Online Privacy: Why, How-to, And More

Q: "Who, What, Where, and When?"

A: Easy questions, the simple answers are: "You, Privacy, Online, and Today!"

Q: "But Why, and How? Why must one worry about privacy, and How might one attain it?"

A: Now that is a complicated question, there are many factors involved, and many answers to this question.

Why...

As you are reading this, it is likely that there is an 80% or greater chance that your computer contains spyware or viruses that are either designed to monitor your internet browsing habits and "phoning them home" to a large advertisement corporation so they can learn to target you better, and further infringe on your rights to online privacy, or are designed to allow a hacker to control your computer, and either damage the contents of it, or use it to commit online crimes and or vandalism against other computer systems, while giving all the blame to you, or all of the above!

I have taken a deep look through many friends computers, and noticed MULTIPLE instances of such programs, that allowed corporations or individuals abilities to do things that they DID NOT GIVE THEIR CONSENT TO. This is illegal, and not only is it against the law, but it wastes your precious time and money, because most of such software often greatly decreases the efficiency or speed of your computer. Many times i have seen a brand new computer be reduced to the speed of an obsolete system by such programs. Now you are probably thinking as you read this "How could this happen", or "Why would people want to do this to me". The fact is, whether or not you can see any reason for people to do such things, THEY DO IT ANYWAYS. It rarely has anything to do with you, it is due to their own agendas, and the only way to stop this from happening to you is to keep such software out of your computer by any means possible. Chances are you have some software capable of doing at least one of the above things already in your system. What you need to know is you dont need to install some sort of expensive fancy programs to get rid of, and prevent these programs from being in your computer, its really just a matter of simple precautions, and using a few free utilities to protect yourself, and your computer.

How would you feel if you became aware that your computer right now, was being used against your will to attack the website of a large corporation, and cause thousands or even millions of dollars of damage to them? How would you feel if on top of that, people were spying on every website you visit, every program you have on your computer, every key you press on your keyboard, and either collecting personal information on you in order to impersonate you without your knowledge, or to develop means of advertisement to annoy you and personally target you, thus infringing on your basic rights and freedoms as an individual, for privacy?

My guess is that you would not like this one bit. You can learn how to prevent this from happening to you, and how to stop it from happening once it has, and which it in all likelihood, is happening to you right now. There is alot you would need to know in order to be as protected against such things as you have the rights to be, but you dont need to know alot to protect yourself enough.Most powerful hackers can get information from you whether you have $5 software installed on your system, or $50,000 worth of security software installed, and so in theory it is not feasible to protect yourself 100%, but you can however at the very least cut down your chances of this happening to you repeatedly.

The methods to protect yourself and your computer that i will focus on in this website will not cost you one single penny, and will not take a huge amount of your time either. You wont have to pay a computer technician to remove spyware from your computer, or speed it up to how fast it should and could be running at, provided you spend a little bit of time here learning, and in the end, you will save time by doing so. The seconds you spend each day waiting for something to load while you sit, not doing much besides waiting add up over time, and by removing spyware programs, or other programs that slow your system down to a crawl, you will save alot of time. And whats more, doing so is simple, and you do not have to be a genius to do it. This website is how i intend to bring the required knowledge to you, and so you can begin protecting yourself immediately.

How...

How does one prevent any or all of the above things from happening to them, one might ask. This is the tricky part, and it usually depends on many things, first of all you need to know what kind of spyware or viruses you have on your system, and you would find this out by scanning your computer with a program such as Spybot: Search and Destroy , which can detect and clean spyware off your system. Be warned however, companies like Cydoor like to incorporate spyware in some programs such as KaZaA Media Desktop, and by removing the spyware you have to uninstall KaZaA as well. There are often alternatives to this spyware-infested software, such as in the case of KaZaA, you can instead download KaZaA-Lite: K++, which has this spyware removed for you, and also limits the ability of people to determine if you are illegally hosting stolen copyrighted materials on your computer, which is what most people that use this software want.

(However, this is just and example, and i personally do not encourage or endorse you to carry out in any illegal activities, i just feel that the methods used to extract such information from your computer is an infringement on your rights to online privacy, and so nobody has the right to be looking around on your computer to start with.)

