Network administrators, cybersecurity analysts and watchdogs use a variety of different tools to monitor Internet traffic. Deep packet inspection is one of the types of tools that has proven to be highly effective over the past few years. However, this type of technology has also raised some very valid concerns about digital privacy.
Consumers must understand the risks that deep packet inspection poses to their privacy and take reasonable steps to safeguard it. They should begin by understanding the technology behind deep packet inspections and take appropriate steps. Here is a brief overview.
What are deep packet inspections?
In the past, firewalls and other network security technology had limited analytical capabilities. When they were trying to filter, inspect or redirect traffic, they were restricted to evaluating the packet headers.
Packet inspection technology has evolved over the past decade. Modern firewalls are able to inspect large blocks of code in packets to get more detailed understandings of the web traffic accessing their networks. Watchdogs, ISPs and other organizations can use the same technology to monitor Internet users within their regions as well.
Deep packet inspections give these administrators much more nuanced insights into the behavior of these users. Unfortunately, as this methodology becomes more widely used, consumer privacy is going to be at risk.
Deep packet inspection poses a very serious threat to consumer privacy
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has highlighted a number of concerns about the packet inspection. They stated that online privacy laws are inadequate measures for ensuring customer privacy. Also, existing laws governing the use of deep packet inspections are routinely broken. According to one finding they published last year, government officials at the European Union regularly violated privacy laws restricting the application of deep packet inspections. Although courts found these officials derelict in their responsibilities to shield consumer privacy, there is a little indication that they are going to change their behavior.
The EPIC also stated that deep packet inspections have curtailed privacy rights in the United States as well. This has led customers to take new steps, such as using a VPN for Windows for extra security. Their sentiment is shared by a security expert that published a post with the Institute for Advanced Studies.
“This sounds benign, but in reality, it is a huge invasion in privacy. This means that they now have access to your credit card and bank account information, your health records and the funny picture of your dog you just privately shared with your significant other. And they did it without telling you that they were going to do it. As a user, this upsets me. As a security professional, setting up one of these systems might lead to the erosion of trust with my users. We have been saying for years that the major problem with computer security isn’t the computers, it’s the lack of knowledge of the human operating the computer.”
How can Internet users protect their privacy from deep packet inspections?
As deep packet inspection technology becomes more widely used, consumers are going to need to look for new ways to protect their online privacy. They could consider using a VPN.
VPNs are able to encrypt web packets to ensure ISPs, publishers and watchdogs are unable to see sensitive details with deep packet inspection. Most ISPs have the technology to block VPNs if they wanted, but they rarely take these measures. They recognize that consumers are becoming more interested in protecting their privacy and are unlikely to take such draconian steps, otherwise they would risk losing a lot of users. Publishers can’t take the steps as easily. Public officials have less control over them than ISPs.
There are other steps that you can take to safeguard your privacy, including using different devices to connect to various publishers. However, VPNs remain the single best option available in 2019.