Eight Great Ways To Protect Your Privacy In The Internet Age

Internet Privacy For DummiesÆ offers a wealth of strategies to safeguard your identity and your assets on the PC, the phone, and more.
New York, NY (November 2002)-Do you feel a twinge of unease when you buy something via the Internet? When you pay bills online? When you send an e-mail at work? If you’re like most people, the answer is a resounding yes. Anyone who doesn’t know about the existence of hackers, identity thieves and destructive viruses has probably been living in a cave (in which case they probably wouldn’t have an Internet connection at all!). Problem is, you don’t quite know what to do about these Cyber Age evils.
Now there’s some great news! There’s a new book on the market that will help you safeguard your assets, your identity and your life. Internet Privacy For DummiesÆ (Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2002, ISBN: 0-7645-0846-6, $21.99)-written by John R. Levine, Ray Everett-Church and Greg Stebben-tells you how to secure your PC connection, conduct safe transactions, stop the “e-mail trail” and protect yourself and your business from viruses, hackers, worms and other cyberpests. It even ventures into the (relatively) antiquated worlds of telephones and snail mail.
Nowhere else will you find such a condensed amount of information-presented in an easy-to-read conversational style-on taking charge of your privacy, both at home and at work. The authors offer many useful insights and suggestions, including the following:
o When you get unwanted spam, never click on Reply.
Most return addresses in spam are faked to deflect complaints. However, some spammers use real addresses because they really do want to hear from you-but not for the reason you may think. Why would they want to hear your angry diatribe? When you click on Reply, you have just confirmed that your e-mail address is a “live one,” which is like waving a big red flag and screaming “This e-mail address is real! I really read this stuff! If you’re smart, you’ll send me more spam!”
o “How private is my cordless phone?” Answer: not at all.
Your cordless phone isn’t even a phone, it’s a radio, and you’re the DJ. When you make a call, the handset you’re holding up to your ear sends radio waves to the base unit. Depending on what type of cordless phone you have (analog, digital, 900MHz, 2.4 MHz, etc.), your conversation may be heard in a variety of ways (scanner, other cordless phones, interrupting the ballgame on your neighbor Grandpa Jones’s radio, or pumped through the baby monitor to entertain the little Jones kids.
o Don’t pull a Monica Lewinsky!
As you may recall, Monica thought that she deleted all the tell-all files from her computer-but what she didn’t know was that the files she thought she got rid of could still be recovered from her hard drive. If you have secrets to hide and you really want to delete them from your hard drive, use disk-wiping software, such as BCWipe (www.jetico.com/bcwipe.htm) or Spytech Eradicator (www.spytech-web.com/eradicator.shtml).
o How to stop laptop spies.
From a Starbucks in downtown San Francisco to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, you may spend a great deal of time working on a laptop out in public and be concerned about “eyeball eavesdropping.” Consider installing the 3M privacy screen filter on your machine (www.3m.com/us/about3M/innovation/computerfilter/index.html). As hard as peeping Toms may try to get into the right position to read what’s on your screen, it always looks blank to them-even as you continue to type away.
o Some revealing statistics on workplace privacy.
“When it comes to privacy in the workplace, you don’t have any.” So says a recent story in Business Week magazine. And the writer of this article offers plenty of statistics to back his assertion. As he notes, an American Management Association survey of 2,133 corporations completed in 2000 reveals that:
“54 percent monitor employee Internet use.
“38 percent monitor employee e-mail.
“34 percent monitor employees using video surveillance.
“30 percent monitor employee computer files.
“11 percent monitor employee phone conversation.
“7 percent monitor employee voice mail.
Furthermore, a follow-up study done by the American Management Association in 2001 shows that these numbers are dramatically on the rise.
o Choose an ISP with a strong privacy policy.
In most cases, you can find a link to an ISP’s privacy policy (if it has one) at the bottom of its home page. Be wary of “stickers” on the page that tout the ISP’s membership in organizations like BBBOnline and TRUSTe-these organizations require members to post and follow a privacy policy but don’t ensure that the policy has any teeth.
o Keep your computer from being zombie-fied.
Hackers can take control of your computer and turn it into a zombie-meaning they can remotely make it do all sorts of nefarious things, ranging from the cyberequivalent of teenage mischief all the way up to cybertheft, cyberterrorism, and corporate and governmental espionage. The best way to make sure that your computer hasn’t been hijacked is to run antivirus scans regularly. If your computer is connected to the Internet 24/7, you should also run a personal firewall program.
o Five ways to tell if your online banking transactions are safe.
“Look for the magic number: 128. Browse around your browser and then you bank’s Web site and make sure that both use 128-bit encryption, which by some estimates, is so safe that it would take more than a trillion years for a hacker to crack.
“Look for a secure server. Look for the locked padlock on your browser and the addition of the letter s to the http (as in https) at the beginning of your bank’s URL. “Get a second opinion. Visit the online banking-review site Gomez.com (www.gomez.com) to find out how other consumers rate your bank. “Get it in writing, Part I: Check your bank’s Web site for a written guarantee that protects you from losses from fraud that may result from online banking. “Get it in writing, Part II: It’s always a good idea to have printed copies of all your online records, in case you need to prove what you say is true.
o Always shred your junk mail.
What you don’t know really can hurt you, especially when it’s contained in those annoying pre-approved credit card offers you get in the mail every day-which you always toss in the trash unopened. Don’t. There’s nothing to stop someone from digging them out of the trash and submitting them in your name but with his signature and address on the application. Guess whose credit rating will take the hit when he doesn’t pay them off? The moral? Think before you toss, and when it doubt, shred it out.
These are just a few of the tips found in Internet Privacy For Dummies. The book includes a cheat sheet, Part of Tens (Ways to Fight Back for Fun and Profit, Ten Easy Tricks for Cutting Down on Spam, etc.) and the popular Rich Tennant cartoons.
“Privacy is a big, big issue these days, thanks in large part to the avenues of lightening-speed communication at our disposal,” says Richard Swadley, Vice President and Executive Group Publisher at Wiley. “We think it’s one of the most important issues facing consumers today. That’s why, in keeping with our corporate tradition of addressing major societal trends, we’re making this book so widely available. Everyone who is online should have a copy of Internet Privacy For Dummies on his or her bookshelf.”