Locked smartphone indicates privacy

Privacy protection begins in one’s own (sub)network

At Conntac, we provide support for Internet access problems so that our clients’ customers can be online at all times. But more important than functioning internet access is the privacy and security of the users. And we take care of that too. For years we have been actively involved in the research and standardisation of Internet technologies and protocols.

Recently, a Request for Comment (RFC – the Internet Protocol Standards) was published describing how internet-enabled devices may be violating the privacy of their users without them being aware of it. The title of the RFC is “Privacy Considerations for Protocols Relying on IP Broadcast or Multicast” (RFC 8386) and was co-authored by Conntac team members.

The problem described by the RFC is that billions of devices use protocols that share information with other devices on the same local area network (LAN), e.g. at home, but also in the office, café, airport or hotel. Often these protocols use information such as the name of the device to make themselves known and this is the crux of the problem and where users come in, as research shows that they often include their own name in the device name. This means that anyone connected to the same Wi-Fi, for example, can easily find out the name of many users. This in itself is suboptimal, but other protocols distribute further information that is harmless in isolation, but now this information can be linked to a person. If someone now adds Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and other sources of information, one can often create a very accurate profile of a user on the same LAN. And it all starts with the name of your own device. A blueprint for digital stalking!

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Safe surfing with these tips

This sounds scary at first, especially if you are a user who often uses networks that you don’t completely trust. But the good news is that you can protect yourself as a user relatively easily: you should never give your internet-connected devices a name that includes your own name! For those who want to take action right now, we have created a list of websites that explain how to find out and change the device name for some operating systems.

Keep surfing safely! Your Conntac team.

Author: Rolf Winter

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