Simple Things to Make You Safer Online


By Dr. Steve Sjuggerud, “The Daily Wealth

“You guys really know everything about me…” Maria Bartiromo told Eric Schmidt – the head of Google – on a new CNBC special about Google.

Maria’s basically right…

She said, “If I’m a Google user, you have years of my search terms [saved] – stuff that may contain all kinds of incredibly personal data. If I use other Google services, you can see the contents of my email, my documents, my spreadsheets, my personal photos, my voice mail, even the contacts in my address book…”

Then Maria asked, “People are treating Google like their most trusted friend. Should they be?”

The reply from Google wasn’t as cheery as the company’s name and image… “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt told Maria. “We are all subject in the U.S. to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.”

(See a 30-second video clip of that here.)

Thanks to the Patriot Act, law enforcement and intelligence agencies are legally able to see your Internet activities without a judge’s oversight. (You SHOULD be protected from this under the Fourth Amendment – unreasonable search and seizure – but the government gets around the Fourth Amendment because it gets the data from Google… Therefore it’s not unreasonably searching YOU.)

Maybe Google won’t do anything bad with your data. (“If we broke our trust with our end users, then they would leave,” Google’s CEO said.) And maybe the government won’t do anything bad either…

But what about the real “bad guys” out there? What about guys like the person who hacked into my family member’s bank account? These guys pose extraordinary danger… trafficking in your stolen data and looking for the right sucker to take advantage of.

It’s nothing personal. It’s like the Mafia… It’s just business – big business. So let me back up and ask you… All things being equal, which house will likely get robbed first?

A) My house, with an alarm company sticker in the window, which says something like, “This House is Secured By ABC Security.”

B) My neighbor’s house, with no alarm company sticker.

Let me make my point another way: If a buddy and I are running from a bear, I don’t have to be faster than the bear to get away… I just have to be faster than my buddy.

In short, predators typically go for the easy prey… the wounded… the low-hanging fruit.

So today, as a very minimal step, I urge you to get yourself some Internet “alarm stickers,” so to speak… You must start now, at the very least, taking a little more precaution than your neighbor.

I have spent more time doing research on this subject than I have on any other DailyWealth. When it comes to investments, I have a background. But I don’t have a background in this stuff, so I had to put in the time.

In the search for a solution, I have signed up for all kinds of services and installed all kinds of crazy things on my computers to see what works. I have gone through hundreds of suggestions from readers and checked each of them out. I have talked with Internet security experts and privacy experts.

I could write a huge report on what I’ve learned (and I might just do that). It is all quite scary.

But today’s DailyWealth is about a few incredibly simple things you can do to dramatically decrease the likelihood of having people snoop on you and your life. Let’s get started…

1) Start by limiting your exposure to Google.

Whenever you use Google, it logs your search terms and your computer’s IP address. And once you log into Gmail from anywhere, Google can log your activity then, too. I have two simple and easy solutions for you.

Instead of Google, you can use 1) www.startpage.com to do your searches. StartPage doesn’t capture your IP address. Solution 2) is to use www.scroogle.org (make sure you type in “.org” on this one). Scroogle is pretty nifty… You request the search at Scroogle, it asks Google for your search, and then it reports those results back to you. One useful feature is you can set Scroogle as your default Internet search engine in your web browser.

Also remember, if you’re a Gmail user, as long as you’re logged in to your e-mail, your actions online are being logged.

I have nothing against Google… It just happens to be the biggest search engine. I just fear “the bad guys” and Big Brother, and what information they might extract to use against you.

2) Improve your passwords!

Using “Fido123” for everything from your Amazon account to your bank account simply isn’t good enough. An exceptional resource you should try for this is RoboForm: www.RoboForm.com.

3) Whenever possible, use more than just one layer of security with your financial accounts.

You usually have to ask for this. But Bank of America, for example, will send you a randomly generated, one-time-use password delivered to your cell phone by text message. Others will send you a credit-card-sized random number generator. Between the randomly generated password and the password in your head, you should be in good shape.

Of course, these three things are above and beyond doing “the usual”… which means updating Windows regularly, using firewalls, anti-virus, etc. But you should absolutely do the above three things – at least.

Seriously consider more drastic measures as well…

I’ll share some of the more drastic measures I’ve tested and found to be useful – including using a more private e-mail service than Gmail or Yahoo and ways to hide your IP address from Google and even your Internet service provider – in tomorrow’s DailyWealth.

Until then… good (and safe) investing,

Steve

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