A Guide to Internet Security and Privacy
Keith Larson

Good security and an expectation of privacy on the Internet requires some effort on the part of the individual.  You could always just not go on the internet, but if you do, this page is intended to provide readers with a brief introduction to Internet security and topics of concern.  The URL to other sites give more details or sources of solutions.

Only as Good as Your Browser.

Not all Internet browsers are created equal.  Recent advances in web content standards for page features and security press the need for home users to upgrade to the best browser available.  Known browser vulnerabilities are often exploited by hackers to attack personal computers.  Do not let down your guard.  You should select to use one with powerful 128-bit secure socket level (SSL) encryption.  If you have not upgraded your browser in over a year, now is the time.

Firefox          http://www.firefoxuserguide.com/co/firefoxuserguide/

Microsoft Internet Explorer       http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/

Viruses are a Fact of Computing.

New viruses appear at a rate of over 50 a month.  Old viruses continue to infect unprotected computers.  Viruses affect not only Windows but also operate on DOS, MAC, LINUX and UNIX operating systems, or affect cross-platform applications such as JAVA.  Some viruses are date activated, other viruses are triggered by a user activity, even outside control such as in the recent TRINOO denial of service hacks.  Personal liability and litigation for spreading and hosting viruses or denial of service is just around the corner.  Protect yourself today by practicing good security.  Here are some tips to avoid being infected:

Virus Hoaxes.

A less malicious form of "attacks" is Virus Hoaxes. These are emails or web pages hosted on the Internet or attached in emails that either warn of new versions of viruses or offer rewards of free goods and services.  The usual earmarks of a virus hoax:

Any warning like this, regardless of the details of supposed subject-line or virus name, should be discarded and not passed along.

The second form usually takes the form of a pyramid scheme that rewards those who act first.  If any deal sounds too good to be true, and says "forward to everyone in your address book" it probably is a hoax or Urban Legend.  Always confirm the reliability of the information or threat before transmitting to others.  By breaking the transmission of this message, you defeat the primary purpose of the designer - to flood the Internet with worthless information.

Online Virus and Hoax Encyclopedia.

SYMANTEC     http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/vinfodb.html

McAfee         http://vil.mcafee.com/

TrendMicro     http://www.antivirus.com/vinfo/virusencyclo/

Virus Protection.

There are many products available today, but use the best and be better protected.  Before you buy and begin operations, visit the About.Com Guide to Antivirus Software http://antivirus.about.com/compute/antivirus/mbody.htm.

McAfee          http://www.mcafee.com/centers/anti-virus/  (PC,NT,MAC)

Norton           http://www.symantec.com/nav/indexA.html   (PC,NT, MAC)

TrendMicro     http://housecall.antivirus.com/housecall/start_pcc.asp (PC)

TrendMicro     http://www.antivirus.com/free_tools/linux/ (LINUX)

FBI               http://www.fbi.gov/nipc/trinoo.htm (TRINOO Filters)

Shields Up!

Your computer when connected to the Internet is actually a server assigned an IP address by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).  The Microsoft Windows and NT operating systems without proper configuration will open numerous ports and back doors into your computer that Hackers know about.  There is a way to protect your computer by closing these ports.  Follow this URL to a secure web site to have your shields and ports tested by nationally know security expert Steve Gibson.  For every vulnerability found on your computer, Steve provides a detailed help page to correct the vulnerability.  It really works. http://grc.com/su-bondage.htm

X-Windows users need to protect their systems too! Read what security expert Dave Dittrich advises for UNIX & LINUX. http://www.washington.edu/People/dad/

Has Your PC Been Hijacked?

Do you subscribe to a cable modem or DSL service?  You're at risk.  Hackers want to use your computer to exploit your high-speed connection and plant malicious tools for future use.  A firewall is recommended.  http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2439985,00.html  The About.Com Internet/Network Security site offers additional resources on this topic. http://netsecurity.about.com/compute/netsecurity/mbody.htm

Personal Internet Firewalls That Really Work!

