5 Reasons to Use Private Browsing Mode

Named InPrivate browsing in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer, and Incognito mode in Google Chrome, private browsing has many uses, despite many assuming that people only use it when browsing adult websites. When you use this special mode, no information about the websites you visit should be saved on the device, such as cookies, history, and cache information. Everything should disappear as soon as you close the private browsing window. However, this feature is not only useful for keeping your browsing habits to yourself, but it also has some other uses.

  1. Sign in on Other Computers

When using any public computer, you should always use private browsing, particularly when signing into any online accounts, such as Gmail or Facebook. However, if you’re using a friend’s computer, it also makes sense to use private browsing, particularly if you both have accounts on the same website. For example, if you both have a Gmail account, you’ll need to ask your friend to sign out before you can sign in. Alternatively, however, you can just log in using the private browser instead. You’ll be automatically signed out as soon as you close the window.

  1. Shop Online Freely

Since regular browsing saves all of your searches and visited websites, advertisers use the information to personalize certain search results. For example, if you regularly shop on Amazon, the website will suggest products to you based on previous searches. While this feature might be useful on occasion, the process is entirely automated, so it can get things wrong. If you want to shop online free from such distractions, you can usually do so by using private browsing, since previous search queries are usually stored in cookies on your computer rather than on your actual account.

  1. Bypass Search Engine Personalization

By default, Google and most other search engines use your search history to customize your search results, and while this can be useful, you might occasionally want to see how the search results look to everyone else. Private browsing will also allow you to carry out these searches without you having to log out on your regular browser. Private browsing also allows you to see how a website looks to the general public. For example, it’s ideal for viewing your Facebook profile as it appears to the general public, without having to log off and clear your Internet history first.

  1. Access Multiple Online Accounts

Most websites with account-gated online services, such as social networks and Web-based email services, only allow you to log in on one account at a time. Private browsing, on the other hand, allows you to have two accounts on the same website open simultaneously. You can further increase the maximum number of accounts you can have open by using additional private browsing windows. The reason this trick works is because private browsing windows use their own cookies, containing login information, which are completely separate from the main browser.

  1. Avoid Reading Limits on Subscription Websites

Some websites, particularly online versions of printed newspapers and magazines, have reading limits, only allowing guest visitors to read a certain maximum number of articles per day, week, or month. The number of articles you have already read are typically stored as cookies, which are deleted automatically after a private browsing session. The only other way around this limitation, without subscribing to the website in question, is to completely clear your browser’s cookie cache, which usually isn’t a convenient option.

Final Words

Ultimately, private browsing allows you to protect your privacy online while also affording you the convenience of being able to access a fresh browser state whenever you need it, without having to completely clear your history. Particularly when using any public machine, private browsing is a must for keeping your data safe and decreasing the risk of accidentally leaving yourself logged on to accounts containing personal or financial information.

 

Despite the clear benefits of private browsing, it is also important to stress that it is not fool-proof, and it does absolutely nothing to prevent people from monitoring you externally, such as your employer or Internet service provider. Many search engines and social networks also record your search history, albeit anonymously, and private browsing has no impact on this. As always, you should err on the side of caution whenever entering private information online.

 

 

 

Why You Shouldn’t Trust Open Wireless Networks

Wireless networks are everywhere. From shopping malls to airports, nearly every public space has Wi-Fi available. And while these networks are great for busy people who need to stay connected wherever they go, they can be a magnet for malicious hackers.

Not only can a public or “open” wireless network give hackers a way to get online anonymously, it can also expose legitimate users to attack. Depending on how the wireless network is configured, everything you send and receive while connected could be intercepted by malicious hackers. Before you take advantage of the free Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, think about the dangers involved and learn how to protect yourself.

Everything You Do is Public on a Public Network

The wireless network in your home or office is almost certainly protected with a password. Not only does this password help ensure that only people authorized to use the network are granted access, it also protects the information sent over the airwaves by encrypting it. Public wireless networks usually offer no such protections.

