Protect your privacy online

Written by on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 22:59 - 0 Comments

your privacy online and how should you protect yourself

Protecting your privacy is your own responsibility, and is a silent battle we all engage in every time we connect to the internet.  There are thousands of people and sites out there who are trying to get your private data, ranging from your street address to bank account information, and all manner of things in between.  Here are listed 10 things that you can do to help keep your data secure from prying eyes and spammers.

1. Configure Your Browser to be Secure
Most web browsers have configurations for both privacy AND security.  Privacy controls what personal information and files may be freely exchanged, and security controls both what sites can request information, and what internet locations are considered to be off limits to the browser.  Properly configuring the browser will eliminate a lot of privacy and security hassles.

2. Use Cookie and Certificate Notices
Under the Security options of your browser, set your certificate and cookie management to always notify you before accepting an updated version.  One common hacker trick is to “imitate” a trusted site and update your cookies and/or certificates to give them access to the information on your machine.

3. Keep a “Safe” Email Address
Set up an email address with a web-based email service that is different from the one you use for business and personal activities.  This new email address is a buffer between you and all those sites that insist of getting your email address.  This way, when you are automatically put on a mailing list for junk email, your normal inbox won’t become cluttered with things you have no use for.  If something you wanted to subscribe to shows up in this mail box, you can always change the email they send to at a later date, when you have confirmed that you are only receiving what you wanted from them.

4. Be Careful of “New” Online “Friends”
The more insistent a stranger is that they want to be your friend, the more suspicious you should be.  Just as there are many unscrupulous people in the real word, there are many more in the virtual one.  Before you give out any personal information, make sure that the person is who you think they are.

5. Separate Work and Pleasure
Your employer has the right to monitor traffic on their internet connection.  And your company’s IT staff may be snooping whether they have permission or not.  If it’s personal business, leave it at home.  Likewise, the security measures that protect business data are different than what most people are using at home, and you may be putting sensitive company data at risk by forwarding business email to the house.  Keep the two separate, and both sides are protected from prying eyes.

6. Rewards and Prizes are Suspicious
A lot of bogus sites and questionable people will promise you fantastic gifts or prizes if you fill out a simple form, or answer a few easy questions.  Usually, these questions will include such things as your street address, phone number, and other seemingly innocent information, but sometimes they are bold enough to directly ask for bank information or credit card numbers.  The best solution is to ignore such requests unless you know beyond doubt that you want the site to have the information, and those sites will almost always be using SSL or other security procedures (see item #8).

7. Avoid SPAM
No matter how much you are tempted to reply to SPAM, don’t do it.  For one thing, you are not going to discourage them from sending more if you reply.  For another thing, by replying you have effectively given them permission to snoop around your computer.  Remember the trick with vampires.. they have to be invited before they can enter the home.  SPAM works the same way, as it cannot do any damage to you unless you participate with it.

8. Use the Web Securely
If you are using the web for online purchases and other things that require bank or credit information, make sure that you are connected to the correct URL.  After you’ve done that, be sure that the site is using some form of security, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is a form of data encryption to prevent outside infiltration.  Most browsers will display a closed padlock to indicate a secure session, and an open padlock for an insecure connection.

9. Home Computer Security
Know who is using your home computer, and for what purposes.  If you are allowing people you aren’t sure you can trust to use the machine, they may be digging around for sensitive information.  Don’t leave your passwords in places that prying eyes can easily find.

10. Use Encryption
If you are exchanging email that may be sensitive, use encryption.  There are a number of very good free encryption programs.  The most common and secure type is PGP (pretty good protection), which uses a private encryption key on your side that is synced with a public key on the side of the intended recipient. ')}

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