When surfing the Internet you probably take your anonymity
for granted, most of us do.
Tapping phones, listening to confidential conversations,
reading others’ e-mail messages seems like something that
only happens in spy movies to “other” people.
However, you probably don’t realize just how much
information about yourself has the potential to get
transmitted across the Internet every time you go online.
Every computer connected to the Internet has “ports” that
allow it to connect. A “port” doesn’t mean you have a
physical hole or opening in your computer’s case or
hardware, but it does mean you have openings through which
information passes back and forth between your computer and
Depending on the type of connection (dial up, LAN, cable,
DSL), you may have several openings for potential mischief
by hackers, malicious code or viruses.
Computers with dedicated connections rate the most at risk.
If someone or something gets into one of these ports and
into your computer, they can potentially watch everything
you do and see all the data you enter, including social
security numbers and credit card information.
The easiest way to defeat this problem involves using a
firewall. Firewalls, simple and inexpensive software
available at virtually any office supply or computer store,
block the most common ports hackers use to enter your
Firewalls also help you detect and block unauthorized
transmission of information from your computer to the
Internet. This adds a significant measure of protection if
you get infected with a Trojan Horse virus that tries to
“phone home” to the hacker with your sensitive information.
If you’d like to test your connection for vulnerability to
attack, log on to http://security1.norton.com and run the
various diagnostics. I would strongly advise anyone
connected to the Internet through DSL or cable to get and
use a firewall to protect against unauthorized access.
Infected with “Spyware?”
Previously we talked about unauthorized access to your
computer. But a growing problem online with people watching
you and your activities involves using programs you
willingly place on your computer.
Commonly called “Spyware,” this refers to any program that
transmits information about you to someone else without you
knowing exactly what gets sent. The main purpose of Spyware
involves tracking your surfing habits so advertisers know
which targeted ads to send you.
Most Spyware basically comes onto your computer bundled
with other software applications, as a standalone program,
or as modification to the HTML on a web page.
Regardless of how you get it, you need to understand
exactly what information gets transmitted about you so you
can decide whether to keep or uninstall the software. Plain
and simple, these Spyware programs can potentially reveal
extremely sensitive information about you and your online
If you have concerns about Spyware and whether or not your
computer currently carries any, log on to www.lavasoft.de
and check out the free PC software that will scan your
system for known Spyware.
About the author:
Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the co-
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