When you connect to a wireless network without a password, most everything you do is sent “in the clear,” and can be seen by anyone with a wireless device and freely-available software. To counter such eavesdropping, some individual web sites offer end-to-end encryption through a secure protocol called “HTTPS.” Unfortunately, not all web sites offer HTTPS, and some sites only employ it when you first sign in—a security oversight which would still allow a malicious hacker to hijack your account.

Can You Trust the Network’s Owner

Even if your local coffee shop requires you to enter a password before getting online, that’s no guarantee that your information won’t fall into someone else’s hands. Whoever controls the wireless access point controls your data. If someone working at the coffee shop is unethical, he or she can configure the wireless router to snoop on all the traffic it handles.

Another thing to consider is whether or not you’re even connected to the wireless network you think you are. Malicious hackers will often create fraudulent “hotspots” in high-traffic areas, crafted to look like the legitimate networks of area businesses. If you make a habit of using open wireless networks, you could be connecting to a hacker’s hotspot without even knowing it.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself

Good security practice begins with understanding the risks posed by the services and technologies you use. Now that you’re aware of the dangers found in using public wireless networks, you can take steps to protect yourself, and still reap the benefits of free Wi-Fi.

First, never allow your wireless devices to automatically connect to open Wi-Fi. It’s okay to enable automatic connections for your home and office networks, but your device should always ask for your permission before connecting to public hotspots.

Next, whenever you connect to a public network, use a browser extension such as the EFF’s “HTTPS Everywhere.” This extension ensures that your browser will always use the secure, encrypted protocol whenever you access a web site which supports HTTPS. Above all, never log in to a web site or share your personal information over an unencrypted session.

Lastly, if your job or usage requires you to regularly connect to public wireless networks, you should strongly consider signing up for a Virtual Private Network, or “VPN,” offered by a trusted provider. Among other things, a VPN will encrypt any and all information sent between your device and the Internet.

Many trusted providers offer VPNs for as little as $10 per month, and some web hosting companies even offer free VPN service as part of their higher-tier packages. This combination of low cost and solid protection makes using a VPN the best way to avoid the dangers of public wireless networks without giving up their advantages. Without one, you’re taking a big risk every time you connect.

 

About ManageURiD.  ManageURiD is owned and operated by military veterans; seasoned professionals with decades of experience in the advanced analytics and data mining software industry. Our senior team has extensive knowledge in the “sensitive consumer data” space, and a highly successful track record of supporting organizations and major federal agencies with data-intensive mandates in areas such as intelligence, security, law enforcement, finance, healthcare, and homeland security.

Staying Safe on a Dangerous Internet

by Peter Zimmerman

The Internet has become a major part of our world. The amount of information and content on the Internet over the past several years has multiplied tremendously. Much of our lives revolve around websites, social media sites, and experiences we have online. In turn, we communicate those experiences with our friends and family. The fact is much of the Internet is fun, entertaining, useful, and rewarding. The Internet has increased our knowledge and opened our eyes to people, places, and information we would have never experienced in a pre-Internet world.

As fun and exciting as the Internet is, there is a very dark side to it as well. It is a side that threatens you and your family. The dark side of the Internet is filled with people that may stalk you and your family to cause harm.  Their ultimate goal is to take what you have.  Protecting yourself and your family has to be a top priority, if it isn’t you may end up spending a lot of time and money trying to repair the damage that may be done.

Here’s a list of 4 serious dangers that exist in today’s Internet world:

1. Identity theft. By far the greatest danger out there, identity theft comes in many different forms, and almost always results in great harm or damage to your reputation, your credit score, and perhaps your bank account.

2. Sexual Predators. These are criminals that prey on naïve or young victims. Their motives are sexual harassment and/or theft. Violence is also a concern with these types of crimes. There are no limitations to the kind of people being targeted, but they are usually female and young.

3. Extortion. They are schemes that criminals use to steal personal information and then try to use it against you with a common goal, to get your money. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) report an increase in the use of personal information published in a malicious way to scam victims out of money. They post the stolen information and then demand money to have it removed. These are commonly related to dating websites but exist elsewhere as well.

4. Email Scams. Beware of unsolicited emails sent asking for personal information or making promises of cash rewards that are not true and used only as bait. IC3 publishes regular press releases concerning these attempts, which change and evolve from time to time. Also, be aware of emails with virus-ridden attachments used for phishing purposes.

