Have You Compromised Your Internet and Computer Security?

It goes without saying that if the wrong people were ever to access your computers, they could wreak havoc on your credit, your finances, and your reputation. Unfortunately, the chances of this happening to you are expanding exponentially as computing power leaps to new heights.
Here are a few tried and true techniques taken from our best-selling manual Ultimate Guide to Low-Profile Living.
  • Keep your personal computer under lock and key. It may seem obvious, but the easiest way to steal private information from a computer is to gain physical access to it. Your home computer should be kept behind a second locked door if possible in a room with no windows that can be accessed from the outside. Laptops are a favorite target for thieves. At your local computer store you can purchase a cable that will ensure your laptop stays secured to a desk or other permanent object at home and while travelling.
  • Set your computer up with a boot password and a login password so that someone can’t get into your system by simply turning on your computer. A boot password is more powerful than the login password and can usually be set up by repeatedly pressing the F1 or F2 button while your computer is powering up. A login password is useful for keeping out family members or co-workers while you are temporarily away and don’t want to power down your machine. You can set up a login password by entering your computer control panel and selecting the user account.
  • Use smart passwords. Your passwords should not be any single word that can be found in the dictionary. Rather, they should be a combination of letters (both capital and lower case) and numbers that have no obvious meaning and therefore would never be guessed by anybody. Some of the most common and easy to hack passwords are listed below. You should avoid them at all costs.
    Admin 654321 computer
    password 00000000 Internet
    Password mypass super
    1234 pass godblessyou
    12345 abc123 secret
    123456789 love asdf

    Generally, the larger the password — the more secure it is.

  • When you delete files, ensure they are really deleted. The only real way to be sure that sensitive data won’t end up in the wrong hands is to get rid of it. Most people think that when a computer deletes a file or program, it erases it. But with the right software, you (or someone else) can find deleted programs on a computer disk or hard drive. A secret the public is seldom told about is that you can erase data on a hard drive or floppy disk by recording over the same spot several times which is a process known as “wiping.” Look on popular download sites (like www.download.com) for wipe programs or file shredders. (Believe it or not, federal law enforcement can recover files that have been wiped up to a dozen or more times.)
  • Approach email security with a privacy-enhancing strategy by using several different accounts. Use one account for messages sent to public groups, another for online shopping, another for business/work, and perhaps one or two others for your personal communications with family and friends. Each new account you create (and each old one you abandon) makes it that much harder for a snoop to find out information about you from old emails that may be stored in a variety of places.
  • Never place unknown hardware in your computer. If you find an extra piece of hardware like a thumb drive or mouse lying around, do not connect it to your computer until you have confirmed its source. Accessing private hard drives via Trojan Horse programs placed on hardware has already become a tried and true method for government agents and corporate snoops to gain access to private computer systems. If you find a disk, chip, mouse, or keyboard lying around that you don’t recognize, throw it away!
  • Never download software from an unknown source. Beware of accidently downloading spyware or malware (malicous software) embedded in programs such as toolbars that attach to web browsers (often installing themselves along with other software supposedly to enhance your browsing experience). Don’t accept downloads from sites you don’t already know and trust. Luckily, if it’s too late – and your computer already caught some form of spyware/malware – there are many programs that can detect and erase spyware. One popular program that is available as a free download is Ad-Aware from (www.lavasoftusa.com).
Consider implementing some or all of the above protocols to protect your privacy. And keep your eyes peeled for more information from Independent Living News on this increasingly important subject.