Ten Steps to Safer Surfing

by Michael on September 18th, 2006 in Industry and Security News.

In light of the recent e-scandal in Sweden just before national elections, we're reminded of the importance of practicing safe surfing. Hackers from one political party were able to break into the network of the opposing party, resulting in high-level resignations.

Instead of bombarding you with more information on the importance of online privacy after the fact, we thought we'd help you stay proactive. We've been working on a "top 10" list to help keep you free from privacy invasions.

Ten Steps to Safer Surfing

1. Install anti-spyware software on your computer. This simple step allows you to monitor activities on your computer, to ensure that your private information stays private.
2. Be leery of downloads. Programs that use spyware are growing increasingly sneaky with their installation techniques. Make sure you read and understand all of the "fine print" before you download.
3. Exercise caution and common sense. Yes, we know it sounds obvious, but make certain a site is legitimate, especially before entering sensitive personal information. (Does the site give you off-line contact information? Is there a privacy policy?) Always make sure that your connection is secure, or encrypted, before entering private details.
4. Don't reveal private information easily or unintentionally. Remember that you are in control of your information; think twice about giving out personal information on website registration pages. Also, you may be inadvertently exposing personal details, including e-mail addresses and other contact information, if you don't properly configure your Web browser. In your browser's "Setup", "Options" or "Preferences" menus, you can use a pseudonym instead of your real name, and choose to leave out your e-mail address.
5. Don't open emails and attachments from unknown users. Sound familiar? You may have heard that one before, but it makes the list because, even after all the warnings, it's still difficult for us to internalize that different dangers lurk online than in pen and paper. Don't open attachments unless you know they are coming from friends or family.
6. Keep a side e-mail account. Use a free e-mail service as a separate account from the personal one you normally use. If you are posting to newsgroups, writing in chat rooms, have a webpage with contact information, or are required to enter an email address to use a certain site, use the side address, so your personal account stays "clean." If you do get spammed, don't reply to the mail, even if it's to follow the instructions on how to remove yourself from the mailing list. This only confirms that your email address is in fact active.
7. Clean out your search history regularly. Most browsers record the address of every website you visit. Deleting your search history, if you're using Internet Explorer, is as easy as changing the "Internet Options" setting in the "Tools" menu.
8. Clean out your cache. Browsers keep track of the websites you visit in a temporary cache file. You can also clean out the cache in the "Internet Options" setting in the "Tools" menu.
9. Clean out your cookies. By now you may be tired of all of this online "cleaning," but this is another easy way (again, you can use the "Internet Options" setting in the "Tools" menu) to make sure you're not revealing your surfing habits. Some browsers allow you to have control over cookies; you may be able to see a notice (and decide whether or not you want to install it) when a site tries to write a cookie file to your hard drive. You can also look into cookie management software and services.
10. Educate all users on your computer about online privacy, including your children. Spyware creators are expert at finding ways to infiltrate your system. It's important to set clear guidelines and rules about computer use with your kids.

Happy surfing!