With these very real dangers in mind, what can be done to protect us? First, don’t panic! Put together a game plan to protect you and your family. Many of the following suggestions you may already know about and are using, others may be new to you. The most important rule of thumb is to be fanatical about keeping your family’s personal information private. Once the information escapes on the Internet it is very difficult, if not impossible to claw back.

Instill the same sense of urgency in your family. It is essential they share your sense of security and drive to keep the family safe. One weak link can expose the entire family to danger. Younger children and teenagers frequently feel invisible, and that can allow them to act recklessly on the Internet. Also, today’s quest among the young (and sometimes adults as well) is one of fame. “How many followers can I attract? What video can I produce that will give me instant fame and popularity among my peers?” We have all been there, and our world may not have presented the same kind of constant danger as today’s, but that requires us to be alert constantly as we address the present dangers.

The list of dangers above presented the facts about the dangers of today’s Internet. The following list presents the key elements of staying safe from these dangers:

1. Never post any personally identifiable information to the Internet for public viewing. For instance, never post your name, address, and/or telephone for public viewing on any public website, social media sites included. Thieves will grab that information and connect it to other information that may have stolen from you. If you must post this information to private, secure websites, do it only sparingly with those you trust.

2. The following advice may sound paranoid, but it is another step to keep your family safe.  Unless required, consider sharing your picture only with family and friends. Your picture can be used against you as part of Internet scams and extortion.  True or false information can be posted alongside your photo and personal information with a later demand for money. Many of these scam websites exist in countries outside the realm of U.S. law enforcement.

3. Install virus protection software on your computer, regardless of the type of computer or operating system you are using. The software should examine websites, cookies, incoming emails, tracking devices, etc. Skimping in the area of software protection is a big mistake.

4. If you have children, install software that controls the websites they can visit and will warn you of any potential threats to your children via a log or instant alerts. The software packages examined for this article had that ability to block dangerous behavior and immediately text a parent when suspicious activity is occurring. Those are priceless features and highly recommended.

5. Even more important than #4 is talking to your children. Explain to them the dangers presented by the Internet and then suggest websites that you know are safe and that they may find interesting or fun. Working with them, watching them, and communicating will educate them on how to be safe online. Consider locating your children’s computers in the family room so there are no secrets or dangers you are not aware of.

6. Change your passwords on bank sites, investment sites, and other accounts regularly. Never use common words, birthdays, or other personally identifiable information as passwords. Passwords used by the whole family need to be random with no specific meaning.

7. Scan your computer hard drives regularly for viruses or Trojans (files infected with software that steals information) that may have slipped by your protection. You can never be too safe from Internet criminals. Running this software just adds to the layers of protections.  Never open email attachments from someone you are unfamiliar with.

8. Use the Internet as reference and communication material, when at all possible don’t store information on a website that you wouldn’t want the most vicious of criminals to see. What is harmless to one person may be a gold mine to a savvy criminal.

Hopefully this review of Internet crime, and the ways you can prevent becoming a victim of that crime has been helpful. It’s necessary from time to time to sit back and think about yours and your family’s security. Taking a few moments to install preventative measures and software can help avoid hours, days, and even weeks of doing damage control from attempted criminal activity. You have friends in cyberspace, but there are also dangerous predators and criminals. Put up the defenses that will protect you and your family for years to come. You’ll be glad you did.

Guide to Avoid Cyber Bullying

When someone knocks your books out of your arms in the hall or picks a fight in the school’s playground, you know you’re being bullied. Cyber bullying may not be as easy to spot because the perpetrators are often anonymous and instead of beating your body up, the attackers focus on humiliating and unnerving you. These types of attacks may not leave any physical scars, but they can be far more harmful leading some children to commit suicide. In the same way you would fight a bully who picks a fight, you have to learn to protect yourself in the new school playground: cyberspace.

Take a Look Around

Cyberspace can be a virtual wonderland that comes with new experiences and online friends. Before you go into any virtual area, you need to understand what areas are safe and which carry more risks. Unlike the real life playground where only your school friends are present, cyberspace is open to anyone, and that’s where the dangers come in.  Here are a few places that you might want to explore, and some of the dangers associated with them.

