Cybersecurity Insight

Everyone Can See Your User Data

11 Aug

When sharing user data, companies big and small are scattered across the board on this somewhat divisive issue. Some might release access to what links are the most popular, and others could go as far as communicating the general age range and geographic locations of each user. Unfortunately, many users are unaware that any of this is taking place unless they read through a lot of fine print. Many companies – Netflix most recently – have updated their websites to include secure browsing for their users, but there are still websites that will send your data on an unsecured path.

On a very general level, one way that almost all companies secure their websites can be seen through the “HTTP” or “HTTPS” denotation. The acronyms stand for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure, to be exact, and show whether the user data transferred between the browser and the website that you’re interacting with is encrypted. Most companies have a secure protocol in place on their website, not to mention a number of browsers will warn the user if they are traveling to a site that is not secure. TLS (implemented this month by Netflix) stands for Transport Layer Security; a lot of people also refer to it as its predecessor’s name, SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer.

Netflix has used HTTPS connections for some time, so what makes the recent addition of TLS any different? Well, Transport Layer Security ensures the security of the data traveling between the servers and the browser. This addition is significant for anyone using a streaming service or even trying to get information stored in an external server. If a user is trying to view information, whether it’s a simple video or something more protected, up until Netflix instated TLS their information was flying free from the Netflix servers to the user’s browser. Think your binge watching smorgasbord of “The Real World” is safe from lecherous advertisers? Think again.

At the end of the day, so long as you’re viewing content over a secure protocol and have a protected Internet signal (think password protected or a modem router), the extra security from Netflix is a great addition and keeps your user data safe. Now, from a company perspective it’s absolutely something to consider if not solely to show your customers, both current and perspective, that you care about their online browsing privacy. There will always be outside parties lurking in wait, hoping to snatch any and all data they can that isn’t guarded. But when companies take the time to truly safeguard a user’s information, they improve their standing with the customer, and the overall user experience.