Security Information

Are They Watching You Online?

When surfing the Internet you probably take your anonymityfor granted, most of us do.

Tapping phones, listening to confidential conversations,reading others' e-mail messages seems like something thatonly happens in spy movies to "other" people.

However, you probably don't realize just how muchinformation about yourself has the potential to gettransmitted across the Internet every time you go online.

Every computer connected to the Internet has "ports" thatallow it to connect. A "port" doesn't mean you have aphysical hole or opening in your computer's case orhardware, but it does mean you have openings through whichinformation passes back and forth between your computer andthe Internet.

Depending on the type of connection (dial up, LAN, cable,DSL), you may have several openings for potential mischiefby hackers, malicious code or viruses.

Computers with dedicated connections rate the most at risk.If someone or something gets into one of these ports andinto your computer, they can potentially watch everythingyou do and see all the data you enter, including socialsecurity numbers and credit card information.

The easiest way to defeat this problem involves using afirewall. Firewalls, simple and inexpensive softwareavailable at virtually any office supply or computer store,block the most common ports hackers use to enter yourcomputer.

Firewalls also help you detect and block unauthorizedtransmission of information from your computer to theInternet. This adds a significant measure of protection ifyou 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 toattack, log on to and run thevarious diagnostics. I would strongly advise anyoneconnected to the Internet through DSL or cable to get anduse a firewall to protect against unauthorized access.

Infected with "Spyware?"

Previously we talked about unauthorized access to yourcomputer. But a growing problem online with people watchingyou and your activities involves using programs youwillingly place on your computer.

Commonly called "Spyware," this refers to any program thattransmits information about you to someone else without youknowing exactly what gets sent. The main purpose of Spywareinvolves tracking your surfing habits so advertisers knowwhich targeted ads to send you.

Most Spyware basically comes onto your computer bundledwith 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 understandexactly what information gets transmitted about you so youcan decide whether to keep or uninstall the software. Plainand simple, these Spyware programs can potentially revealextremely sensitive information about you and your onlinehabits.

If you have concerns about Spyware and whether or not yourcomputer currently carries any, log on to www.lavasoft.deand check out the free PC software that will scan yoursystem for known Spyware.

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