Keep your online information private
Let's be honest: Most of us prefer not to think about who watches what we do on the Internet. What's the harm, some may think, if someone's looking at my family pictures on Facebook?
Well, there may be a lot of harm. Do you want advertisers vacuuming up details from your family's social media accounts? How about a potential cyberthief cobbling together enough of your personal information to steal your identity?
And that's not to mention the other snoops, from the NSA on down, who might decide one of your Tweets or Facebook postings is “interesting.”
Scammers, hackers, marketers, spies and identity thieves — together, they could make anyone want to surf the Web privately. Here are a few ways to live in our digital world without staying up at night.
First of all, you need to keep your computer free of viruses — programs you inadvertently download that could share your information with hackers. AVG or avast! are good places to start for free antivirus protection. AdAware and Spybot Search & Destroy target adware and spyware.
Next, note that every major browser has an “incognito” or “private browsing” mode. That's one line of defense against advertisers that track where you go, or snoops who get on your computer.
Another tip: No matter what you do, you leave a lot of information behind on your computer. Your browser has a record of what you've been looking at and what you've downloaded. It keeps those “cookies” you've heard about.
Some cookies are useful, and some are troubling. A program like CCleaner, a well-reviewed cleaning program, will keep unwanted cookies and other junk off your computer.
Are you worried about someone snooping in your email? Not only does the technology exist, some companies already do it. Gmail users, for example, are used to seeing, say, dog-related ads next to their email window if they've been discussing pooches with a friend. That's done automatically and, to be fair, that's the price you pay for using Google's powerful email service for free.
To be as secure as possible against other prying eyes, try using a program called PGP — that's short for Pretty Good Privacy. If used correctly, the program should keep your email private from everything but government-level decryption. It does require some effort and the cooperation of friends and family.
Next step is to keep your Web browsing private. I told you how to keep it safe from advertisers and snoops with private browsing, but that won't stop dedicated hackers.
The best way to keep it safe from them is to use what is called a Web “proxy.” Tor is the most famous of these. With Tor, each site you visit is sent though a relay of servers. No one on either end of the connection can see what Web sites you're visiting.
You can also go with a private company that offers a so-called VPN, or virtual private network. These can run you $40 or $50 a year and require a bit of setup, as well, but can be useful in a lot of ways. They are very valuable for those of us who travel and are at the mercy of sometimes unsecure local Wi-Fi networks; they will keep your email and chats private with encrypted communication.
Email Kim Komando at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- PPG’s new CEO to push organic growth with existing clients
- Idea Foundry CEO Matesic decides which new companies get help from his Pittsburgh business incubator
- America picks up China’s slack in auto sales
- Stock market looks calm compared to oil
- Comcast sets digital sights on millenials
- Protecting your identity from hackers
- U.S. stocks plunge after bleak Chinese manufacturing report
- Judge rules against PPG in lawsuit over pollution
- Pittsburgh unemployment rate steady as job market shrinks
- ‘Cadillac tax’ hangs over insurance costs
- Sniffer lets PixController detect methane gas leaks