How To Protect Your On-line Privacy

Jan 14 22:00 2002 Nick Pullen and Henry Morgan Print This Article

... the highways and byways of the Internet ... you to harmful ... Nick Pullen, a ... suggests you enhance your personal security ... by ... th

Travelling the highways and byways of the Internet can
expose you to harmful exploitation. Nick Pullen,Guest Posting a master
cybernaught, suggests you enhance your personal security and
peace-of-mind by following the "Rules of the Road."

The Internet is a wonderful facilitator. We use it to
communicate, do business, access information, news and
services, and to shop. But the Internet and the technology
which makes it possible also has a darker side. It enables
investigators, fraudsters, marketers, stalkers, hackers,
lunatics and just plain nosy people, armed with the right
equipment and know-how, to appropriate sensitive data and
confidential information about you, your personal, financial
and professional affairs, whether you are on or off-line.

This sensitive material can be sold to criminal or
commercial buyers. Or it can be used to damage you and your
personal or commercial interests. It could be used to
blackmail or defraud you. It could be used by someone
wanting to commit crimes in your name. It could be used to
harass you. It can be added to any dossier being discreetly
compiled about you by just about anybody for just about any
purpose. The Internet could be used by a lunatic or someone
with a grudge trying to track you down.

"New viruses are released into the public domain all the

Fact is, personal data and sensitive information about your
activities and who you are is probably floating around
Cyberspace right now - completely open to access. Sending
emails, posting to news groups, shopping, and surfing on-
line can undermine your personal, financial and professional
privacy unless you take precautions.

I am not saying that Cyberspace is riddled with demented
hackers or bulging at the seams with criminal types waiting
to target you. But there is an undesirable element out
there. If you’ve taken steps to protect yourself, you can be
certain of not falling foul of them.

Use the following techniques to ensure peace-of-mind on-

Preparation For On-line Activity

Restrict the flow of sensitive personal data. Your browser
can literally shed information about you. Unless you take
precautions to prevent it, without you knowing, your browser
will simply distribute your email address and other contact
information whilst you are on-line. Protect your main email
address: In your browser's Set-up, Options or Preferences
menus don’t enter your main email address. Instead set up an
alternative email address free of charge (at or or any of the
other on-line email services offering free accounts). Enter
that address instead. In the same way you must protect your
real identity. In the same browser menus enter a pseudonym
instead of your real name.

Ideally, to protect your main (non-Internet) systems and
files against on-line privacy threats, use a second computer
solely for Internet access and activity.

If you have a personal web page on the Internet don’t post
personal information on it. Why give passing fraudsters,
psychopaths or pranksters your home address, telephone
number, or any other personal details?

Essential Ongoing Maintenance

Use virus protection software and use it regularly to sweep
files attached to emails and files you download from the
Internet. Use Norton Anti-Virus which can be obtained from Alternatively, use a free virus
scanner such as AVG, available from .
Make sure your virus detection software is up-to-date. New
viruses are released into the public domain all the time. If
your software only deals with viruses up to a certain date
it is not providing adequate protection.

"Many spammers are outright con artists."

A badly configured or maintained computer can reveal
sensitive information about your Internet activity even when
you are off-line. Windows contains a file called History
which acts as a log of your Internet movements, keeping a
record of all the Internet pages you have visited. This
history file can last for months unless you configure your
browser to prevent this. Go to Tools/Internet Options and
set the days to keep pages in history option to zero days.
Also ensure you regularly clear the Temp folder and
Temporary Internet Files folder which will be found in
Windows. Periodically open those folders, select their
contents and delete.

Strengthen Your Email Security

The three best pieces of advice I can give you about
preserving and protecting your on-line privacy are as
follows. 1: Use encryption. 2: Use encryption. 3: Always,
always use encryption. Why? Encryption is the most effective
defence there is against really determined hackers,
stalkers, and fraudsters who capture sensitive data by
intercepting unencrypted email and Internet messages. Too
many people still send unencrypted emails containing all
manner of sensitive personal, financial, and commercial
data. Fact: Sending unencrypted email through cyberspace is
like sending a postcard through the mail system; anybody and
everybody can read it. Use encryption. Which encryption
system? PGP encryption is the best around. Download it free
of charge from

If you ever want to send an email without the recipient
knowing who you are or your email address, use the
Anonymizer remailing service. Send your email to the
remailer which strips your actual name and email address
from the email header and sends it on anonymously on your
behalf. Check this service out at

Ignore any unsolicited emails you receive. These are sent by
spammers. Never purchase anything from or send any money or
information to a spammer. Many spammers are outright con
artists. If you send money to them don’t expect to see it
again, and don’t expect to be supplied with the promised
product or service. Don’t even reply to spammers who manage
to get hold of or buy your email address. Many spammers ask
you to send a message back if you want to be removed from
their mailing lists. Don’t do this. A return message will
confirm that your email address is in use. This enhances the
value of your address to the spammer. He might well remove
you from his mailing list but he will sell your details to
many other spammers who are sure to target you.

