How does my mobile phone know I like tools, electronic gadgets and tarantulas? It keeps showing me ads for these products! Christmas is coming and my kids like bugs, big bugs.
How does it know? It’s called “supercookies”. And they aren’t yummy.
If Verizon is your carrier, that’s why. Verizon uses a “unique identifier token header” for every website the user visits. There are cookies that tag along with the user wherever they go in cyberspace. Advertisers gorge on these cookies because they tell them what products to advertise for each unique person.
You can opt out of Verizon’s program, but this won’t prevent the UIDH (this a Unique Identifier Header) from being stamped on any site you visit and then be visible to a web server.
Even Android’s and iOS’s systems can’t supersede the UIDH system. The UIDH HTTP header is not the same as a typical Internet cookie. This is a lot to digest, it is what it is.
At present, there is no opt-out technology to truly eradicate what some consider spying, and it won’t be around soon, either. And look for AT&T to think possibilities by adopting this UIDH system to track their subscribers’ web journeys.
Though there’s no opt-out-like feature to stop this, there is a way to block it: VPN (virtual private network). Some smartphones have a VPN mode; once activated it will make the user anonymous. I like Hotspot Shield (HSS), which works on Androids and iPhones, easy. And don’t twiddle your thumbs waiting for universal encryption; your toddler will be entering college by then.
If targeted ads (hey, maybe you just love those handbag adverts) don’t phase you, then consider this: Cyber thieves can get ahold of all the sensitive information you have in your phone and learn all sorts of things about you, including any sordid details. Or maybe they just want to steal your identity to drain your bank account. Everyone is being watched by everybody.
Should you worry? That all depends. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is worried. They no likey.
This is where the VPN comes in, especially if you use public Wi-Fi, which is not encrypted. HSS, which is free, will protect your data. There’s also an upgraded version that you pay for; it’s faster. Either version will guard your Internet activities from prying eyes.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.