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Informative – They Are Watching You !

How can I protect my privacy online?

 

Here is what this gentlemen Mr Rob Cameroon experienced and wanted to  share the info with us

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Within seconds of placing an order at Amazon I received two messages purporting to come from DHL saying “Processing complete successfully”. I assumed they related to my Amazon order, but I noticed a couple of odd things: (a) that they were sent to (different) email addresses that I have only infrequently used, and (b) the attachment had two extensions: pdf and zip (DH’L_Express_Processing_complete.pdf.zip).

During the summer, after booking a hotel room, I quickly received two or three emails with the subject “Booking confirmation”. They were obvious spams from the poor quality of the content.

I am used to spam, and know how to deal with it. What concerns me is the apparent link between my activities and the content of the spams. It makes me feel as if there is an automated “watcher” waiting to see if I use certain sites then sending relevant spam.

I am running Windows Vista Business SP2 with Windows Defender, and for extra security, I manually scan with Malwarebytes Antimalware about once per week. Everything is up-to-date.

 I suspect these are coincidences. Billions of spam emails are sent every week, and you may well receive hundreds of legitimate emails each week. They almost never coincide, but we are pretty good at spotting when they do.

In this case, all the emails were spam, and the first one was part of a virus attack. A quick search on the attachment’s filename finds Graham Cluley, our old friend from Sophos, identifying the malware as a Trojan (Troj/BredoZp-S) and warning against it.

But I would not have been surprised if the various emails had turned out to be genuine. Data tracking has been getting more and more sophisticated over the past few years, while users have been getting more predictable, thanks partly to broadband internet connections that keep you on the same IP address for months or even years.

Some websites now use software that can identify visitors by name, using tracking cookies (small text files websites store on your hard drive), internet addresses, and forms filled in at other sites. (See, for example, You’re not anonymous. I know your name, email, and company, and Nowhere to hide: Advertisers can now stalk you across multiple devices.)

 Google is the web’s biggest advertising company and one of the most obvious trackers. It uses a huge network of ads that are shown across millions of websites, DoubleClick ad-tracking, the Play marketplace on Android phones and Google Search on Apple iOS devices – unless you opt out. It also looks as though the main purpose of its Google Plus website is to get users’ real names and other accurate data, which Facebook has but won’t provide to Google.

Facebook has also extended itself across much of the web using Facebook Connect and Like buttons. Users can log on to participating sites using their Facebook identity, and this gives these sites access to some information from their Facebook profiles. This is handy but less private than using different IDs for different sites, or using throwaway IDs and passwords from Bug Me Not.

The latest Web Privacy Census by the UC Berkeley Center for Law and Technology found the most popular 100 websites dropped thousands of cookies (6,485 on 24 October), and that 84.7% of them were third-party cookies. In other words, most cookies were not used by the site you visited (Amazon, Twitter etc) but by advertising and tracking companies such as Google’s doubleclick.net (the biggest, dropping 69 cookies), scorecardresearch.com (54), and bluekai.com (41).

So yes, there’s a whole host of “automated watchers” waiting to see if you use Amazon/your bank/hotel booking sites etc, and they may “spam” you with targeted advertising or perhaps legitimate email offers. (The companies argue that it is better to show you ads about things you are interested in, and they have a point.) Given that there are several hundred tracking companies, it would be surprising if there wasn’t some “leakage” into less legitimate approaches, though I’ve not seen any evidence of this happening. However, hacking is always a possibility.

Several companies offer software to control or block cookies, and most web browsers let you block third-party cookies selectively. This means you can keep the website’s cookies that, for example, remember which pages you have viewed while blocking the trackers. Two free ones I use are Abine’s DoNotTrackMe and Evidon’s Ghostery. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) also has an interesting project called HTTPS Everywhere, which uses a Chrome or Firefox extension to redirect some popular websites (Google Search, Wikipedia) over secure connections without breaking anything.

You can also load sites such as Gmail, Google Plus and Facebook using each browser’s “private browsing” feature. This is called InPrivate Browsing in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Incognito in Google Chrome, and Start Private Browsing in Firefox. While it’s not practical to block all cookies, you can set each browser to delete cookies when you close it, which you should then do every couple of days. This will make the web less convenient, and you will have to enter passwords more often, but it will help increase your privacy.

Further, avoid using search engines like Google, which save your searches and send data to websites. Some alternatives are designed to protect your privacy, such as DuckDuckGo. This has an easy-to-read explanation at donttrack.us. If you absolutely must have Google search, access it via Ixquick’s Startpage. This is a secure (HTTPS) page that sends your search to Google but throws away your search data and all the tracking information. (It also has a “family filter” which makes it a good search engine for kids.)

