What’s Left of Your Privacy?

Should you have any doubts about the seriousness of how your privacy has been eroded, Google yourself.
Google your own name, then glance to the right. One of the sponsored advertising links is likely to offer quick online investigation services. For a nominal fee you can order up a dossier on yourself, with information culled from lending records, motor vehicle records, tax records, and court records. You might even get a photograph. It’s a little galling, perhaps, to see how easy it’s become to assemble the bare facts of your life, but no particular shock. These always were public records, after all. It’s just a question of increased access and speed.
What’s more discomfiting is the electronic penetration into records that were supposed to be confidential — your lifelong purchasing habits, for instance, or the results of personality tests for jobs, your school records, your voting history, credit report, resume, financial history, and the details of your adventures online (if any).
One compromised database behind the scenes interfaces with another; those two triangulate with two dozen more; soon they’ve wired together this document here, on the screen, a full constellation of the facts of your life.
This doesn’t even mention any of the more qualitative data about your odd tastes and your private desires that you may have shared on Twitter, on Facebook, on emails (which have always been non-secure), on your blog, to go on and on.
Extremely personal? Yes.
True? Most of it, yes.
Never mind any embarrassment, is this dangerous to you? Undeniably yes!
It’s not that the stakes are low. Ask anyone who’s had the ugly, expensive experience of having his identity stolen. This is old news, really. Reports of millions of compromised credit card numbers is so routine it’s hardly worth mentioning anymore, while the companies involved mumble weak apologies and promise to try to do better.
There’s recent news that the site Wikileaks, which traffics in making leaked documents available online to anyone, somehow got hold of almost two million postal codes in the U.K. and are publishing the lot. Not a direct privacy threat, but certainly it’s another mass of detailed data that will be used to support and extend the view of those who are interested in you.
What’s left to us? It’s important that we get past the old privacy questions, overtaken by events ten years ago, and deal with any residual indignation. It’s too late for that. Better to try to think through what comes next. It might have to do with correcting this data — some of it will be comically wrong — and minimize the damage it can do you. It might be identifying and cultivating the parts of your life that are free from observation, as a sort of psychological stronghold of identity.
Or it might be the opposite: learning to live with utter transparency, extending an open invitation to anyone who wants to look through.
What is true though if the information you find on this site will help minimize the possible damage caused through loss of privacy online.



Read More

Offline or Online We All Need Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech For AllThe American founding fathers put forth the principle of freedom of speech to protect the right of all Americans to freely speak their mind.

In past decades, this concept has been challenged on many levels, but the majority of attacks on freedom of speech have been struck down. We live in a society that heralds this right as a major part of being American. And in fact, this fundamental right is why many other nations around the world look to the United States for guidance in such areas.

The US is respected and revered for its principles in this area, and it is the foundation on which a truly democratic society is built.

Although the right of freedom of speech was developed in large part to protect the freedom of the press, with the advent of electronic media and the personal use of computers worldwide, it is now necessary to extend the concept of freedom of speech to these platforms. If a person’s right to gather peacefully, worship independently, and maintain their own opinion applies to all other aspects of life, shouldn’t it be that way online as well?

In reality, the Internet is simply an extension of our social, commercial, and financial medias, and should be awarded the same protections as they enjoy. Although there are those that argue that the Internet allows for an unprecedented level of information dissemination, there is absolutely no reason that this data should be any more scrutinized than what goes on in daily papers, television shows, or on the radio.

This is not to say that there should be no regulation; the Internet simply merits the same level of examination that all other media outlets require.

Having freedom of speech on the Internet is just an extension of having freedom of speech in all other areas of society. Of course, this is not something that should be taken for granted. As with all other forms of media or expression, there are those that abuse this right, and they should always be dealt with accordingly.

On the Internet, the same standards of decency, honesty, and intent should be upheld as is dictated by the law; however, this is where the government’s involvement should end. As is often argued, it should be up to individuals, parents, educators, and scholars to dictate what is or is not appropriate for themselves, not legislators.

There are those that argue that it is unlawful or immoral to allow online visitors to have access to material that some might find offensive. However, just as a consumer can choose whether or not to view a Rated R movie, listen to music with a warning label, or view legal pornography, so too can an individual decide whether or not he will navigate to a certain webpage on the Internet.

In short, freedom of speech is linked to freedom of choice. The majority of Americans would champion both of these rights. Regulating speech on the Internet would be a slippery slope leading to the demise of freedom of speech overall.

Because computers rule so many daily lives, the government’s involvement in legislating its content would undoubtedly open the door to the demise of that very freedom in many other areas of society that the courts have so diligently tried to protect.

Throughout history, the newspaper business, the television and movie industry, and musicians have had to fight for their right to speak their mind. In most cases, they have won. This pattern should be upheld, and freedom of speech on the Internet is the most logical stepping stone in a path to a continued free society.

We are not all lucky enough to live in a country where these freedoms are granted to all, and those of you at risk from persecution would do well to protect your online identity as best possible.



Read More

Social Networking Dangers and Rules

Web Security is all about educating yourself about online hazards. Education is the answer to computer security and protecting youngsters on the web. All parents need to educate themselves about Internet security, cyberbullying, and social networking dangers. These all represent threats which did not exist just a few years ago, certainly your old Dr Spock books are going to be no use here!

Social networking is growing at an amazing rate, with children of all ages and online predators and cyberbullies using these sites more and more. Parents should understand the guidelines for protecting children each site has, and if you do not believe the rules are strong enough don’t let your child join the site. There are some basic ground rules for social networking sites including MySpace, Facebook, etc for kid safety.

