This page considers the scope for self-help among the
It covers -
The internet isn't "out there" - it begins at your desktop.
It is a sad but inescapable fact that your home computer,
Bill Gates, national government or ISP won't address all
internet security problems on your behalf. Life online,
like life on the streets, involves responsible behaviour
by citizens - few of whom would leave their doors unlocked
or hand their wallets to total strangers.
Most of the industry and government sites identified earlier
in this guide - for example the US National Infrastructure
Protection Center (NIPC)
- offer advice about precautions in managing your computer.
The System & Network Security (SANS) organisation
for example offers a
list of the 'Top 20 security flaws' (especially those
on Microsoft and Unix systems) and what to do about them.
The NIPC's 2002 Password 101 reminder encourages
strong passwords. Choose passwords that are difficult
or impossible to guess and use different passwords in
Make regular backups of critical data. Backups must
be made at least once each day. Larger organizations
should perform a full backup weekly and incremental
backups every day. At least once a month the backup
media should be verified.
Use virus protection software: having it on your machine
in the first place, checking daily for new virus signature
updates and actually scanning all the files on your
Use a firewall as a gatekeeper between your computer
and the internet.
Do not keep computers online when not in use - either
shut them off or physically disconnect them from the
Don't open email attachments from strangers, regardless
of how enticing the Subject Line or attachment may be.
Be suspicious of any unexpected email attachment from
someone you do know, as it may have been sent
without that person's knowledge from an infected machine.
Given our comments about identity
theft and forgery &
fraud it is recommended that you look beyond the keyboard
to managing information offline.
Tips include -
storage/disposal of personal and corporate financial
documentation such as bank account statements
care in the storage and disposal of current and inactive
cheque books, debit cards and credit cards
caution in divulging personal information that enables
identity theft, given that many offences appear to involve
criminals asking questions rather than using spyware
Those concerned about who is watching the watchers might
note the "list of eleven types of surveillance that
affect every ordinary citizen, or soon will" published
by geographer Mark Monmonier in promoting his lucid Spying
with Maps: Surveillance Technologies & the Future
of Privacy (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 2002). We've
adapted that list, with apologies to Dr Monmonier, for
please! Apply for a passport,
a drivers licence or some jobs and you'll need to supply
details about your past and current circumstances.
Credit-card purchases. Ignore the dot-coms and 1-800
retailers: the record of your credit-card purchases
reveals a lot about where you've been and when.
You wanna be in pictures? Use of video cameras (and
facial recognition systems) in offices, retail premises,
stations and streets and other public places is growing.
Smile! Depending on image quality and retention period,
video surveillance could finger you as a suspect - or
help identify the bloke who nicked your stereo.
Mail-order purchases, whether by mail, telephone, or
the internet. The retailer that knows where to send
your packages can easily send its catalogues to you
- and your neighbors.
Mobile phones and other wireless devices. Telecommunication
service providers can compile detailed histories of
their customers' movements.
Salaries and other payments reported to the Australian
Taxation Office or other government agencies. For those
not working "off the books," those agencies
know how much you earn and where you work.
The population census - lthough the Australia Bureau
of Statistics cannot disclose information on individuals
or households, 'small area data' reveal a lot about
Vote early, vote often - electoral roles for government
elections (and those of other entities, such as unions)
can identify who's where
Aerial photography (from aircraft or satellite). Overhead
imagery can tell the local assessor whether you've put
in a swimming pool or added a room to your house.
Cadastral databases (ownership and tax assessment of
real estate). Where property is taxed according to assessed
value, your neighbors can look up your assessment and
a bit more - including the purchase price.
Medical records (physicians, health insurance firms,
public hospitals, etc.). Visit a doctor or a hospital,
and the time, date, and diagnosis wind up in your insurer's
Automatic toll-collection systems. In reducing wait
time at tollbooths, electronic tags not only track vehicles
but raise the possibility of billing drivers for exacerbating
congestion during rush hour.
Normalisation of the online population in Australia and
elsewhere has been reflected in greater maturity in assessing
online information and dealing with it.
Many people now realise, for example, that -
does not necessarily mean true
headers can be 'spoofed'
(ie the message may not be from its purported author)
appears to be a link to a legitimate site might instead
point somewhere else
names can be hijacked or merely
banks or other financial institutions don't send email
asking recipients to provide account details
can be readily scanned and misused
to spam may merely alert the alert the spammer that
an offer sounds too good to be true it, alas, probably
to participate in the good fortune of sundry African
dictators or entrepreneurs ("you'll get 25% of
the US$50 million secreted by my late husband President
Abache") have the same credibility as magic beans
and other precursors of the 419
Horny Goat-weed or other 'better living through modern
chemicals' purchased online might not get through Customs
- or indeed leave the sender's 'office' in a cybercafe
- and may not work.
protection and firewalls are an online girl (and boys)
you may find true
love in cyberspace, people often shed kilos, partners
and years (and add income and qualifications)
'news' echoed and re-echoed in blogs,
chat-rooms and newsgroups
is fictitious or malicious (with consequent successful
prosecutions for defamation
unfortunately, appear to be mesmerised by the screen ...
so every year consumer organisations and government agencies
report financial losses, broken hearts and even suicides
over infocrimes such as Nigerian 419 scam.
next page (forensics)