Article, April 2006
Is the Internet Insecure Because of You?
By Dave Gerber, APCUG Advisor;
radio show host; Vice President, Sarasota PCUG, Florida
email@example.com (click to email author)
Long gone are the days that we could feel secure and know for certain that we had privacy. With the digital age upon us we can no longer be so sure that our privacy is secure. Recently Google has admitted their organization holds user data indefinitely. This causes concerns as now we know Google has information on us that we do not want anyone to know about.
We can simply blame this all on the big corporate companies; they seem to be a very good escape goat however, this is not the case; your privacy is totally up to you. Certificates ensure that all the data that is transferred between you and the internet is secure and encrypted. Recently in New Zealand there was a short certificate outage on a banks website. During this outage only one out of 300 users took this security warning seriously.
This is a rather large concern, as many users on the internet have the same belief that their data is safe and secure. By the end of 2005 it is estimated identity fraud will cause up to 5 trillion dollars world wide. We, the users of the internet must keep ourselves safe, secure and pay attention to those security warnings. I have compiled some good tools and tricks that will help keep you much more anonymous and secure.
1)Get rid of the internet explorer:
First and foremost Microsoft Internet Explorer is the highest risk to your internet experience. Not only is the most popular internet browser, but is also the most popular for attacks from Viruses and Spyware. Internet explorer is also too integrated with the windows operating system. Have you ever wondered how a dialer or online casino got onto your desktop?
I personally recommend Opera; they have a nice clean browser. The usability is easy and best of all, it uses tabbed browsing.
2) Protect your Connection.
Make sure you have an active firewall operating; Firewalls stop intruders from entering your connection and causing havoc. Hackers can easily gain access to an unprotected network and steal private information.
With the release of SP2 for Windows XP, Microsoft has incorporated a free personal Firewall. If you have broadband your router should have an inbuilt Firewall, and make sure this is enabled, Zone Alarm also offer a free Firewall. You must always do what you can to protect yourself.
3)Don’t share those files:
One of the most common security flaws besides running Windows XP, is having File sharing enabled. To disable File Sharing please do the following:
Click Start Menu, select settings.
Click on Network Connections.
Right-click on the Local Area Connection icon and on the menu that appears, choose Properties.
In the General tab under “This connection uses the following items”, highlight “File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks”. (If File and Printer Sharing is not listed, then file sharing has not been setup). You may skip the rest of these instructions.
When you are asked if you are sure you want to Uninstall File and Printer Sharing Click Yes.
You may now close the Local Area Connection Properties window.
You must restart for your computer for the effects to work.
4) Hide your IP address:
Your IP address is just like your phone number, it links directly back to you. There are many reasons you may wish to hide your IP address. Preferable you do not want to be tracked around the web, it’s just as bad as having a GPS in your mobile phone.
5) Check those certificates:
Your internet connection is not secure, the data that travels between you and the site you may be browsing may pass through over 25 other computers. If you are sending very confidential information such as credit card payments, make sure the address starts with an https. Also check that the padlock on your browser is locked, and is valid for the specific site. This will ensure that you have a 128 bit encrypted connection with the website.
If you want secure email you may also have your emails encrypted too. A good free vendor is Hushmail. Your email security is more at risk than your web browsing; you must ensure your emails are safe.
6) Kill the spyware
Spyware are little programs that can easily be picked up by surfing any website or downloading files. Spyware can pickup information from where you surf to your credit card details, this information then can be sold.
Microsoft has released a beta version of their upcoming anti spyware removal tool. This too works well, and I highly recommend this tool. Zone Alarm also offer a free online spyware detector.
The information I have passed to you should be seriously considered. The internet is a very unsecure environment; you must ensure your data is safe from outside prying eyes. Make sure you are careful with any transaction you make. Never fool for any kind of email promotion, anyone who tries to sell to you through spam advertising is not trustworthy. Also make sure to check the links from anything you click on; I have found numerous fake Paypal sites that try to steal your login and password.
Remember... it is up to you
There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.Click here to return to top