To know about the things that your ISP knows about you and how do they know it, you first need to know about certain important terms like: ISP, Internet Traffic, http, https and VPN.
ISP stands for Internet Service Provider, which is a company or an organisation that provides Internet Access. It also provides its customers Internet email accounts, with numerous email addresses, at customer’s discretion.
- Internet Traffic:
Internet Traffic is simply the data that flows across the internet. The total internet traffic cannot be measured because there is no single point the measure the same, but an individual’s traffic can be measured by the amount of data received and sent by the visitor on a particular website.
- HTTP and HTTPS
HTTP is Hyper Text Transfer Protocol where as HTTPS is Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. It is a protocol that allows data to be sent to and fro from your browser and the website you are connected to. Earlier the communication between your browser and the website you were connected to were not encrypted, but the ‘S’ in HTTPS, ensures that now your communication is encrypted from end to end.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, which is a connection method that adds security to your networks: public or private, like WiFi Hotspots and Internet. VPN is mainly used by corporations to protect their sensitive data. There are a lot of VPN tools in the market like ExpressVPN, IPVanish, Surfshark and so many more. Make sure you choose the right one for your organization.
What does your ISP really know about you?
- Your Personal and Sensitive Information:
If the websites that you visit are unencrypted, i.e., they use HTTP instead of HTTPS as their protocol, your ISP can know about the website you visit and the personal details that you provide in that website, for instance, your credit card details, your username and password, etc. But is you use HTTPS, your ISP will only know that you have visited the particular website and not the information which you provide in that website.
- Your Metadata:
Metadata is the set of data that gives information about other data. Even if the websites you visit are encrypted, your ISP can still know your metadata, which is unencrypted. Even if they don’t know about the traffic of your website, they can look at the metadata and make strong inferences about the nature of the website, your frequency of visits and your timing pattern.
- Your Emails:
Most people do not even know that their emails are not fully encrypted. Just having a password does not encrypt your emails. If you do not have a Transport Layer Security encryption, your ISP can see all your email contents and if your ISP is the one providing you email services, then they definitely can.
- Your Day-to Day Online Routine:
Even if your Internet Traffic is encrypted, your ISP can still learn a lot about you. They can find your Youtube’s unique traffic pattern of streaming videos on your device, and if they want, they can also find the exact video you are watching. They can also grab all your information through smart devices, like Alexa, and can undermine your privacy by analyzing Internet traffic from them.
What you need to do?
- Use HTTPS: Always Check that your website uses the HTTPS protocol, which ensures that the website is safe and your information is encrypted from end to end. It uses SSL(Secure Socket Layer) to secure or encrypt the data that is being transferred from the browser to the website.
- TLS encryption: Use only those email service that has TLS( Transport Layer Security) encryption. It uses strong message authentication , key-material generation and other encryption algorithms, to prevent eavesdropping, tampering and message forgery. It provides end to end communication security which protects your online transaction details and internet communication details.
- Use VPN: if you want to prevent your ISP from knowing your internet activity, use VPN for securing your IP addresses. It helps you avoid censorship block, hide physical location, encrypt data between computer and VPN servers and does not log your browsing history. Any application running under the VPN network helps in building the security, functionality and strength of the private network.
- Scramble your pattern: if you do not want your ISP to know about your day to day routine, just scramble your activity pattern by sometimes randomly visiting new websites or stream new kind of videos. For example, make sure that you constantly provide internet traffic even if you are not present at your home, when using smart devices. Play something irrelevant and mute it while you are doing some other work. This will make it difficult for your ISP to detect your daily pattern of online streaming.