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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Secure your online privacy

Long time back when one of my friends told me about Internet, I felt that it may be something related to ‘not my type’ of things. For me, sending e-mail or internet browsing was something that only rich or the professional IT literate people can only talk about. But, things have changed drastically. Our status which was offline 24x7 a decade ago is now online 24x7. From desktop PC to palm tops, Analog phones to highly digital modems, cell phones to smart phones, laptops to i-pads or cassette audio players to i-pods, life has really changed. We can proudly say that we all live in the digital world. Smart TV is just an addition to this innovative list.

Like hardware, software world has also made a huge leap since its origination. And if we talk about the world of Internet then the definition isn’t different at all. Google is our guru now. It is the worlds biggest search engine and it can really search anything for us. Just insert a search string in Google and you will be presented with not less than hundred of results matching the search string. Early morning at 6 am, I don’t sip the first drop of coffee but I just read through the e-copy of my favorite Greater Kashmir daily newspaper.

The place where I live in is a 1500+ populated backward village with most of the people engaged in farming or other village level activities. Compared to the adjacent areas, my village has really low literacy rate. But surprisingly the ratio is high when you talk of people who have an account in one the many available social networking sites (mostly Facebook).  Even I can see students of primary classes having an account in Facebook. The statistics are surely going to be high if we will talk of towns or cities.

Although this gives a sign of change in the peoples mindset but it does pose a threat to a user who has almost no knowledge of online privacy. Like real life this virtual world also poses millions of threats to the privacy of individual users. Not only the social networking sites but almost every kind of online activity poses multiple threats to the user privacy and this all happens because of the collection of data. Information technology (IT) makes it technically and economically feasible to collect, store, integrate, interchange and retrieve data and information quickly and easily. However, this power of Information technology can have a negative effect on the right to the privacy of every individual. For example, personal information is being collected about individuals’ every time they visit a site on the World Wide Web. Confidential information on individuals contained in centralized computer databases by credit bureaus, government agencies and private business firms has been stolen or misused, resulting in the invasion of privacy, fraud and other injustices. The unauthorized use of such information has seriously damaged the privacy of individuals. 

Being online, whether visiting a shop site for online shopping, chatting in chat room, updating a blog post, writing an e-mail, downloading a free phone/desktop application, or posting in a social networking site, is really a pleasurable activity and does make spend a good time in this world of internet. But, If we aren’t smart users, anytime we send an e-mail, access a website, post a message to a newsgroup, or use the internet for shopping; whether we are online for business, learning, or pleasure, we are vulnerable to anyone bent on to collect data about us without our knowledge. Fortunately, by using tools like encryption and anonymous remailers – and by being selective about the sites we visit and the information we provide – we can minimize, if not completely eliminate, the risk of our privacy being violated.

The internet is notorious for giving its users a feeling of anonymity, when in actuality; they are highly visible and open to violations of their privacy. Once this privacy is violated, it results in many severe attacks on our online presence. The issues like hacking, information retrieval, spam, viruses are worth giving a thought and making our online presence secure from such attacks is even a more responsible job of every netizen like us.

Although it is impossible to completely remove these threats to our online privacy but we can definitely minimize it by being smart online and using some smart techniques. Some of these are:

·        Don’t share your personal information, too often, on internet. Don’t ever submit such critical information to unknown sites. Stay away from online lotteries.

·        Use highly secure/strong passwords (which should be hard to guess) to every e-mail or other web accounts. Strong passwords are mainly a combination of Alpha – numeric keys with some symbols.

·        Don’t make everyone your friend on Facebook or other social networking sites. Anyone can prove to be harmful to your privacy.

·        Use advanced security settings to make your online presence highly secure. This can minimize the attack of hacking or spam’s.

·        Last but not the least; learn to maintain the difference between this virtual world and the real world. Anything could be a fake or fraud; anyone could prove an enemy on Facebook…… Don’t take anything serious. Live out Loud.

  Let’s pledge to be secure online. Wish you all a secure and safe online presence now onwards.

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