  • First, don’t let your child to use their real name, make a new nickname just for the online world.
  • Second , make sure your child understands not to post your home address, home telephone number, or cell phone number.
  • Third, make a time-frame for when you child can be online .
  • Fourth, all photographs should be reviewed before being posted online .

You should understand that everything your child does on the internet is recorded there forever, once something is uploaded there is generally no delete button. As soon as a site is indexed by a search engine copies are made, so even if you delete the original you will still find thousands of copies all around the net.

Parents should know the way to work the social networking sites which includes making comments on pages, the wall, email, and posting photographs. If possible you should create an account on the social networking site to join in with your children. You can insist to your child that they will not have an account unless they make you a friend so that you can observe their wall, evaluate their friend list and assess the photos getting posted on the web. This simple act will help you forestall online predators from contacting your youngster. I understand most chiildren are not going to like this, but being upfront about everything is far better than being sneaky and being found out.

Cyberbullies bring into play a selection of technology to make threats, trouble, or make the Internet uncomfortable for children. Victims are often kids and the cyberbully generally goes to the same school as your child . Cyberbullies send e-mails, IM or messages to the victim’s cell or computer. This is starting to become even more popular on social networking sites. Parents need to chat to their kids to see if this is happening to them.

Web safety for children is all about parents being educated about web security. Parents need to take a pro-active role in educating themselves about how social networking site work and what is cyberbullying. The more you educate yourself about the internet and talk to your kids the safer they are going to be.

Read More

What Is Your IP Address Telling Everybody?

Back in the early days of the Internet, which of course in the grand scheme of things was very recent, you can be sure that your personal online security was not something that was even remotely considered. As such we are now in the situation where it is incredibly easy to steal information from people online, in fact half the time people are just giving it away for free!
Every computer on the Internet is given its own unique number, its IP address, which allows it to be located amongst the millions of connected devices. What does this IP address reveal about you? How is it used?
Different sites will use your IP address in different ways; it can be used to ensure you see information relevant to your location, or for restricting your access to certain sites, such as gambling sites from US customers or the BBC iPlayer service from those outside the UK. Such activities, though often annoying, are not actually going to harm you. Your IP address can however be used for much more sinister activities.
Finding out simple things like what browser and applications you are using or what operating system you have installed can be done by anybody. Those in the know though will be able to do much more, they will be able to locate your country, city, street even exact house number.
However most criminals are not that interested in your physical location, not when they can do so much more remotely! Through knowing your IP address they can directly connect to your computer, harness any one of thousands of backdoors and security loopholes with the applications you have installed and steal information directly from you. Things like your bank logins, credit card details even simple things like your Facebook logins can be used by criminals for any purpose they see fit.
So while traditionally people have been happy to install ‘anti-virus’ packages it is only recently that they have considered installing software to hide their identity online. Those who use the Internet for any form of banking or sensitive applications would be foolish not to invest in such a service. Packages like Identity Cloaker are the best you can get for protecting your IP address online, as not only do they hide you IP but they encrypt your data too.
You lock your windows, you lock your front door, so don’t leave your computer open.



Read More

The Hidden Dangers of Proxy Servers

Are you aware that everything you do on the Internet can be tracked right back to your computer through the use of your Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is a code assigned to your by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This address is unique to you and your connection, at any one time nobody else will be using the same IP address anywhere in the world and logs are kept of who is using what IP address and when they used it. You may already know about your IP address and are doing your best to protect yourself by using a proxy server. A correctly configured proxy server will appear on the Internet to be just another user, even though in reality there could be thousands of people behind it. While it will be possible to track you back as far as the proxy server it will be impossible to go any further.
That is assuming it is a correctly configured proxy server and not one run by a malicious webmaster intent on harvesting as much information as possible!  You see when you use a proxy server you are putting a lot of faith in the people running it, and how well do you really know them?  Probably not well at all, I will highlight some of the issues and how you can best avoid them.
Firstly how is your data sent? Most public proxy servers work without encryption, this means that any data you send through the proxy server is sent ‘as is’ so if you are typing in your bank login details and password then those will go through the proxy server. So be sure to never visit any sites which require your personal information while using a proxy. This includes your credit card details, so don’t go buying anything over an unencrypted public proxy, if you do you might just as well advertise your card details in the local newspaper.
It is not just criminals and hackers who use the information from proxies, you might be quite surprised how many large companies use such a method for market research. If a big retailer sets up an open proxy they can analyse the information going through it, track your buying history and tailor specific marketing campaigns directly at you. This might seem a bit extreme, but it is only an extension of the existing loyalty card scheme, I presume you know that your supermarket loyalty card only exists so they can track your spending patterns?
Next go read through the proxy sites ‘Terms and Conditions’ as well as their ‘Privacy Policy’, if you don’t like something or feel even the slightest level of suspicion move on! If at all possible choose a proxy which has a good reputation, one that IT experts use and that has a reputation for being safe.
If you are using a public proxy it should be exactly that, completely public, they should not require you to signup, to provide details of any kind. Obviously this does not apply to private proxies where you are paying for a premium service, however still the information a private proxy should collect is no more than that which is needed to bill you for their services.
If you consider your online security to have any value consider using a premium proxy service for cloaking your IP address, preferably one which operates with the highest levels of encryption available and which wipes all server logs so there is no record of even your encrypted activities. There are many proxy options available, but in truth very few which are actually worth using!


Read More