  • Facebook and Twitter – These social networking sites can provide instant popularity by allowing anyone online to friend or follow you. That also means that you will need to be extra careful about the types of information you reveal in your status updates and pictures. While Facebook has ways to limit your profile information to only friends, you also may not know who are the people behind the Facebook pictures and end up friending someone with evil intentions.
  • Online Game Sites – You go online to have fun and play a few games. Don’t expect that because it’s a fun place to be that you are safe there from cyber bullying.  Online game sites can also make it easy for a person to disguise who they really are by picking an avatar like a small child instead of whom they are in real life. You might think you are talking to one type of person and you are really talking to a different one altogether, maybe someone from your school who has learned you play games online and wants to gain your trust so they can bully you more effectively. Be very careful friending people online, even when the site is just for fun and games.
  • Bulletin Boards – Whether it’s a school online bulletin board or one that is for a special hobby, they can also be places where bullies go to spread rumors and gossip online. School bulletin boards can have all your friends neatly in one place, making them also easier to target, too.
  • Email Accounts – You may be in the school library accessing some online email and end up giving away your password innocently to someone. Once a bully has your email account password, they can impersonate you online and send messages from your account to your friends saying nasty things or telling embarrassing lies about you.
  • YouTube – The fact that cell phones now come with video cameras that can be used to capture photos where you are being bullied to post online and increase your sense of humiliation is a sad truth. Also, you have to be very careful about what pictures and videos you allow your friends to take or you might suddenly find it posted for the world on YouTube, without your permission.

How to Control Your Space

With so many electronic opportunities to steal your private information and use it against you, it becomes important to learn how to control your online space to reduce the possibility of it being used to cyber bully you. Before you decide to post anything in your status feed, upload a photo, or chat with someone online, ask yourself this question:

“Would I want everyone to see this piece of information I am about to share?”

If the answer is no, then you probably don’t want to share that information online, either. The best way to make sure that there is no way to reveal anything that can be used to bully you is to simply not reveal it in the first place. However, there are times when people will try to hack into your accounts to harass you and use your own accounts against you. What can you do to control your space then?

  • Passwords – Passwords should not be easy to guess. They should follow rules for good passwords, if possible. It will depend on the site you are on, but a decent password should not be less than six characters, include some upper and lowercase letters, and a special character. Not all sites allow you to do this, but those that do can help you create a password that is difficult to hack. Do not forget to change your password often. Do not use the same password for all your sites as hacking into one will reveal all the others. Use different passwords for each site. Lock your phone so that information stored on it can’t be accessed.
  • Permissions – Facebook will allow you to customize your profile so that you can limit what the public sees on your Facebook profile. However, you privacy settings are often changed within Facebook making some items visible to the public that you thought were hidden. So, although you can change privacy settings, you should just avoid posting anything that might be used to cause trouble for you later.
  • Blocking – You can unfriend and block someone on Facebook so that they never have access to your profile. This will work if you know who is using your information to bully you online. However, profiles can be faked, so it can be had to figure out who is behind the profile that is getting information to post elsewhere. One way to avoid this is to friend only people you know in real life.

Real Life Dangers

A status update as innocent as suggesting that you are at the mall looking at shoes, instead of at home, can be an invitation for someone to use that time to toilet paper your house knowing that you are away. The fact is that being friendly online comes with risks – more than you might imagine. Being online can make it almost impossible to escape others who want to reach out at any time to harass you from the safety of their computer screen or smartphone.  If you don’t have many friends to begin with, the idea that you could be popular online may be tempting, but it can lead to enormous problems if people are faking their interest in your life. A virtual friendship is not a real friendship, and shouldn’t be treated as one. Avoid the temptation to give out real personal life details and/or share secrets online. Do not post embarrassing pictures that others can share widely. Always assume that the person on the other end of the site could be someone they say they are not.

What to do?

