Blogs are great. They help you keep in touch with friends and let the world know
your thoughts. Which is all well and good, but you have to make sure you're sensible
about it. What you think may be a harmless piece of information, like the school
you're from or the local football team you play for, could be all someone needs
to be able to trace you in real life. You know all the horror stories - just take
care in the details you're posting and think before you click "Submit".
We seem to live in a world where everything has a password - your bank account PIN,
e-mail accounts, mobile phone codes... the thing is, all too many people use the
same password for everything online. That's their e-mail account, their blogging
login, instant messaging programs, and whatever else they get up to. Don't be one
of these people - use different passwords for different activities to make sure
you're safe if someone finds out. It's a good idea to use a combination of letters
and numbers for extra safety, change it regularly, and make it something less obvious
than your dog's name. Apparently that's the most common password chosen.
Sometimes it seems a mystery how spammers got hold of your address in the first
place. Often, they send what's called a spider out, which crawls web pages looking
for e-mail addresses. So, if you've got your e-mail posted on somebody's Guestbook
or on your own personal website, it might be the source of some of the spam. There's
one easy way you can protect yourself here - disguise your e-mail address when you
post it online. Humans will be able to interpret it correctly, but spiders won't.
Here's some examples:
rob [at] email [dot] com
rob@ *SPAM* email.com
You might think it makes sense to click the “Unsubscribe” link at the
bottom of Spam e-mails. But think of it this way: if these spammers are willing
to send you advertisements without your consent, are they really going to care if
you ask them not to? In truth, clicking Unsubscribe merely confirms that your e-mail
address is a valid one. Most web-based e-mail clients allow you to click a "Report
Spam" button that will move the offending message into your junk mail folder.
Doing this will also train the spam filters to reject this kind of message in the
future. If you don't have this feature, simply delete the message.
If you're using file sharing software to download music or movies, you'll probably
have come across files that aren't named correctly or contain different material
to that which you were expecting. Most programs have a ratings or comments system
whereby other users who have downloaded the same file can report on whether it was
what they were expecting. It's a good idea to check this before you start downloading…
and to participate in the system to help other users, too.
If you've accidentally come across material online that's illegal - child pornography,
for example - it's important to report it to the correct authorities so it can be
dealt with. The Internet Watch Foundation
has been set up to allow you to report any illegal content you have encountered.
If you're accessing the Internet through a wireless network in your house, be sure
to check that encryption is enabled. If it isn't, anyone could stand outside your
house with a laptop and start viewing your files. And even if they couldn't do that,
they'd still be stealing your Internet bandwidth. Check with whoever set up the
network in your house as this is vitally important.
Without proper protection from viruses, you're leaving your computer at risk from
all manner of threats. Thankfully, there are a number of free anti-virus programs
out there to regularly scan your computer, and if you keep it updated, you should
be safe from the newest viruses. AVG by Grisoft is widely used and regularly updated
to catch the newest viruses. And for a quick check, Trend Micro have produced Housecall,
a virus scanner you can run straight from your web browser.
Grisoft AVG Free
A firewall is a buffer between your computer and the Internet. It limits both incoming
and outgoing information, and keeps your computer safe from intruders. It can't
stop you downloading spyware, but it can alert you if a program is sending information
over the Internet without your permission.
Both Windows XP and Mac OS X include excellent built-in Firewalls, and it’s
a good idea to keep them on at all times. Click the following links to find instructions
for your OS:
If you need a little more control, third-party firewalls might be your best bet.
Zonelabs produces ZoneAlarm
, a free firewall for Windows with an excellent reputation. For
Macs, there are no known free firewalls but Norton Personal Firewall
is a recommended commercial product.
Internet Explorer (Windows) and Safari (Mac) aren't your only choices when it comes
to searching on the web. In fact, many technical professionals are now suggesting
you look at some of the new browsers available as they could help in preventing
spyware from reaching your PC. Mozilla Firefox is gaining popularity at the moment,
as is Opera. Both deserve a look.
There's nothing worse than being greeted with an ad for an online casino when all
you're looking for is song lyrics. The latest versions of both Internet Explorer
and Mozilla Firefox
both include blockers that detect when a popup
is being loaded without you asking for it. This should be enabled by default but
all the options are easily accessible from your browser's settings menu. Several
browser toolbars now exist that also include popup blockers, such as the Google Toolbar
It's all too easy to rush through installation screens when you want to download
the latest track from your favourite artist, but you need to make sure you're not
sharing more files than you thought. When you're installing the software, read each
screen before clicking Next to make sure you're not accidentally sharing half your
hard drive to the outside world. Every so often, check in the options of your file
sharing program to make sure you know exactly what's being shared and what's not.