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Cheat Sheet

Internet Privacy For Dummies

From Internet Privacy For Dummies by John R. Levine, Ray Everett-Church, Greg Stebben, David Lawrence (Foreword by)

If you’re concerned about internet privacy, especially if you shop, bank and trade online, a few steps for securing and maintaining your personal information can give you peace of mind. And you can reduce spam by using some tricks for sniffing out spammers and getting rid of unwanted e-mails.

Steps for Securing Your Online Privacy

Personal information is floating all over the internet. If you're concerned about your internet privacy, protect yourself by taking these common-sense security steps when working on your computer:

  • Use a password to limit access to your computer and important files.

  • And, for goodness’ sake, use hard-to-guess passwords, and change them often!

  • Keep your operating system and important software updated with current security patches.

  • Install a good antivirus program and update it regularly (once a month and whenever you hear news about a new virus).

  • Back up your data regularly, and keep the backups someplace safe.

  • E-mail never goes away because any recipient can keep copies of it, so think twice before you write. If you don’t want something you write coming back to haunt you, learn to use encryption.

  • When someone sends you files by e-mail, think twice before opening them, and always run your virus-scanning program.

  • If anybody unknown to you asks for your password or credit card number, tell that person to buzz off.

  • Before giving any personal information to a website, check the website’s privacy policy.

  • At least once a month, clear out cookies from your browser and scan for spyware with a program like Ad-Aware, from Lavasoft.

Tips for Safely Banking, Trading, and Shopping Online

Online shopping, trading, and banking is convenient, easy, and for the most part safe, but don’t drop your guard when using the internet. Take the following steps to make sure your online banking transactions are as safe as possible:

  • Use a browser with 128-bit encryption.

  • Make sure that your bank, broker, or store uses a secure server.

  • Make sure that your broker is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).

  • Always read the privacy policy to determine how your private information will be used and with whom it might be shared.

  • Learn from the mistakes of others: Check out consumer rating services to see how your vendors rate.

  • Online escrow services can help prevent rip-offs when you’re buying goods on auction sites.

  • Once a month, check your credit card and phone bills for unauthorized charges.

  • Check your credit report every six months.

  • Identity thieves love your trash, so buy a shredder!

  • Be suspicious of any e-mail or instant message that asks (or sends you to a web page that asks) for your password, account number, or credit card information.

How to Track Down Spammers

The internet is flooded with spam, but after you learn a few tricks, hunting down a spammer's base of operations and getting him kicked off the web is usually simple. To track down spammers in your email, follow these steps in order:

  1. Look at the e-mail headers in the message.

  2. Follow the flow of Received headers backward from your ISP.

  3. Identify the owner of the last verifiable e-mail-handling server.

  4. Look for URLs and e-mail addresses in the contents of the spam.

  5. Track down the correct addresses for everyone who should receive the complaint.

  6. Send a firm but politely worded complaint.

  7. Await responses.

  8. If complaints bounce back, continue complaining upstream.

  9. If your complaints are ignored, report the spammer to a blocking list.

  10. If all else fails, complain to your ISP.

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