Did you know that information brokers, analytical companies and others are routinely compiling vast amounts of your personal information (names, addresses, phone numbers, voting, divorce and legal records, political views, financial history and lots more) for the exclusive purpose of selling your information on the Internet to virtually anyone without your knowledge or permission? Imagine! In a just few clicks a complete stranger can find everything they want to know about you! This is a serious issue with many having been victimized already. So, what can we do about this at both individual and organizational levels? The only practical solution is to remove your personal information from these sites. But, that task is easier said than done.

There’s lots of good advice out there, such as:

  • Don’t use your actual name on the Internet;
  • Never give out personal information like phone numbers or physical addresses;
  • Don’t send sensitive information from a personal computer;
  • Remove personal information from social media accounts;
  • Clear cookies and browser cache on a regular basis; and
  • Countless suggestions regarding safe email usage, etc.

At the end of the day, while all of this is useful and well intended, the only practical solution is to remove your personal information from these sites. But, that task is easier said than done.

The unfortunate reality is that removing personal information from these sites is intentionally convoluted and difficult. While it is technically possible, most people do not have the time or patience to execute each of the following steps:

Step 1 – Identify all of the more than 200 sites that compile, maintain and sell personal information, and then zero in on the 50 that can really hurt you.

Step 2 – Dig through each of the sites to locate the particular set of instructions for opting out of that site.

Step 3 – Follow each of the required processes, prepare and submit the necessary form or forms, and provide the additional information necessary (including a photo ID in some cases) to complete the opt out request.

Step 4 – After the full set of opt out instructions have been submitted, revisit each of the sites to verify they have complied with the opt out request.

Step 5 – More than a step, this is an on-going process. Even after many of these sites have complied with the initial removal instructions, they will repopulate personal information over time. So, periodically (at least every 30 days), it is necessary to return to Step 1 and repeat the entire process.

Protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today. For more information, please visit https://www.manageurid.com

4 Ways You May Become an Identity Theft Victim

The 2014 theft of not only large quantities of customer information from major retailers, but also United States citizen data from government agencies makes the vulnerability of private information abundantly clear. In fact, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, more than 14 percent of 2 million complaints that were filed with the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U. S. Secret Service and other organizations in 2013 relate to identity theft.

While the 2013 number of complaints is astounding, it doesn’t account for the health data breach at Anthem, described by Forbes as “the largest for profit managed-health company in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.” This data breach may have granted criminals access to as many as 80 million patient records. But in addition to medical identity theft, the unauthorized use of personal information takes other forms as well.

Identity Theft Defined

The National Science Foundation describes identify theft as the use of a victim’s personal information, such as name, social security number or debit or credit card number, by an unauthorized party with the intent to commit fraud or another criminal act.

Identity thieves obtain their victim’s personal information using a variety of means.  For instance, the criminals may gain unauthorized access to the computers of major companies or the government and export the private information of American citizens that’s stored there.  In some cases, the criminals use the exported debit and credit card data to buy things. In other cases, the criminals use private information to apply for credit or government, insurance and other benefits.

Tax Identity Theft Defined

When a tax payer’s social security number falls in the hands of an identity thief, he may use it to apply for a job or misdirect the tax payer’s refund to his own account. In the latter case, the victim may be unaware that he’s a victim until he’s notified by the IRS that he’s been paid a refund that was actually paid to the identity thief. A victim might also become aware of the crime when notified that multiple tax returns were filed using his social security number.

The Meaning of Medical Identity Theft

A criminal can use another person’s name or health insurance number to receive medical care or obtain a prescription for which a medical provider files a claim with the victim’s insurance company to receive payment for services rendered. Consequently, the victim’s medical and treatment records and payment records maintained by his insurance company are mixed with those of the criminal. As a result, the insurance company total will total the expenses of the victim and the criminal to determine if an insured has reached his “annual benefit maximum.”

According to the FTC, the crime may remain undetected for some time unless the victim is asked to pay a bill for medical services he did not receive. Other indications of medical identity theft are unrecognizable collection notices on your credit report, a health plan notification that the victim’s insured limit has been reached and a denial of medical insurance due to a condition the victim does not have.

Child Identity Theft Explained

A thief can obtain a child’s social security number and use it to apply for government benefits, or open a bank or credit card account, as well as a utility service account and rental agreement. In some cases, a criminal obtains a child’s private information from a school district or other organization, such as a hospital or physician’s office.

