Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Safe Computing

I'm going to give you some information today that may save you a lot of time and aggravation. First thing I want to talk about is targeted ads. Have you ever noticed that sometimes websites seem to be able to read your mind? You go to Autofinder or the Ford website and for the next couple of weeks every site you go to is showing you ads for cars and trucks. Thats because sites put tracking cookies on your hard drive.

Targeted ads cue on your cookies and from the sites you redirect from, among other things. Most websites use tools to collect your info. All you need is to be on them for a second and they have a ton of info about you. They map your location and system info to the stories and the ads you click on so they can use it to adjust what they present. It also tells them how the user found the site, whether searching Google or redirecting from another page's link.

Not all of them collect personal info like IP address, computer names, etc. but some sites do. It's a good reason not to use your name when you are configuring your computer i.e. "Frothington family computer". You should also make it a practice to clean your cache. Get rid of the cookies, offline internet pages and mru lists.

The quickest way is to open Internet Explorer, go to Tools (Top left of the IE window next to Favorites), scroll down to Internet Options at the bottom of the drop down list. This will bring up a window of IE options and on the first tab or page (General) you will see Delete Cookies, Delete files, and Settings. Click on both Cookies and Files. When you hit the delete files button, be sure to select the offline content checkbox. Piece of cake, but it can be even easier...

If we're talking about your home machine, you should install Lavasoft's Ad-Aware. The personal version is free and it's the best tool out there. It not only roots out spyware but also blows away all your cookies. There are some upgraded versions that have more functionality like real time (constant) scans and a version for buisness computers, but the free one is fine for home use. Update it and run it weekly. Please note that Ad-Aware is not a replacement for Norton/Symantec anti virus. You need them both.

Second thing I'm going to talk about is music downloading and P2P (peer to peer) file sharing in general. Don't do it. There is no such thing as a free lunch, or free music. What you are doing is opening up your hard drive so that any unscrupulous person can put anything they want on it. Think spyware or malware. I see a steady stream of people whos PC's are virtually unusable because they are so polluted. The crap comes from music downloading, surfing porn, or both. You need to stick to trusted sites like iTunes or Amazon. If you're concerned about DRM's and cost, you should read my article on DRM free downloads on berryjooks.com. You'll find it on the berry's shuffle page.

OK, I've rambled enough for tonight. The Sox start back up tomorrow night and I need my beauty rest.

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