Posting To News Groups/Chat Groups

Don’t reveal personal details to strangers or new friends
you meet on-line. You don’t know who you’re talking to in a
chat room. For the sake of security don’t give out your real
name, where you live, where you work, your phone number or
any other personal details which might be used against you
or to track you down.

Messages you post on the Internet or on mailing lists reveal
your email address. This is easily discovered and either
targeted or used by just about anybody. Services such as
Deja News also keeps a record of every posting ever made by
an individual. It is a simple matter for someone to search
Deja News to find out details of postings made from your
email address, which news groups you post to and why. To
counter this, have more than one email address. Set up a
free web-based email service. Use this for posting to news
groups, mailing lists, chat and public rooms. Tip: If no-one
knows that this extra email address belongs to you, no-one
can link you to it or any posting you make from it. In this
way you can post regularly to alt.sheep.fanciers. without
any fear of being identified by snoops! Use a further clean
email address for small members-only mailing lists and for
communications with known, trusted individuals.

Safe Surfing Techniques

Many free sites require you to register personal details
before you can get access. Just because a site asks for
personal data, it doesn’t mean you have to provide it. You
have options. Provide a phoney name, address, preferences
etc. There is no law against this. Such details are never
checked. They are collected for marketing purposes only.
Note: If you purchase something you must provide real
billing information to avoid claims of fraud.

Beware of sites offering rewards or prizes in exchange for
contact details and other sensitive data. You’re unlikely to
win a prize and any data obtained in this manner is sold
often to multiple direct marketers. Pretty soon you’ll be
deluged with unsolicited email, post and telephone calls.
Protect your children too. Set clear rules for them. Make
sure they know not to reveal personal information when they
visit sites unless you okay it.

Web sites store bits of data, Cookies, on your computer’s
hard drive. Cookies contain your user IDs and passwords to
sites. However, Cookies can also be used to trawl for data,
tracking your surfing, recording what links and pages you
click on, how long you spend on specific pages. This data is
used to create a profile about you for marketers. Remember
that sensitive information about your Internet preferences,
interests and actions could come back to haunt you. For
protection turn on cookie notices in your browser. How? Open
your Internet browser. Go to Tools/Options/Security. Press
the Custom Level button. Select prompt for the Cookie
options. Now each time a Web site attempts to place a cookie
on your hard drive you’ll receive a warning and information
about the cookie. Decide whether or not to accept. Only
accept cookies from trusted sites. Decline cookies which are
not temporary or which provide information to sites other
than the one you want to load.

Be anonymous when you surf. How? Use the Anonymizer, a
specialised service which disguises your identity and on-
line movements. Check out: .
Alternative anonymising services you might try: ; ;

Safe On-line Shopping

Never send credit card details over the Internet without
ensuring that your connection is secure (encrypted). How to
tell? Look for a locked padlock icon at the bottom right
hand corner of your screen. Or see that the security button
on your browser bar is highlighted. If the connection is not
secure take your business elsewhere. A company that is
careless with your information and money does not deserve
your trade.

Before doing business with any site, in case of problems,
satisfy yourself that the site operator provides off-line
contact information including a postal address and telephone
number. Before ordering, try the phone number to ascertain
that it works . Keep a note of these details.

If the connection is not secure take your business

Check to see if the site has a privacy policy. Read it. Does
it provide protection for the data you may submit? If it
doesn’t, don’t release the data.

Many sites display seals or certificates awarded by watchdog
organisations which testify to the trustworthiness of the
site. But there can be problems. You can’t rely on taking
seals at face value. The reason being that con artists fake
the seals or fraudulently post them on their sites. The
solution? Before entering into agreement, contract, or
making any payments on-line, check with the seal-issuing
body that the site’s seal is authentic.

Do the necessary due diligence: Read terms and conditions
before you pay for anything or enter into an agreement. Make
sure you know what you’re getting into. Be aware of auto-
rebilling scams and hidden fees.

Always print out the order form you use on-line and keep any
confirmation of the sale, payment details and delivery dates
you may be emailed.

Source: Free Guest Posting Articles from

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Nick Pullen and Henry Morgan
Nick Pullen and Henry Morgan

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