Another way to protect your privacy is to use an anonymous browsing service, though the free ones greatly limit what you can do online. I often use AnonyMouse and Hide My Ass!, which set up an encrypted “virtual private network” (VPN) between your PC and their servers. Websites get loads of hits from these anonymous servers, but can’t identify you from thousands of other users.

VPNs are a particularly good idea when using public networks such as Wi-Fi hotspots. See my earlier answer, Using a VPN to protect your web use, for more details.

Finally, although you say “everything is up-to-date”, I’ll bet it’s not. If you run Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector (PSI), it will probably find half a dozen programs that need updating.

This may well include Google Chrome and various Adobe programs, Apple’s QuickTime and Oracle’s Java. PSI finds the non-Microsoft programs that are not up-to-date, provides links that you can click to update them, and charts your progress week by week.

==========================================================================

A WARNING By Hemant Khurana –

If we do not control this ever changing race of technological madness, then  get ready,  as very soon we shall have

NEW GODS  !!!!!!

==================================================================

bigbrothercell

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FYI – Some tips and tricks in the comments below.

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3 comments on “Informative – They Are Watching You !

  1. Pingback: (BEWARE AND STAY SAFE ) | LOVE IN LIFE !

  2. Lesson one: Web browsers

    I recommend first of all that no one should use internet explorer. Ever. I’m skeptical of other closed source browsers as well, such as safari and Opera. Safari has had it’s fair share of exploits published. Firefox is the all around best choice, with google chrome homing in on a close second but not nearly the same amount of flexibility as firefox.

    Lesson 2: Browser extensions.

    There are ways to add on to your web browser called extensions. These can range from simple toolbars to complex security services. They can be good or bad, depending on who uses them and how they are used. Your antivirus may want to install a toolbar to help protect you, and a piece of malware may want to install toolbars for entirely different reasons. Know your add ons well. Here are some of the best BHOs (browser helper objects) for firefox:

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/edit-cookies/?src=search

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/noscript/?src=cb-dl-users

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/betterprivacy/?src=cb-dl-users

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/ghostery/?src=cb-dl-users

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/collusion/?src=cb-dl-users

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/stealthy/?src=cb-dl-users

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/adblock-plus/?src=cb-dl-users

    Ghostery, NoScript and adblock make for a powerful anti-tracking base to start with. Let’s go a little farther, shall we?

    Lesson 3: Host File and blocking traffic completely

    The Hosts file contains the mappings of IP addresses to host names. This file is loaded into memory (cache) at startup, then the OS checks the Hosts file before it queries any DNS servers, which enables it to override addresses in the DNS. This prevents access to the listed sites by redirecting any connection attempts back to the local (your) machine. Another feature of the HOSTS file is its ability to block other applications from connecting to the Internet, providing the entry exists. You can use a HOSTS file to block ads, banners, 3rd party Cookies, 3rd party page counters, web bugs, and even most hijackers. This is accomplished by blocking the connection(s) that supplies these little gems. Example – the following entry 127.0.0.1 ad.doubleclick.net blocks all files supplied by that DoubleClick Server to the web page you are viewing. This also prevents the server from tracking your movements. Why? … because in certain cases “Ad Servers” like Doubleclick (and many others) will try silently to open a separate connection on the webpage you are viewing, record your movements then yes … follow you to additional sites you may visit. In many cases using a well designed HOSTS file can speed the loading of web pages by not having to wait for these ads, annoying banners, hit counters, etc. to load. This also helps to protect your Privacy and Security by blocking sites that may track your viewing habits, also known as “click-thru tracking” or Data Miners. Simply using a HOSTS file is not a cure-all against all the dangers on the Internet, but it does provide another very effective “Layer of Protection”.

    http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.htm

    Lesson 4: Proxy servers

    In computer networks, a proxy server is a server (a computer system or an application) that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from other servers. A client connects to the proxy server, requesting some service, such as a file, connection, web page, or other resource available from a different server. The proxy server evaluates the request as a way to simplify and control their complexity. This is where real anonymity begins. All internet traffic gets funneled through a 3rd party and it appears that all browsing is done from a different physical location. The easiest and most widely known proxy program is the TOR network.

    https://www.torproject.org/

    This will slow down your internet experience, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. But if privacy is more important than speed, you can always just enable it when needed, and disable when you need speed.

    These tips together will help you remain a bit more private on the internet. But nothing is ever fool-proof. So don’t blame me if you follow this guide and get in trouble for doing something stupid. This is just for people who don’t like being tracked by ad servers, not really for complete anonymity.

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