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Protect Your Privacy Useful Tips

By Charles Hopkins Published 06/2/2006 | Internet

When you venture online, the markers of your identity shrink greatly, and you are known only by your digital, electronic signatures. Any one who can mimic these can claim to be you, and wreak havoc on your financial affairs. That is why it is becoming more and more necessary to be able to protect your privacy on the internet and on your computer.

The average Joe Sixpack who uses a computer knows very little about its internal workings. Neither does he need to know anything about that, because everything is taken care of by the underlying Operating System, while he is left with click-click-clicking on the pretty icons in front of his face.

While this type of computing has made information technology available for the masses, it has also made them greatly vulnerable as regards their need for privacy. Often they have no clue that their personal data is being used by unauthorized persons for financial or other kinds of benefit, to their detriment.

How do you prevent unauthorized use of private data? There are a number of procedures that experts recommend. You cannot totally control whether your data will be stolen or not, but following these shall at least minimize the risks.

Primarily, you should use passwords to lock down all aspects of your computer and your online presence. You need to be specially careful about your social security number and your credit card number. Your telephone accounts can also some time be under threat, so it is best not to ignore those either.

How do you select a good password? A password that is easy to remember is also easy to break. Try not to use your mother's maiden name or the name of your first school, or any such real information that can be fairly easily retrieved by a diligent cracker. Rather, use combinations of letters, numbers, spaces and punctuation marks to generate really strong passwords. Also, make it as long as possible the longer the better. Take care not to write down your passwords anywhere, specially not on your desktop pad or on a file on your hard  drive, for these locations can be easily accessed by a determined person.

Secondly, using software like GPG (GNU Privacy Guard) will greatly increase your chances of protecting your privacy through strong encryption. This type of program is able to encrypt all your files and folders in a way that they can be later accessed only by those who are aware of the password or pass-phrase. This type of software can also encrypt your e-mail, so that only the intended recipient who has the electronic key would be able to read them, and anyone trying to intercept midway shall only find pagefulls of jumbled up characters.

Also, format your hard drive with a file system that supports file ownership and permissions. If you're using Windows, avoid the Fat16 or Fat32 file systems and opt for NTFS. It would be even better if you could use a different operating system like Linux, because Linux uses a security model that is inherently superior to that of Windows. And there are no viruses on Linux