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Basics of Internet Privacy and Security - Become a Survivor not a Statistic

Aug 18, 2007
It is a widely known fact that every computer's hard drive contains files which are sensitive or important to its user. Whether you are purchasing an item, surfing the web, or writing an essay; everything done through a computer requires some kind of data input.

Most people don't realize that it is not necessary to buy items online or manage your bank account through your PC, in order to have sensitive information stolen or compromised. Erasing important files from your computer's hard drive doesn't solve the problem either due to the fact that every one of those files is recoverable.

Internet users love the benefit of having easy access to information anywhere/anytime but the reality is that while the average user tries to access all the information the web has to offer, other individuals try to access private information in order to conduct illegal operations. Yes, by the way it sounds, it may seem that this is a problem only top-secret agencies and organizations should worry about but the hard fact is that nobody wants to wake up one day and realize that there is not a penny in the bank account, or that your credit score has gone down because you "allegedly used your social security information to apply for a mortgage loan".

ID theft is a very real and common issue that we need to address with urgency. The first step to protect sensitive information is to educate yourself as far as the technology involved in internet security and privacy. It is not necessary to become a software engineer to a "hacker" to protect yourself from intruders. All you need to understand is that your computer programs request, send and receive information from other computers through the internet, when you browse the web, your browser application sends small packets of information to web sites which in term write small files in your computer hard drive for tracking and identification purposes, these files are known as cookies.

The most effective way to make sure your computer doesn't "leak" private information is to make yourself invisible by using the right internet privacy tool. The applications you need to take proper care are the ones you use the most while you are online. To the average user this means protecting data sent and received through applications such as:

Web browsing/surfing programs (including https)
Email software(Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc)
P2P file sharing (Kazza, Morpheus, etc)
Chatting plugins/add-ons/applications(ICQ, IRC, AIM, Yahoo, MSN, etc)
Newsgroups (RSS), FTP.

The following are important terms every PC user should become familiar with in order to understand how to protect crucial data.

IP Address: This is comparable to your drivers licence number. Each computer can be identified through this particular number, so this is definitively at the top of our list.

Data Encryption: This is a very effective way used by web sites and servers to secure sensitive data transmitted online. The most common protocol used today is called "Secure Socket Layer" or SSL which implements 128 bit keys for symmetric key ciphers. In other words whenever you use this communication protocol you can be 99.9% sure your information is being transmitted or received safely.

PopUp: This is an extremely popular term which is meant to describe windows which are open by web applications instead of being open by the end user. These popups are usually meant for advertising but many people have discovered the hard way that popups sometimes carry malicious scripts which are executed when such windows are open.

Spyware, Adware: These are applications which most of the time are embedded in free software as well as shareware to study your browsing patterns and deliver advertising. These are the types of applications you want to keep as far as possible from your hard drive as they could cause several problems.

VoIP Encryption: As Voip technology becomes more popular it is necessary to take the proper precautions to avoid having your private conversations accessed by third parties. VoIP converts your voice into data packets which are sent to the person you are talking to, since these packets are sent through the internet to reach its destination you will need to properly secure these "data exchange" by using an adequate software. Unfortunately not every firewall application out there has this feature, except for a few state of the art applications.

The list of terms could go on forever but the most important part is taking the proper measures to make sure you protect your data and your family's valuable information. Remember to install security tools which protect every connection used by the programs you frequently use. Following these simple instructions will keep you from becoming one more number in the statistics of people who are victim of data theft everyday.
About the Author
FindNot provides accurate and crucial information about internet privacy and anonymity. Learn more about secure browsing and private browsing tools which will completely secure your data and make you invisible to hackers. Visit us at http://www.findnot.com
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