Living Dangerously - Unprotected Surfing May Cost You Your Identity


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Running a late model OS on your computer like Windows XP or Vista? Doing a lot of surfing on the net? How is spyware treating you so far? You don't know? I think it would be wise for you to find out. No it's not enough to just accept whatever came with your computer and assume you have nothing to do with the problem anymore. There are things you need to do and do right away. Don't delay any further.

Spyware are those programs that are installed on your computer without you knowing. These programs often do a lot more than just showing you advertisements in the form of popups. The ones you have to watch for are keyloggers and trojans which will relay information about you and your data back to a host. Imagine if you will that the data coming in to that host is up for sale to the highest bidder. Assume also that the buyer of that data is a criminal intent on stealing your identity and draining your bank account or using your credit cards. Impossible, you say. Think again - it's happening all the time and getting worse every day. As many as 90% of all computers connected to the Internet may be infected this way.

Let's talk about the steps you can take to protect yourself. First make sure you have an automatic download feature to download the latest security patches from your OS vendors (probably Microsoft). You should have Windows XP Service pack 2 installed and allow the default settings. In my opinion you also need a reputable standalone software in tandem with the Microsoft stuff. This will make sure nothing gets through.

If you use Internet Explorer I would stop and change to Firefox. While Firefox has not always been squeaky clean, it is a lot less vulnerable to attack since it is not tightly coupled to the operating system as IE is. It also has some nice optional features that enhance your life on the net. You can keep IE on the computer as a browser alternate in case Firefox goes down but in my experience it's very reliable. I'm glad I made the change.

By changing to the Firefox browser as well as keeping your OS up to date by downloading the latest security patches as they happen (and they are frequent) and installing a firewall will make your environment a lot safer. In addition do the basic things like making your passwords hard to crack and changing them frequently. It goes without saying that if your surfing is careless and you use a lot of *** , gambling and music or DVD download sites you are indulging in risky behavior. At least after such forays double check your machine by scanning and don't stay too long. Don't leave your computer on while you're away from your desk. One last thing - avoid the temptation of free softwares and other free downloads. They all come with a hidden cost. You don't need them and at worst you don't want to bring in a visitor who hovers over you invisibly and sends your vital financial information to a cyber criminal in another part of the world.

John Garvey specializes in the world of computer and internet security. His analyses and recommendations on spyware and other threats to internet security are widely known in the field and appear frequently at the website


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