On occasion, child identity theft is not reported because a parent might disregard warning signals, such as notices of pre-approved credit cards in the child’s name says TransUnion, an information solutions company. According to the company, other red flags include the inability of a parent to open a bank account because an account already exists, the existence of a credit report and the receipt of correspondence that indicates a credit application is denied due to poor credit.

Senior Identity Theft Described

The assets targeted by senior identity theft include a senior’s tax and government benefits, as well as a senior’s medical and long-term care benefits or savings. These assets are vulnerable in part due to the number of agencies and organizations that have access to the personal information of seniors.

According to a study conducted by ManageURiD, an identity protection company, criminals often use telemarketing scams to obtain private information from seniors. Identity thieves may also steal the wallets or paperwork of seniors to get personal information they need to open new credit card accounts, take out loans, refinance a victim’s home, or obtain medical care.

The frequent theft of private information from the computers of corporations and government agencies alike makes the vulnerability of this information abundantly clear. Although, this crime if often referred to as identify theft, there are different types of identity theft, each of which targets different organizations and individuals.

Keeping Your Personal Information Private – Part 5

In Part 4, we talked about Defending against cyber stalking.  At that time, and in most of the other parts of the series, we’ve talked about ways you can minimize the amount and type of your personal information that is available to be acquired by information brokers and others.  The techniques we’ve shared and others we could talk about are certainly useful in reducing your exposure.  At the end of the day, however, the most effective means of protecting your personal information and, by extension, your privacy and physical and financial security, is by removing your sensitive data from unauthorized sites and sites that sell your personal information on the internet.  To that end today’s session is entitled, How to manage the removal of your personal information from unauthorized sites and sites that sell your personal information.  

As we mentioned in Part 1, there are literally dozens of information brokers selling personal information on the internet today.  Before you begin the step by step approach outlined below to removing your information from these sites, if you’d like to get some idea of how much of your information is available for sale on the internet, visit ManageURiD and click on the Free Search tab for a Free Risk Assessment (takes about a minute).  If you find that your information is out there, as you almost certainly will, you can manage its removal by carefully taking the following steps:

Step 1 – Identify all of the sites that are maintaining and selling your personal information.  Use the key words referenced in Part 1 in an effort to identify the URLs you will need.  Do not relax your efforts with this step until you have identified around 50 sites.  The total number of sites varies from time to time as information brokers spin off satellite sites in an effort to differentiate themselves and garner a greater share of the market.

Step 2 – Dig through each of the sites to locate the particular set of instructions for opting out of that site.  Each site is different in terms of how readily you will be able to locate the opt out instruction sequence and in how complicated they have made the opt out process.  Some sites require only a single step while others will insist on a multiple step process.

Step 3 – Complete each of the required processes, submit the necessary form or forms, and provide the additional information they require to respond to your opt out request – which can include a photo ID.

Step 4 – After you have issued the full set of opt out instructions, revisit each of the sites to confirm they have complied with your request.  Some sites will comply immediately.  Others may take seven to ten days to react; and, still others can take as long as 30 days or more.  Some will even ignore your first request.  So, it is vital that you follow up to assure they have complied, and, in some cases, reissue your removal request until they do comply.

Step 5 – More than a step, this is an on-going process.  Even after many of these sites have complied with initial your removal instructions, they will repopulate your information over time.  Our digital world has made that a virtual inevitability.  So, periodically (at least every 30-45days), you should return to Step 1 and repeat the above outlined process.

Unfortunately, protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today.

Keeping Your Personal Information Private – Part 4

In Part 3, we reviewed Protecting your email information with security tools.  Today, our subject is an increasingly troubling and even dangerous phenomenon commonly referred to as cyber talking and some thoughts on Defending against cyber stalking.  

Online stalking or cyber stalking is unfortunately not new.  There are 15-20 year old websites relating to the topic that continue to receive inquiries.  With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, however, online stalking has become more common and more dangerous.  Growing numbers of people are reporting being pursued by stalkers via cell phones, internet services, GPS systems, wireless video cameras, and other technologies.

