Snoop Proof Your PC Protecting the security of data fi les and computer activities is high…

Snoop Proof Your PC

Protecting the security of data fi les and computer activities is high priority for individuals and businesses alike. However, your PC is ready and able to reveal not only your data but what you’ve been doing with your computer. Within a few hours, a snoop can determine and fi nd the incoming and outgoing mail you deleted, websites you visited, data you’ve entered on web forms, and even phrases you deleted from documents. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself. Using effective password protection is a simple fi rst step. Lock important fi les by using carefully chosen passwords. The best passwords aren’t real words or dates; they use a combination of letters, numbers, and punctuation. Knowing how to truly rid your computer of deleted and trashed fi les is another important security step. Regularly clearing temporary menus and fi les, as well as history listings, will assure that your recent fi le activities are not recorded for the would-be snoop to peruse. An obvious way to protect your information is to encrypt sensitive information. Good encryption and locking solutions are increasingly user friendly and inexpensive. Numerous products are available, with the most effective tools encrypting both fi le contents and passwords used to access them. Encryption usually defeats casual efforts at intrusion and complicates even advanced snooping attempts. Cookies can also provide information from your computer to remote third parties. Cookies are short pieces of data used by web servers to help identify the user and possibly to track a user’s browsing habits. Cookies can tell a web server that you have been there before and can pass short bits of information from your computer to the server. If you are concerned about being identifi ed or about having your activities traced, set your browser to not accept cookies or use one of the new cookie blocking packages. Remember, though, that blocking all cookies prevents some online services from working. Another potential PC leak that is often overlooked is the discarded hard drive. About 150,000 hard drives are retired each year, but many fi nd their way back onto the market. Stories occasionally surface about personal and corporate information turning up on used hard drives, raising concerns about privacy and danger of identity theft. A Nevada woman bought a used computer and discovered it contained prescription records on 2,000 customers of an Arizona pharmacy.13 In most operating systems, simply deleting a fi le and even emptying it from the trash folder does not necessarily make the information irretrievable. The information can live on until it is overwritten by new fi les. Even reformatting a drive may not eradicate all data. The most common breaches of computer privacy are committed by those who have the most opportunity: coworkers, friends, and family members. But nameless, faceless hackers can also invade your computer via your Internet connection. Installing a fi rewall can help protect you from unauthorized access, possible fi le damage, and even identity theft. Visit your companion website, www.cengage.com/bcomm/ lehman, for links to several articles that provide helpful information about how to snoop proof your computer. As directed by your instructor, complete one or more of the following: 1. Locate other articles that discuss ways to protect your computer fi les and activities. Prepare an oral presentation about your fi ndings. 2. Mark Twain once said, “There is no security in life—only opportunity.” How does this philosophy relate to the use of computers in an environment of inherent security risks? Prepare a one-page essay that explains your reasoning. 3. Make a chart that summarizes the major snoop risks on your PC and actions that can be taken to minimize each risk.

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