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29 June, 2005
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Solutions for Identity Theft, Credit/Debit Card Theft, and Personal Information Theft

Part I: Overview

There should be laws against people, government units, organizations, institutions, companies, and business enterprises harvesting, maintaining, and distributing information about people. Such laws are not laws regulating the Internet and therefore we are not opposed to them. Just the opposite, we encourage them.

Mike Angelo -- 29 June 2005 (C) -- Page 3

Article Index

Browser Policies Note:

Browser policy settings options vary to some degree from browser to browser. Most if not all browsers will let you completely disable cookies and JS. Some also will let you disable Active X.

Some include a nice feature that lets you set your browser to ask you on a case-by-case basis if you want to let a Web page set cookies or run Active X and JavaScript. We will go over configuring these settings on specific browsers in future articles. In the meantime, please check our article, How To Download, Install, & Configure Netscape 6.0 -- Safely!. Although that article is old now, the general principles regarding security and privacy should nevertheless apply to any Mozilla-based browsers such as Netscape 6.x and 7.x, Mozilla 1.x, and Firefox 1.x -- and to a lesser extent to Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser too.

Also, there is a wide range of opinion among computer professionals as to what browser-setting policies should be employed. Some of these computer professionals see no problems with cookies, Active X, and JavaScript. Others share our position about cookies, Active X and JavaScript. And some take positions somewhere in the middle ground.

Two technical editors reviewed this article one agrees with the position taken regarding cookies, Active X and JavaScript. The other has no problem with cookies, Active X, and JavaScript. By a majority rather than unanimous consensus, our official editorial position on this is the one set forth in this article -- disable cookies, Active X, and JS in your browser.

As to Web-formatted e-mail, it's unanimous there. We all agree that you should not use Web-formatted (HTML) e-mail.

In this article, we have given you several reasons for disabling cookies, Active X, and JS in your Web browser. But, armed with this information, the decisions about cookies, Active X, and JS for your Web surfing are up to you.

  • Cookies and Scripts

KDE's Konqueror Web browser is the best of the bunch. It is friendly and easy to use. It has lots of neat, handy features, such as tabbed browsing, a sidebar, and more. Konqueror is well-designed, well-built, and very solid. And perhaps most importantly, it provides excellent security and privacy protection. For more about Konqueror, please see our article, KDE Konqueror Web-Browser and File-Manager: Well-Built, Feature-Robust, and Free.

The Konqueror Browser preference-configuration panels let you select a wide variety of security and privacy options. If you like you can completely shutdown annoyance, security, and privacy risk exposures such as cookies, Active X controls, and JavaScript (JS). You can set cookie, Active X, and JS policies to allow limited cookie, Active X, and JS activity. Or, you can completely lower your shields if you wish and allow cookies, pop ups, and scripts to run wild.

You can use the JavaScript preference settings in Konqueror to control pop up ads and messages. Or, better yet, just use the preference settings to turn JS off altogether.

We recommend that you disable cookies, Active X, and JS entirely. If you feel you want cookies placed or Active X and JS running on your computer despite the annoyance, security, and privacy risks to which they expose you and your computer, then choose the preference settings that ask before setting cookies or running JavaScripts and Active X.

For more about the folly of JavaScript, please see our article Mozilla and Netscape JavaScript Bugs Compromise Privacy and Security. Also, please see the Browser Policies Note in the right sidebar.

The question you need to answer for yourself in deciding whether to expose yourself to Spam and identify theft or information theft by using cookies, Active X, and JS is:

Is what this Web site has to offer worth the risk of subjecting myself and my family to even more Spam and to identity theft and information theft?

If your answer to that question is NO, then forget that Web site and move on!

  • Web-Formatted E-Mail

A very important reason not to display HTML-formatted e-mail is that HTML-formatted e-mail is a major source of viruses, Spam, Trojans, worms, privacy invasions, and other infections and annoyances. Web-formatted e-mail messages also can be very wasteful of hard-drive space and Internet bandwidth.

In short, constraining your e-mail reading and sending to text-formatted messages reduces download and upload times, saves hard drive space, helps to protect your privacy, reduces exposure to Spam, and reduces exposure to viruses and other such infections.

One reason HTML e-mail is such a privacy and security risk is that the moment you open it, it can send information about you and your computer to evil-doers without you even knowing it is doing that. By the way, Microsoft Outlook automatically opens all HTML e-mail by default.

Please see our article, KMail -- One of the Best E-Mail Clients, for more information about e-mail.

Today, we just have scratched the surface of the privacy and security exposure that using e-mail, Web browsers, and the Internet can bring about. We will try to get some additional stories about this published soon -- especially ones that explain how the things we have told you not to do operate to invade your privacy and the security of your computer.

In the meantime, you need to answer a question for yourself in deciding whether to expose yourself to Spam and identify theft or information theft by opening or using HTML-formatted e-mail. That question is:

Is what this e-mail has to offer worth the risk of subjecting myself and my family to even more Spam and to identity theft and information theft?

If your answer to that question is NO, then forget that e-mail and move on!

Looking at the Information Theft and Identify Theft Big Picture

Today we focused on personal information that already exists on your computer or that you (perhaps unwittingly) provide to people and to other entities over the Internet.

However, there are many other places where information about you can be found. Some can be found on the computers and records of people, government units, organizations, institutions, companies, and business enterprises that have collected information about you -- and doing so without breaking any laws.

Unfortunately, you have no control over how these people, government units, organizations, institutions, companies, and business enterprises handle your personal information. They can give it or sell it to anyone they so chose. They do not have to secure it, thus your personal information can be stolen from them too.

