Traffic tips for avoiding a crash on the Web
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: October 21, 2008
|If bots can shut down the entire country of Estonia, don't assume the same thing can't happen to you just because you're using a security program.|
When I taught my children to drive, I started with a basic rule. Assume everybody else behind a wheel is trying to kill you. Sounds like overkill, I know, but it works. I've learned the hard way to apply that same rule to the Web. Gene Retske is the go-to guy for many members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors when we have a computer question. "If you're a writer," he said, "you undoubtedly use the Internet for research. You need to understand what activities pose the greatest threat and how to avoid becoming a victim."
|For starters, that usually means running a security program. Retske uses a Mac, and many fans of that system say you're not as vulnerable as PC users. Approximately 60 percent of the visitors to my own Web site browse via Internet Explorer. Microsoft has come a long way with safety-related patches. But security isn't just about your browser, it's about your behavior. |
Cybercrime is such an important issue, it's a top priority for the FBI and for many state officials. Just recently, German police discovered a networking site for those in the fraud business was actually an FBI sting. Wired said, "DarkMarket.ws, an online watering hole for thousands of identify thieves, hackers and credit card swindlers, has been secretly run by an FBI cybercrime agent for the last two years, until its voluntary shutdown earlier this month, according to documents unearthed by a German radio network."
Possibly the best way you can avoid fraud relates to your selection of passwords. Never use your name, birth date or any other identifying information. Mix letters and numbers, upper and lower case. Select unusual combinations and test the password strength in your security program.
For security, Retske suggests AVG. He uses it on his wife's computer. "It's free and seems to be effective." Many anti-virus programs impact your computer's efficiency. "Anti-virus programs are the reason I moved to Mac," he says. "They sap a lot of the power of your computer and slow it down considerably."
Retske offers tips and I've added a few myself to help you avoid a crash online:
• E-mail is a critical factor. Never click on a link in an e-mail unless you are 110 percent sure where it goes. You can position your cursor on the link without actually clicking to determine the URL. It's still best not to click. Never open attachments, with particular attention to Word documents, notorious for carrying infections. Use your security program to scan the document after saving it to your hard drive if you trust the sender. Banks and businesses rarely contact you by e-mail, unless you've sent an e-mail yourself by way of your account within a secure site. If you do go to a fraudulent site and enter your information, your account can be hijacked.
• Never under any circumstances send account information like credit card numbers, logins or passwords by e-mail. Criminals have programs that look for this kind of information to scrape.
• If you are logging onto an account, make sure the address at the top of the browser starts with 'https' instead of 'http.' I also check for the padlock icon in the toolbar.
• Don't ever use the same password for every site.
• If you're on a public computer or logging on as a guest anywhere, don't log into a site that uses a password and don't type in your credit card information or any other private information. If you do the next user may be able to see that information, and there's always the chance the computer could be infected.
• In your Internet Options folder, set your browser to empty itself when you're finished. You can also do this manually.
I'd also offer a caution about social media. Not long ago, there was a fellow in a group I belong to. He kept asking people if they had a passport. Many visitors to the group forum shared a great deal of personal information—not credit card numbers but hometowns and other info. Keep in mind the Web is global—you never know who's reading what you're sharing. One of the worst innocent mistakes is sharing your birthday. On all the social media sites I belong to, I set the account privacy so that only my friends or trusted associates can see my information.
Another tip on e-mail—if you're sending a group e-mail, use the BCC feature rather than showing all the addresses in the 'TO' field. Most people don't like their e-mail address shared with large groups of strangers. Use only your own address in the 'TO' field for group e-mails.
|Scanning Web sites for resource links, I discovered October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, but that's really a topic of concern year-round. Last year a cyber attack unleashed bots and the country of Estonia was held hostage. Experts from around the world came together to solve the crisis. |
While there are many pitfalls on the Web, there are also many informational sites that keep you up to date. It goes without saying you should be sure to stay current with security and other updates. Like driving on the highway, surfing the Web can take you to wonderful places and experiences. If you keep safety in mind, you reduce the chances of a crash and save yourself time and resources dealing with the aftermath.
Website for Gene Retske, telecommunications authority, author and speaker.
Free anti-virus and spyware protection.
Stay current with updates; tips.
Tips and information about bots.
US Computer Emergency Readiness Team
Excellent resource with tips and expanded information.
Email etiquette at F/K/A
Harvard Law blog with excellent advice.
Feature about the FBI cybercrime sting.
'Hackers take down the most wired country in Europe'
Not only an engaging tale, but a brilliantly written story by Joshua Davis who manages to turn a complex account into a whodunit.
--Posted Oct. 21, 2008
Our next Web Savvy features an interview with writer Simon Owen who provides content for C-SPAN, PBS and many other publishers. Simon also works with New Media Strategies, a company providing leading corporations and brands with "eyes, ears and a voice" online in over forty of the top industries. Join us and grab ideas for establishing your own online presence.
Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International, The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.