Generally speaking there are two types of online stalkers: one time offenders who hold a grudge or otherwise have developed an obsession, and serial stalkers who are always on the lookout for new victims. Although there are many variations on the theme, typically cyber stalkers will become more demanding over time and may eventually try to force you into doing what they want by threatening to or actually publishing defamatory, malicious information or private, personal data that could hurt you, your relationships, and/or your career.

The best way to defend yourself against cyber stalking is to make it hard for stalkers to find you and your private information in the first place.

  • When on the internet, never use your actual name – use a name or sign that is as unrelated to you as you can invent.
  • Never give out personal details like phone numbers or physical addresses.
  • Do not send any confidential information via a personal computer.  If absolutely necessary, use a library computer which a stalker is less likely to be able to track.
  • Remove any personal information from social media sites.

Perhaps most importantly, it is critically important to effectively manage the information broker community.  People finder data bases that contain vast amounts of sensitive personal information and readily sell that information on the internet make it very easy for stalkers to not only find and harass you, but equally easy to extend their activities to family members, relatives and associates.  Hence it is a fundamental imperative that you manage your personal information and direct its removal from those data bases that might publish or sell your information.   In fact, that’s the focus of our next session.

In Part 5 we’ll talk about How to manage the removal of your personal information from unauthorized sites and sites that sell your personal information.    

Protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today.

Keeping Your Personal Information Private – Part 3

In Part 2, we discussed Dealing with tracking software Today, we’ll talk about Protecting your email information with security tools because email is yet another one of the ways your information is being acquired.  

We’re going to look at this issue in two dimensions today.  To begin with, when emailing to unknown parties: posting to newsgroups, mailing lists, chat rooms and other public spaces on the Net; or publishing a Web page that mentions your email address, it is best to do this from a separate pseudonymous or simply alternate address that can be easily acquired at no charge from email service providers such as Yahoo Mail or Hotmail.  And, do not use any part of your name in the “throw away” email address.  Addresses that are posted (even as part of message headers) in public spaces can be easily discovered by spammers (online junk mailers) and added to their list of targets.  If this address is spammed enough to become annoying, you can simply delete it, and create a new one.  Reserve your main or preferred email address for use with small, members-only lists and with known, trusted individuals.

On a separate note, most people think of the content of their email messages when they hear or read about email traffic being monitored or intercepted.  Few, however, realize that the metadata content – the record of who you are communicating with and how often – is equally as important to some.  Of course, we’ve recently learned that government agencies have been logging metadata on email communications for quite some time – and, in recent years, that data has included information on American citizens.  In addition, the government has been acquiring contact lists from around the world to the tune of some 250 million people a year.

Interestingly, as a result of the spying tactics that are all too possible in the digital age, several small companies emerged that provided encrypted email services as a possible defense, but have since shut down when asked to provide their encryption keys.  Additionally, while they were able to encrypt email message content, the use of email protocols such as SMTP, POP3 and IMAP left the metadata exposed.  In the end, they felt the risks to their client base were too great – and may have yielded a false sense of security.  New services are emerging which will encrypt both content and the metadata, but they will require the sender and the receiver to be using the same service, and will not be particularly useful until (and if) they become ubiquitous.

While typical email protocols do not permit protecting metadata content, there are steps you can take to secure the content of messages you send.  First, if you are using webmail, be sure that you are using the common internet security protocols, SSL and TLS.  You’ll know that you are if the browser’s address starts with https – and you should see a small padlock.  On the other hand, if you are using a desktop email client, make sure you are connected via SSL/TLS over IMAP or POP3. If you are not, your email messages are being sent in clear text that can be easily read by others.  Finally, the big three email services Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook, offer a security feature known as two-factor authentication.  Be sure to activate that feature in your system.

In Part 4, we’ll talk about Defending against cyber stalking.  

Protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today.

Keeping Your Personal Information Private – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series we talked about Who is selling your information and whyOur subject for today is Dealing with tracking software – one of the ways your personal information is being acquired.

The internet has become an extraordinarily useful tool for finding information of all sorts.  However, the internet browser you use is bidirectional.  That is, you can readily learn about what you are interested in, but others are also learning about you while you are online.

