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Surfing the Web Anonymously and Web Security

Surfing the Web Anonymously and Web Security

Surfing the Web Anonymously and Web Security

When you surf the web it is possible to learn information about you even when you don’t want to advertise who you are. This is true even if your system contains no virus or malware software. Specifically information that is easily available online includes your IP address, your country (and often more location information based on IP address), what computer system you are on, what browser you use, your browser history, and other information.  It gets worse.  People can get your computer’s name and even find out your name if your machine supports programs like finger or identd. Also, cookies can track your habits as you move from machine to machine.

How do people get this basic information about you?

When you visit another web site, information about you can be retrieved.  Basically, information is intercepted and used by others to track your Internet activities.

How do you stop this from happening?

First of all, it is possible to serf the web anonymously and thereby stop leaving a trail for others to find. Note that this is not fool-proof, but it makes it much harder for people to know who you are. There are products called anonymous proxy servers that help protect you.  The anonymous proxy server replaces your Internet address for its own.  This has the effect of hiding your IP address and making it much harder for people to track you.

How do I get an anonymous proxy server?

There are many vendors who sell anonymous proxy servers. There are also free proxy servers available to you. Two such products are ShadowSurf and Guardster.  Guardster (http://www.guardster.com/) offers various services for anonymous and secure access to the web, some paid as well as a free service.  ShadowSurf  (http://www.shadowsurf.com/) ShadowSurf provides anonymous surfing at their site for free. Go to it and you will find a box to enter a URL that you want no one to track. There are many others, but here are two that are frequently used.

Another interesting product, given the recent news about the Google search engine filtering its findings for the Chinese government, is Anonymizer (http://www.anonymizer.com). This company, among others, recently (Feb 1st, 2006) pressed that it “is developing a new anti-censorship solution that will enable Chinese citizens to safely access the entire Internet filter-free” (http://www.anonymizer.com/consumer/media/press_releases/02012006.html).

Does an anonymous proxy server make you 100% safe?

No.  Still, you are much better off if you use such technology.

What other things should I be concerned about when trying to keep my private information private?

Three other items come to mind when trying to keep your information private. First, you can use an encrypted connection to hide your surfing. This article does not go into detail on this, but search the web and you will find a lot of information on this.  Secondly, delete cookies after each session.  Third, you can configure your browser to remove JavaScript, Java, and active content. This actually leads to limitations, so you need to think about the cost/benefit of this course of action.

Anything else?

Wishing you happy and safe surfing!

Website Security Rules of the Road

In 2004, online consumer spending was at a record $65.1 billion.  More and more people are attracted to the ease of online shopping and are spending higher amounts.  Unfortunately, the chances of becoming a victim of Internet fraud are also increasing.  The Internet National Fraud Center Watch reported that the average loss to fraud victims for just the first six months of 2005 was $2,579.   This is compared to the $895 average for all of 2004.   Complaints relating to general merchandise purchases (goods never received or misrepresented) accounted for 30% of Internet fraud complaints, and auction purchases (goods never received or misrepresented) topped the list at 44%.

While many e-commerce Websites are reputable and have taken the necessary safety precautions to protect you, it never hurts to always proceed cautiously.  If you are making an online purchase consider these easy steps:

  1. Use only one credit card, preferably with a low credit limit, when making online purchases. Avoid using an ATM or debit card.
  2. Be wary of unsolicited offers by sellers. The Internet National Fraud Information Center Watch reported that email, as a method of contact by Internet scammers was up 22% in 2004.While the offer may be legitimate, spammers like to use this tactic to side-step reputable sites that provide consumer protection for online purchases.
  3. Use only reputable e-commerce websites that list a street address and telephone number in case you need to contact them directly.
  4. Read the website’s privacy policy. Some websites may reserve the right to sell/give your information to a third party.  Check the document to see if they allow an opportunity to “opt-out” of receiving special offers from third-party vendors or for permission to share your personal information.
  5. Check for a lock symbol in the status bar at the bottom of your Web browser window. Also, do not provide your personal information if the website address doesn’t start with “https” (a sign that the site is using a secure server).
  6. Choose only verified sellers. Check to see if the vendor is a verified member of a reputable third party such as the Better Business Bureau, VeriSign, or Guardian eCommerce.  These third-party sites help to ensure online consumers will be protected when shopping or conducting e-commerce transactions.
  7. Check that the delivery date posted is reasonable. If you have not dealt with the vendor on a regular basis, be wary of any Website that states the shipment will be delayed  20 or more days.  Delivery dates of 7-10 days are more common.
  8. Keep a paper trail of all online transactions. Print out a hard copy of the transaction and keep it in a file for future reference.
  9. Be wary of website offers that just sound too good to be true. The Internet is littered with get rich quick scams and false advertising claims.  Investigate all claims thoroughly before proceeding.
  10. If you do not receive what you paid for, and the vendor will not return your emails or calls, contact your state’s Department of Consumer Affairs for further assistance.
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