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Surf Safe

  |  February 12, 2001   |  Comments

When it comes to the hidden dangers of the Net, how much can the basic safety rules of computing protect you? Find out why DLT's tips and resources will keep you surfing high and dry.



by Scott Bass for Digital Living Today

The Internet is filled with hidden dangers. Even though most people prefer to use their computers for good, not evil, there are others who seek to do unsavory things like spy on you, spam you, or even turn your PC into a "zombie computer" (used against your will to attack another computer).

The basic safety rules of computing (e.g., never share passwords, only use credit cards on secure sites, and never open unsolicited email attachments) can only protect you so much. To ward off evil-doers entirely, heed DLT's following tips and recommended resources. The Internet will seem more like a well-lit playground than a dark alley.

Put Up Your Dukes [www.zonelabs.com] When connected to the Internet, your computer is always vulnerable to malicious intrusion, particularly if you have a constant connection (like a cable modem or DSL). You should protect your home PC from hackers the same way that big companies do: Use a firewall (a short of protective digital forcefield). ZoneAlarm is the best free security program available and offers not only an effective firewall, but other cool features like a cookie manager.

Test Your Vulnerability [www.grc.com] Once you have your firewall in place, you'll want to test its mettle. Head to Shields Up!, a site that'll check the functionality of your firewall.

Start Munging Munging is the intentional addition of bad information in an email address, intended to fool the address-collecting robots that scour the Net (scooping up unsuspecting email addresses). If you post messages to bulletin boards, chat rooms, or other public areas, use yourNOSPAMname@domain.com (or yournameATdomainDOTcom) as your address form (which humans can figure out, but bot programs can't) to cut down on subsequent email harassment.

Cover Your Tracks [www.anonymizer.com] Whenever you visit a Web site, you leave behind the footprint of your IP address that could potentially be traced back to you. Anonymizer logs you through one of their servers and gives you a new IP address that cannot be traced. The service is free but time-delayed to encourage you to sign up for their premium full-speed package (currently $50 a year).

Opt-Out [www.e-mps.org/en/] Take a bite out of spam by visiting this site created by the Direct Marketing Association (they maintain opt-out sites for phone and mail solicitations, too). If you register on the site, members of the DMA must remove you from any solicitation lists you may be on. It won't cut down on all of your spam, but it'll help.

Clear Your Cache: MS Explorer and Netscape both keep a record of your recent online travels. To keep this information from prying eyes, you should regularly clear your cache.

MS Explorer:

  • Tools --> Options --> Delete Temporary Files
  • Tools --> Options --> Clear History Netscape:
  • Edit --> Preferences --> Advanced --> Cache --> Clear Disk Cache
  • Edit --> Preferences --> Clear History

Filter Content: If you have youngsters, you might want to make sure that they don't accidentally end up on the seamier side of cyberspace. Filter programs can monitor kids online when you can't. Two popular programs: NetNanny [www.netnanny.com] and WebGuardian [www.webroot.com/down1.htm#WinGuardian1] aren't free, but they're worth the investment.

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