The real problems that everyone seems to be overlooking are:

  • Why do these people, government units, organizations, institutions, companies, and business enterprises have information about you in the first place?
  • Why should people, government units, organizations, institutions, companies, and business enterprises be allowed to collect and harvest information about you? and
  • How much of this information is information that you provided to these people, government units, organizations, institutions, companies, and business enterprises?

We are opposed to laws regulating the Internet. However, there should be laws against people, government units, organizations, institutions, companies, and business enterprises harvesting, maintaining, and distributing information about people. Such laws are not laws regulating the Internet and therefore we are not opposed to them. Just the opposite, we encourage them.

We will look at these issues in upcoming issues of MozillaQuest Magazine. In the meantime, when someone asks you verbally, or on an application, or on a form to provide them with your personal information -- just say none of your business, unless of course the information is directly relevant to and necessary for the transaction involved -- and you trust them with your personal information. If they do not like that, just tell them to flake off and then take your business elsewhere!

Stay tuned.

Article Index

Books

Here are some books that deal specifically with security, privacy, and e-mail issues. Most of the Linux books listed below these books also have chapters or sections of chapters that deal with security, privacy, and e-mail issues too. Most of the book links lead you to Web pages about the books that also there have links to things such as Tables of Contents and sample chapters. The sample chapters are free and well worth reading.

Canning Spam: You've Got Mail (That You Don't Want), By Jeremy Poteet, Sams, ISBN: 0672326396. $30.

Intrusion Detection with SNORT: Advanced IDS Techniques Using SNORT, Apache, MySQL, PHP, and ACID, Rafeeq Rehman, Prentice Hall PTR, ISBN: 0-13-140733-3. $45.

Maximum Security, 3rd Ed., Anonymous, Sams, ISBN: 0-672-31871-7. $50
Sample Chapter

Open Source E-mail Security, Richard Blum, Sams, ISBN: 0672322374. $35.

  • Some Interesting Linux Books

Acing the LINUX+ Certification Exam, Patrick Regan, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131121553. $88

Beginning Linux Programming, 3rd Edition, Matthew and Stones, (Foreword by Alan Cox), Wiley. ISBN: 0-7645-4497-7. $40

Building Applications with the Linux Standard Base, Linux Standard Base Team, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0-13-145695-4

Building Clustered Linux Systems, By Robert Lucke, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0-13-144853-6. $50


Novell Certified Linux Engineer (Novell CLE) Study Guide, Robb Tracy, Novell Press, ISBN: 0789732033. $60

Expanding Choice: Moving to Linux and Open Source with Novell Open Enterprise Server, Jason Williams/Peter Clegg/Emmett Dulaney, Novell Press, ISBN: 0-672-32722-8. $30

Fedora 3 Unleashed, Bill Ball and Hoyt Duff, Sams, ISBN: 0672327082. $50.

Knoppix Hacks - 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools, By Kyle Rankin, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00787-6. $30


Linux Bible, 2005 Edition, Christopher Negus, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-7949-5. $40

Linux Desktop Garage, By Susan Matteson, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0-13-149419-8. $30

Linux Desktop Hacks - Tips & Tools for Customizing and Optimizing your OS, By Nicholas Petreley, Jono Bacon, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00911-9. $50

Linux in a Nuthsell, 4th Ed., Siever, Figgins, and Weber, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00482-6. $40

Linux Kernel Development, 2nd Ed., Robert Love, Novell Press., ISBN: 0672327201. $45

Linux Network Architecture, By Wehrle, Pahlke, Ritter, Muller, and Bechler, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131777203. $50


Linux Programming by Example: The Fundamentals, Arnold Robbins, , Prentice Hall PTR, ISBN: 0131429647. $40

The Linux Process Manager: The internals of scheduling, interrupts and signals, By John O'Gorman, Wiley, ISBN: 0-470-84771-9. $35

Linux Quick Fix Notebook, By Peter Harrison, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131861506. $40

Linux Troubleshooting Bible, Christopher Negus, Thomas Weeks, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-6997-X. $30


Mandrakelinux Discovery 10.1 - Your First Linux Desktop, By Mandrakesoft, Mandrakesoft, ISBN: 2-84798-085-7. $64

Mandrakelinux PowerPack 10.1 - The Full Power of Linux Desktop, By Mandrakesoft, Mandrakesoft, ISBN: 2-84798-086-5. $87


Official Fedora Companion, Nick Petreley, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-5836-6. $20

Operating Systems, 3rd Edition, Deitel, Deitel, and David, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131828274. $103

Optimizing Linux Performance: A Hands-on Guide to Linux Performance Tools, By Phillip Ezolt, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131486829. $50


Point & Click Linux!, By Robin Miller, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0131488724. $30

Principles of Network and System Administration, 2nd Edition, Mark Burgess, Wiley, ISBN: 0-470-86807-4. $50


Running Linux, 4th Ed., Welsh, Dalheimer, Dawson, and Kaufman, O'Reilly, ISBN, 0-596-00272-6. $45

SUSE Linux 9 Bible, Justin Davies, Roger Whittaker, William von Hagen, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-7739-5. $40

Understanding the Linux Kernel, 2nd Edition, Daniel P. Bovet and Marco Cesati, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00213-0. $50

Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager, Mel Gorman, Prentice Hall PTR, ISBN: 0131453483. $60


UNIX Shells by Example, 4th Edition, By Ellie Quigley, Pearson Prentice Hall, ISBN: 013147572X. $50

Resources


Stopping Identity Theft, Paula Zahn Now, CNN, Aired May 26, 2005 - 20:00 ET

FTC (Federal Trade Commission)

FTC ID THEFT HOME

Firewall FAQ, IRChelp.org



SUSE Linux Web Site

SUSE Linux Free Download Page


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