to follow you around the Web, recording your every move.

The problem here is that X-UIDH is injected into Internet traffic at the network level. This means that anyone who is connected, even if they are not Verizon customers and even if they have never been Verizon customers, can be infected with the supercookie. One good thing is that only marketers who are connected with Verizon can use the supercookie. That is, as far as we know. Sooner or later someone will come up with a hack that can manipulate this cookie as all other cookies have been exploited in the past.

Supercookies cannot be deleted or easily tricked or even blocked. This is why users need a VPN service to stop it from tracking you. X-UIDH is embedded on the network that Verizon uses, so it is out of the users’ control. Only a VPN will prevent it from working because the VPN will encrypt the user’s traffic so it cannot be read. The network therefore cannot detect that connection as being a Verizon connection. The supercookie remains inactive and you can surf privately without worrying about your page visits being recorded and distributed to advertisers.

Recovering from a Hack

Supercookies are sometimes the original culprits when online accounts get hacked. This is because browsing details that should otherwise be private are sent unencrypted to third party advertisers. This data can very easily be picked up from the traffic stream by hackers and thieves who would then use it to get into personal online accounts and do a lot of damage. Of course, using a top VPN can also protect people from this because of the high encryption levels used to secure all the data of a person online, beginning with their original IP address that is linked to their name, phone number, address, and other personal information.

If you find one day that one of your online accounts has been hacked, don’t panic. The first thing you need to do is check on all your other online accounts to secure them. One compromised account can easily and very quickly lead to more accounts being compromised. The first step to regaining control of your hacked account and securing all your other accounts is to change your passwords. Don’t rush and use silly passwords, but take the time to develop new and even stronger passwords than you had before.

Next, you need to think carefully about the compromised account and what could have been done by the hacker by gaining access to the account. Does the culprit have access to financial information? Can the thief commit fraud using your identity? Think of anything that you use the account for and what information the hacker now has by having access to your account. Check also if your account was used to scam or infect other people with malware.

Finally, check your operating system and security software to make sure it is up to date and provides you with enough protection for the activities you engage in. Not just any old antivirus, proxy service, firewall or browser will keep you safe. You need quality software to protect you, and though it will cost some money, it is an investment that is well worth making.

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