Privacy and security on the internet are gaining much more attention and awareness than they did in the past. Formerly, most computer users were simply not educated on the topics enough to effectively browse the web securely, while others simply didn’t want to take the time to learn. But today, the majority of computer users are aware due to more education, as well as more awareness being spread. However, when you go to search through Google, do you think your browsing is secure?
Secure browsing without a Google account
Many people believe that as long as they don’t have a Google account, then performing searches on Google is more secure. Actually, searches performed without a Google account are less secure as they do not use SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption by default. It is possible to perform searches using SSL but you will have to manually type in the secure URL such as https://google.com before SSL will be activated. This can be a hassle and it is very possible that you will forget to type it in on occasion, especially when you are in a hurry.
If you are not familiar with secure browsing, you may ask- so what? Well, when you are browsing without using SSL, your queries are passed on to the site you are visiting. This site can then easily identify you using your IP address and the associated Google search query that brought you there.
Browsing on an unsecured Wi-Fi network
Another problem arises when you are using a Wi-Fi connection that is unsecured, such as the Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, local restaurant or even a friend’s house. Practically anyone with a little knowledge can “sniff” any unencrypted information that is sent over that Wi-Fi connection. There are even tools that can help people without any programming knowledge at all to be able to steal information, one such example is a Firefox plugin called Firesheep. There are a number of more complex wireless scanners, called “sniffers,” on various websites across the internet. The process for using these programs can be easily learned, thus any unsecured wireless connection should not be used to send any identifiable, confidential or sensitive information. Using SSL encryption can help prevent sniffers from gaining information from the wireless network.
Create a Google account without Gmail
If you don’t feel like manually typing in the secure URL every time you search on Google, you may be thinking that the only possibility is for you to create a Google account, and take all the Google services that come with it, such as Gmail. You are probably thinking “I don’t want to have a Gmail account!” Well, Google does have a way for you to create a Google account WITHOUT HAVING GMAIL!
The process is quite simple. Just go to https://accounts.google.com/SignUpWithoutGmail, enter your existing email address and create an account.
An added benefit of creating a Google account is that now you can enable two-factor (also known as two-step) authentication in Google and then you can use Google OpenId, which is a much more secure method of creating accounts through a variety of web services.
Now you have the comfort of secure browsing any time you perform searches on Google without being forced to have a Gmail account with it. Security and privacy are important issues and should be taken seriously. Hopefully you will find this little tip useful, it could potentially prevent an identity theft or worse.