After you have detected and cleaned any offending spyware on your computer, you also have to detect and clean any viruses off your computer, not only as they often are able to function in the same way as spyware, but because they usually degrade your computers performance, destroy electronic data stored on your system, or worse. Program such as AVG Antivirus, Norton Antivirus are examples of some good antivirus software out there, AVG being totally free for your use, which is very nice.

After you have done that, you have removed all viruses and spyware off your system, lets hope so anyways. Now, you have to prevent it from coming back on you at a later point in time. That is where a firewall such as ZoneAlarm, or Norton Personal Firewall would come in. However, all of the programs i have told you about so far are discussed in other documents, the focus of this document is on the actual activities that one might get involved in on the internet, such as online banking, email, games, etc. You have to exercise caution in your every day usage of the internet to ensure your private data and personal information is kept confidnetial. If you dont do this, anyone can potentially get ahold of it.

There are several programs and components of the software that are included to try and protect the privacy of such information, such as passwords, secure internet connections using 128-bit (or more) encryption, passwords, and other server and internet components like those above. Then there are the system-side components such as firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software that one might use to help keep information private on their side of the internet, on their computer, which is the second last defense against information theft and privacy infringement. The fact is, you cannot rely on these components, you are the last line of defense of your personal information and private data, the computer only performs as well as the user or administrator using it.

So for example, if you meet some person in a chat room, and give him/her your email address, and they send you an email, and trusting them, you open it, whereby you get a virus that allows them to exploit your computer, get your passwords, and masquerade as you anywhere they want on the internet, then you are in big trouble. This doesnt happen on a catastrophic scale too often for the individual home computer user, but in can happen more frequently in a smaller scale. If it did, then you would run a very high risk of having someone get into your online banking and make unwanted withdrawals from your account, lets say. Now, knowing this is possible you have a pretty damn good reason to worry about online security and privacy I'd say, wouldn't you? This is an example of where it is unlikely any software is going to protect you, and it is entirely up to you to prevent such a thing from happening. Anti-virus software will only catch viruses that can break into data on your computer without your consent, they rarely have the ability to stop programs that you consented to installing from collecting and transmitting private information such as passwords out on the internet, and firewalls will rarely prevent these programs from transmitting outward from inside your computer, they are usually only designed to stop something on the outside from getting in. Now, assuming our example, unless the programs on your computer are either classified as viruses, spyware, or keyloggers by the spyware scanner or virus-scanner running on your computer, then you are screwed, aren't you? Wrong!

You're not screwed yet, but it just got alot harder for you to fix your problems. If you dont have the software that will fix these problems for you, you need to find and fix them yourself, or get someone how knows what they are doing to do it for you, provided they can find out whats going wrong. The problem here is that there are so many possibilities, and most computers are totally unique, so it is very hard for someone who knows one computer well to find an unknown problem on an unknown computer. Herein lies the problems that tech support divisions of a software or hardware company faces every day, and it is often up to them to fix the problems, as they are who most people call to fix their problems. The best way to stop such problems from happening is to stop them from getting in your computer in the first place, by being suspisicous about downloading things onto your computer, and making sure to not give out personal information on the internet unless you absolutely have to.

At a later time, i will make a check-list of ways to ensure you dont give out such private information unintentionally, but in the mean time, the best advice i can offer anyone is just to be suspicious. Don't trust your information to companies you have not heard of, or that you dont trust the security of, sometimes your personal information gets stolen when somebody breaks into a company server, so if this is the case, the only way to keep your information safe is to give it to as few people as possible. Where possible, dont give out your real name, any financial information, passwords, or email addresses to people you do not know or trust, you'd be amazed how these things spread across the internet. Some fraudulent companies make websites designed to get your personal information, only to sell them to the highest bidder to some marketing company, or even an individual perhaps.

In any case, if you are unsure, assume you dont trust a person or company, unless you find legitimate reason to trust them.

See my Online/Offline Security: A Beginner's Guide , and my System Security page for more details.

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