Tuesday, October 12, 2010

komando gives great advice

You know,  if you have read my blog before that Kim Komando is the Queen of everything technical.  The following is a post from her site that will help all of us.  We must be very careful what information we post on the internet  Please read, then go to her site www.komando.com to get the rest of the story.

Learn what Websites know about you


Q. I saw the Privacy Check page on your site. I'm a bit confused by it. It looks like sites can see some information about my machine and sites I've visited. Why does this matter?
—Barbara in Charleston, WV, listening on WCHS 580 AM
A. We've all had the feeling that Websites know a little too much. You'll see ads tailored for your location. They may be ads for a local business. Or, the ads mention your city. You'll also notice ads for products similar to ones you've searched for.
These ads can seem creepy. But, they're a symptom of a bigger problem. Sites are tracking you online. They're gathering your information and putting it into databases. And the sites can build a very detailed profile of you.
By checking the sites you visit, they know your interests. They may be able to determine medical conditions and political affiliation. Other information reveals your location. And they may be able to tie all this information to your real-world identity.
Of course, these are legitimate, mainstream sites. They want the information for marketing purposes. Things get worse when criminals get information about you or your machine. They can use the information to attack you. That should give anyone pause.
My Privacy Check page shows you some of the information sites can gather. It looks at the data on your machine, so the information is specific to it. The page does not store any of your data. It simply shows you what the Web knows about you.
Before I explain what's on the Privacy Check page, do me a favor. Share this tip with your family and friends. Tell them to check their online privacy. Post a link on Facebook or Twitter. Or, send this tip via e-mail. Just click the appropriate button in the sharing box at the bottom of this page.
Now, let's take a look at what the Privacy Check page displays. I'll also tell you why you should be worried about the data.
First up is IP address. This is a number that is used to identify your computer and other gadgets online. This is generally assigned by your service provider. Sites can use this to determine your location.
In some cases, the location may be slightly off. Still, sites can use your IP address to identify you personally. For example, the site could subpoena your provider for your name and address. You really only have to worry about that if you're involved with a court case, though.
Sites can also see information about your computer. They know the operating system and browser you're using. They can see your time zone, language and character set. This may not seem like a big deal.
But the combination of this information is often enough to uniquely identify you. Or, think what criminals could do with this data. They can target specific vulnerabilities in your operating system or browser. That makes their attacks swifter and more effective.
Sites can also see the other sites you've been visiting. This takes a little ingenuity. Sites can't just browse through your Web history. Rather, they need to exploit a browser trick to see your history.
Browsers display links you've visited in a different color. This is the default setting in all browsers. Sites can also see how a page looks on your computer. So, a site can add a piece of code that checks how a list of links looks on your computer. If a link changes color, it knows you've visited that particular site. This only works for sites still in your Web history.
Because of the way this works, it is somewhat limited. But don't dismiss the problem. A site can check more than 25,000 links per second! My Privacy Check page only checks a handful of links. You can bet other sites are checking more links.
It is disturbing to think that a legitimate company is checking your history. Your history gives insight into your interests and affiliations. It can also reveal medical conditions and other information you want to keep private.
A criminal can use this for more devious purposes. Think about this for a second: A criminal can determine what banking sites you visit fairly easily. He can better target you with a phishing attack.
Now, let's talk about what you can do to protect yourself. You can't block your computer from disclosing your IP address and information about your machine. But you can use a free proxy service like Tor, Privoxy or Jap. These route your Internet traffic through online servers. This will obscure information about your machine and the IP address.
To prevent sites from seeing sites you've visited, keep your Web history clean. You can set your browser to never remember history. In Firefox, go to Tools>>Options>>Privacy. In the History section, set it to "Firefox will never remember history." You will still need to clean out your past history.
In Internet Explorer, go to Tools>>Internet Options. Find the Browsing History section in the General tab. Check the Delete Browsing History on Exit option. This will clear your history whenever you restart the browser.
You also need to worry about cookies. These are small pieces of code that a site or ad places on your machine. They can be used to track you, too. And they can link your online and offline identities. Click here to learn what you need to know about cookies, including how to delete them.
Of course, there are also Flash cookies. These are set by Flash Player. They're stored separately from traditional cookies. And they can be used to bring back traditional cookies. Click here to learn how to delete Flash cookies.
For more help maintaining your online privacy, check these tips:

Thanks Kimkomando.com

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