Wired Strategies Top Tips for Safe Surfing

1. Don’t Whistle While You Work

    Don’t use your work computer for personal fun - that includes surfing the Web and checking email. It’s usually legal for your boss to read your email, keep a log of Web sites you visit, and check your voice mail messages.

2. Some Like It Hot

    If you must do personal stuff at work, set up a Hotmail or other personal email account that your office can’t access. But remember, such accounts can still leave trace information on your office computer’s hard drive if you access them at work.

3. Cache In Your Chips

    When you surf the Web or write word processing documents, your computer can store the images and text in "cache" and "temp" files on your hard drive. This permits anyone to search your drive and see what sites you've visited, or documents you’ve written. Solve this by emptying your cache and temp files regularly.

4. A Pentium For Your Thoughts…

The new Pentium III chip contains a unique identifier that could ultimately identify you to every Web site you visit. Make sure your computer’s chip isn’t identifying you to the world – you can turn the identifier off, and should.

5. Don’t Get Caught In The Cookie Jar

    Unbeknownst to you, many Web sites put "cookies," or computer code, on your computer's hard-drive.    Cookies let a Web site recognize you when you return at a later date, and can contain a record of what you've done on that site - they also can let other sites know what you've been doing on the Web.  Regularly delete the cookies you don’t want – simply open your "cookie" folder and delete away. Also consider increasing the cookie warning level in your Web browser so that you’ll have a choice as to which cookies you accept.

6. You Are Not Alone

    Don’t use someone else’s computer for something you wouldn’t want them to know about. It can keep an easily accessible log of sites you’ve visited, pictures you’ve downloaded (or even just looked at), and more.

7. Free Space Is Slavery

    When you "delete" a file, it’s not really deleted. Your computer simply frees up that memory space so that something can be recorded over it in the future. In addition, many offices "back up" your entire computer every night, so that copies of your emails and documents are stored in a file for years to come. Ollie North got caught because investigators found old emails that he’d already deleted. And Ken Starr retrieved deleted documents from Monica Lewinsky’s computer. To do a better job of deleting your files, use a program like Norton’s speed disk, and set it to wipe-clean your free space.

8. Your History

    "History" files are used to track which Web pages you’ve visited. That’s great for helping you pick up on a previous Web search. It’s also great for letting someone else know everywhere you’ve been online. Consider setting your Web browser to wipe clean your history file every two weeks.

9. Lies, Lies, Lies? Yeah!

    Use fake names, postal addresses, phone numbers and email addresses whenever you register at "free" Web sites.

10. Stealthy Is Healthy

    When you surf the Web, your Internet provider assigns you a unique identifier that can be recorded by any site you visit. Consider surfing via a Web site called "The Anonymizer," www.anonymizer.com – it’s a bit of a pain, but not a bad idea if you’re really paranoid, or doing something you’d rather not broadcast to the world.

11. Let’s Get Political

    Support legislation to increase consumer privacy protections.

12. Money Can Buy You Happiness

    Consider buying privacy software that wipes most remnants of past work off of your hard drive.

13. Today’s Secret Word Is…

    Change your passwords often, and don’t use the same password on the Web as you do for your voice mail or your ATM. And even on the web, use different passwords for different sites. Also, make your passwords random and alphanumeric (i.e., use a mix of numbers, letters (both capital and small), and symbols) – for example: p3rW#!v. And don’t create an obvious password like your mom’s maiden name, or your last name spelled backward.

14. A Turn On Is A Turn Off

    Leaving your Internet connection live all the time is a no-no. It can permit bad guys to access your computer and do all sorts of nasty stuff. When you’re not surfing or checking email, disconnect your Net connection.

15. Click Me, You Fool

    Be very wary of clicking on hyperlinks in emails or instant messages from people you don’t know, or opening email attachments from anyone. The links can whisk you to unreputable chat rooms that can get you instantly banned from AOL, and even imbed software on your computer that can steal your passwords. And attachments can, and often do, contain viruses – viral-check every attachment before opening it.

16. Vitamin C Ain’t Enough

Buy anti-viral software and update it EVERY MONTH.  A virus can literally destroy your entire computer.

17. Think "Mom"

Don’t ever write an email, instant message, or chat that you wouldn’t want your mother to see.

18. Practice Paranoia

Think it can’t happen to you? Well it happened to me. Someone broke into my AOL account and did a ton of stuff under my name. You can never be too cautious about your security online.

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