Steve Gibson explains how and why you need a personal firewall program if you share files over the Internet.  He then offers a completely free personal firewall for download.... Zone Guard 2.0. http://grc.com/su-firewalls.htm  or http://www.zonelabs.com/

Software Zone.

Do not download software or updates from WAREZ or Hacker sites.  Stick to mainstream sites like:

ZDNET        http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/specials/free.html

TUCOWS     http://www.tucows.com/

Microsoft     http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/

Apple         http://www.apple.com/software/

Privacy is an Option.

Most problems with internet privacy originate with email.  The About.Com Email site has lots of information on email related security and privacy issues. http://email.about.com/compute/email/mbody.htm

PGP® or Pretty Good Privacy® is a powerful cryptographic product family that enables people to securely exchange messages, and to secure files, disk volumes and network connections with both privacy and strong authentication. Privacy means that only the intended recipient of a message can read it.  Recent break-throughs in computer-based code breaking no longer guarantee that PGP will protect you from determined decipherment by individuals or governments.  PGP however does provide a high degree of privacy.  It is free for home use at the MIT Distribution Center for PGP http://web.mit.edu/network/pgp.html

A Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) http://www.whatis.com/pki.htm is a system of digital certificates, Certificate Authorities (CA), and other registration authorities (RA) that verify and authenticate the validity of each party involved in an Internet transaction using key pairs called public and private keys.

You can purchase a personal certificate for email from:
VERISIGN     http://verisign.netscape.com/personal/index.html

Privacy Rights Clearing House  Factsheets http://www.privacyrights.org/

Electronic Privacy Information Center http://www.epic.org/

Enter the Database.

Every time you wander around the Internet, someone likely is tracking your activity.  Read how hackers, businesses, and governments can do it in "Measuring the Pharoah's Arm" http://www.naa.org/marketscope/conaghan/Pharoah.html

Get the details about COOKIES on your computer at The Cookie Central http://www.cookiecentral.com/

Stop Spam, Cookies, and Banners ads.  Visit JunkBusters http://www.junkbusters.com/

The End of Data

You should always erase all data before throwing away old disks or computer hard drives.  Using the delete file function removes the file name from the file allocation table (FAT) of magnetic media, but does not alter the digital pattern which can then be recovered.  Magnetic disks can be degaussed by passing the diskettes over a strong magnetic field, completely erasing them.  Degaussing the diskettes causes the magnetic particles to become thoroughly scattered on the media.  Degauss devices are sold at office supply and electronic stores.  This is the most assured method of destruction outside of fire.

If you do not have a strong magnet, you can reformat the floppy disk using DOS commands.  Open an MSDOS session on your PC, then type c:\format /u a:   Hard drives can be reformatted using a floppy drive loaded with the DOS format command file.  Boot the PC using the floppy and specify the target drive for reformat.  Multiple formats are required to ensure no memory of previous data remains.  Visit this URL for more discussion on data removal and erasure from hard disk drives. http://www.datarec.com/dataremoval.html

Recordable CD-R, CD-RW and DVD pose another problem as they are not magnetic based.  These drives let you create data, multimedia and audio disks.  With CD-R, a write-once disk is impregnated with a chemical that pits in varying degrees to the laser burn-in.  CD-RW lets you not only store but also erase and rewrite data to each CD-RW sector 1,000 times.  A slightly different chemical is used on the CD-RW media with a more powerful, sensitive laser diode that melts hills and valleys on the surface.  This melting can be repeated, much like re-recording over a tape.  DVD can have two record layers on each side that hold data.  Read more about these optical disk specifications at http://www.pctechguide.com/glossary/09optical.htm  Only physical destruction of this data level sandwiched between layers of lacquer will remove the data permanently.  An electric sander will destroy the data.


Created by Keith Larson, 2000.