Home Office: Keep Web Snoops at Bay
Let's say you invite me over for dinner. While you're busy in the kitchen, I'm hiding eavesdropping devices by the TV, next to the mail slot, and under the bed. Once I'm gone, I observe your behavior without your knowing it. You think this is a little far-fetched, right?
Nope, something similar is likely happening right now via your PC. You're going to be ticked off when I describe how companies and individuals trample on your privacy. Rest assured, I know of a few nifty tools to combat these invasions.
A show of hands: How many of you use GoZilla, RealPlayer's RealDownload, PkZip for Windows, or GetRight? Ad-sponsored versions of these and similar programs are often called spyware. Such programs put tracking applets on your PC to manage their ads. Even if you uninstall the programs, the tracking applets may stick around, passing data about your computing habits back to their servers.
For a better understanding of the spying problem, visit
I know an easy way to become invisible to Web sites and protect myself
against nasty Web bugs (more on those beauties below). I just raise my privacy
shield with Zero-Knowledge's $50 Freedom software, which routes my e-mail, my
Web and newsgroup browsing, and my IRC chats through anonymous servers. When
you read my Freedom mail or find me on your Web site, you won't get any trace
of the real me. For more info on this crucial subject, see last March's
Web bugs are undetectable bits of code planted in e-mail messages,
mostly by spammers who send lots of mail simply to verify that e-mail addresses
in their possession are valid. Once you view or open a piece of booby-trapped
e-mail, a hidden receipt immediately wings its way back to the senders. The bug
also lets the senders determine your e-mail address and track you if you surf
their site. To see a Web bug in action, go to
If you don't think the Net makes theft of financial and other personal
data easier, visit the
I don't keep every e-mail message I send private, but I consider
sacrosanct messages to my doctor, CPA, broker, and barber (who keeps my Grecian
Formula secrets). I use Sigaba, a program that encrypts my e-mail and embeds a
unique key to identify me. The only people who can read the messages are those
I send them to. Sigaba is free, easy to use, and unobtrusive once it's
configured. The program integrates with my e-mail package's menu bar. When I
reply or send a new message, I can encrypt it with a click on the Sigaba icon
To read encrypted e-mail , you must register with
Excuse me, but I must run. We had some guests over for dinner tonight, and I need to do a quick check for bugs.