Keep your guard up!

Feb. 1, 2001
Security and privacy are two very important issues that people face as they explore the world of cyberspace. "Security" means more than watching out for viruses that may be sent to you.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS

Security and privacy are two very important issues that people face as they explore the world of cyberspace. "Security" means more than watching out for viruses that may be sent to you. A virus can wipe out a hard drive or infect a good number of files. I have discussed the importance of anti-virus software in the past. I hope that you have a good anti-virus program installed and that you are updating it frequently and checking your computer for "viral infections."

Security and privacy issues cause more of an inconvenience and come into play as you spend more time online. You will not want to receive unsolicited junk e-mail. You will not want personal information on your computer to be accessed by others.

Here are some very important and useful tips to follow:

  • Encrypt and digitally send all sensitive e-mail messages.
  • Don't reply to unsolicited e-mails. Even unsubscribing will alert the senders that your e-mail address is being used.
  • Use your e-mail software's filtering tools to reject spam or junk e-mail or e-mail with certain words in the subject line.
  • To avoid cookies (pieces of data sent from a Web site and stored on your computer) sent with e-mail, use your e-mail software to shut off its automatic Web Browser engine.
  • Be careful when reading e-mail on someone else's computer. Be sure to clear the history and delete all messages.
  • Keep your anti-virus software updated at all times.
  • Read Web site privacy policies carefully and make sure that you understand them.
  • Look on Web sites for privacy seals of approval from groups such as BBBOnline, TRUSTe, ePublicEye, or CPA WebTrust.
  • If you are ever reluctant to provide requested information on an online registration form, don't.
  • Set up a free e-mail account with Yahoo!, Hotmail, or other free services and use this address when you fill out registration forms.
  • When giving out credit card information, make sure that it is on a secure site. Look for the closed padlock icon at the bottom of the screen.
  • Delete cookies in your cookie directory in c: windows cookies file.
  • Disable cookies in your browser software or set your browser to alert you to cookies or install some sort of "cookie management" software that will allow you to control which cookies your PC will accept.
  • If you have broadband Internet connection such as DSL or cable, install a personal firewall.
  • Turn off file and printer sharing in Windows if you are not using it.
  • Elect not to accept news or updates from Web sites you visit.
  • Turn off instant messaging software when you are not using it.
  • Set your instant messaging software to allow only people you trust to access you.

Just use good, common sense as you explore the Internet. This will help you avoid a lot of irritation and problems.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He also is the editor of St. Louis Dentistry Magazine and spokesperson and critical-issue-response-team chairperson for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society. His address on the Internet is Contact him by e-mail at [email protected], by phone at (314) 567-5612, or fax at (314) 567-9047.

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