Monday, August 06, 2007

Keeping Safe Online

(Reposted by permission from Slashdot)

There is a tendency to want the government to do something about every problem, and the hassle of online scumbaggery is no exception. Individuals (and their guardians) need to take responsibility for their own protection, and not expect either the government to protect them (which it cannot) or for faceless strangers to be kind to them, which a tiny but significant portion will not.

Each of these steps solves roughly half of the remaining problems not solved by the previous ones.

  1. A fool and his unarchived data are soon parted. If you want it, make an offline copy of it.
  2. Switch to Linux, a Mac, or Anything But Windows. Most of the following only apply if this one won't work for you.
  3. Switch to Mozilla Firefox.
  4. Buy and install a firewall box. These are very easy to set up, and will save you a ton of trouble.
  5. Buy and install a virus scanner.
  6. Download and install Lavasoft Ad-Aware or similar spyware detector, even if your virus scanner says it provides that protection.
  7. Don't open email with attachments you aren't expecting, or respond to spam with so much as a single click. You have been warned.
  8. Stay away from porn sites. They're bad for your computer.
  9. Stay away from online games except those you know to be crap-free.
  10. You don't know that any of them are crap-free.
  11. Don't download commercial music except from commercial vendors to whom you pay a fee. Yeah, sucks to be us. But you get what you deserve, and if you're trying to get something for nothing, you'll give something for nothing in return.

So what do you do if your kids download some game, P2P app, or other crapware-laden piece of stupidity? Take away the computer. What if you have several kids, and you don't know who did it? Enlist their aid and hold them all accountable. Tell them that if any of them downloads crapware and the guilty party won't come forward, they all do their homework at the library (for a week or month or whatever).

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