Internet users are often surprised (even pleasantly so at times) when a site “remembers” the last time a user visited the site and even some of his or her preferences.  This is accomplished by websites, or ads running on websites, installing cookies, beacons, and other tracking files on an Internet user’s computer, tablet or smart phone.

Cookies generally perform harmless tasks such as allowing websites to remember user names and passwords for future logins.  Some cookies, though, track the websites you visit, and beacons can actually track what you are doing on a website.  This can consist of tracking and recording buttons that are clicked, words that are typed, voice searches that are made, etc.

Some tracking files may even record and locate sensitive information such as income, location, medical conditions, etc.

At one time The Wall Street Journal reported that approximately two-thirds of the tracking files employed by the top 50 most visited websites were dispatched by tracking companies that compile Internet users’ personal information into consumer profiles.   These profiles are then sold to Internet companies to assist them in developing more personalized web services and advertisements in the best case, and to exploit consumers in the worst.

The Internet may have opened the world to everyone, but it has also literally exposed everyone to the world in ways they never anticipated.

To provide some level of defense against this means of acquiring your information, it would be wise for you to regularly clear your cookies and your browser cache.  This process will provide some measure of protection for now, but new methods of tracking online usage and activity may be more difficult to defeat.  For example, some companies may begin looking for distinctive computer settings such as installed fonts and time zone details in order to zero in on a user’s identity.  It has also been reported that Google and Microsoft are working on new forms of cookie-less identification.  So, in the future, it may be wiser to deal with the control and protection of your personal information in an entirely different way.  More on that in a future post.

In Part 3, we’ll talk about Protecting your email information with security tools.  

Protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today

Keeping Your Personal Information Private

This is Part 1 of a five part series on the importance of Keeping Your Personal Information Private.

The ready availability and sale of your personal information on the Internet invades your privacy and represents a threat to your physical and financial security.  The objective of this series is to provide you with some tips and proven approaches for controlling the amount and type of your personal information that is being compiled and sold on the Internet without your knowledge or consent.

Today we’ll start with a look at Who is selling your personal information and why. 

Literally anyone can search for a person on the Internet using such key words as:

  • find someone
  • locate a person
  • people locate
  • license plate records
  • bank account locate
  • employment locate
  • phone record search
  • social security number trace
  • property record information
  • and, more…………..

Searching on these key words will yield the URLs of hundreds of internet-based data broker companies that provide various levels of consumer information on line.  Some even provide a good deal of information at no charge.  Most provide a teaser amount of information and then charge a fee for the more interesting (and potentially damaging) data.  Experiment a little and you’ll quickly discover that you don’t need to hire a private investigator to obtain almost any level of personal information about virtually anyone.  And, of course, if you can find detailed sensitive information about someone else, than anyone can find your information as well.

The simple (and sad) fact of the matter is that information brokers, analytical companies and others are compiling vast amounts of your personal information – addresses, family members, relatives, interests, preferences, personal phone numbers and email addresses, financial history and, much more – all without your knowledge or consent.  This information is then often combined with public records data to create comprehensive individual profiles which are then sold to virtually anyone willing to pay a small fee.

Internet-based information brokerages and data providers are surfacing all over the country.  Why?  Because it’s big business – a multi-billion dollar business that includes the three national credit bureaus, many marketing companies and entities like Been Verified, Spokeo, Private Eye and dozens of others.   To be fair, many of these companies use your personal information for relatively benign marketing purposes.   However, fifty or so of the newer market entries were formed for the exclusive purpose of selling your detailed sensitive information to anyone on the Internet without regard for your privacy.  Unfortunately, these businesses are neither licensed nor regulated.  As an example, a convicted felon in California is operating one of the largest information brokerage businesses in the country – because he can.

The important take away from today is that virtually anyone can find just about everything they might want to know about you on the internet for any purpose – targeting, stalking, bullying, revenge, embarrassment, identity theft and much more.

In the next segment, we’ll begin to provide you with important steps you can take to regain control of your private information and, in so doing, significantly enhance your physical and financial security.

Part 2 next:  Dealing with tracking software.

Protecting your personal information in an on-line world is a never ending and time consuming, but very necessary process for individual and family safety – especially today.