Privacy on the Internet

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Mon, Sep 15th, 1997 04:00 by Leo N. ARTICLE

The constant arrival of junk via e-mail through my office account is annoying, and although it bothers me, the only reason I put up with it is because my other accounts were spam-free. Or so I thought. After I registered the domain name CAPNASTY.ORG with Internic, my account in Finland, which is set as my e-mail address in their database, started to receive the first signs of spam. I'm not accusing Internic of giving my address to some spam list, however I do find it a little strange that suddenly my mailboxes (electronic and non) are filled with junk. Microsoft keeps on sending me invitations to participate to their seminars, IBM would like to know all about me, my company, my employees and my need for various Intranet solutions. Not only all of these have my name on it, but the words "President" or "CEO" are right after. My office e-mail account, and now my account in Finland, receive spam of all sorts. I don't want to receive this stuff, I don't want companies to know about me, I don't want to find my mailboxes full of garbage.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to give the impression that I am another Unabomber that wants to break all links with society, and live in my little hut up in the mountains. It's just that I wish I had a choice to who I am giving my personal information. The Internet and the technology behind it are great, but unfortunately the moment the net reached a level of popularity, and people saw the potential of a growing market, it suddenly became a place where people try to sell you stuff and make money. Spam, cookies from which they learn more about you and know what advertising banners to place in front of you and so on, requests of personl info just to see a webpage. What can be done about it?

Don't use your real e-mail address - there are many places on the internet (http://www.netaddress.com for example) which provide you with an e-mail account free of charge. Create an account here, and when writing on Usenet, or you find yourself obbliged to give your e-mail address to someone, give them that one. Think of it as your disposable address: once it's soiled, throw it out. Friends can still reach you at your original address, spam and companies cannot. Your e-mail is like your address and phone number. You have to be careful to who give it to.

Stop Spam from filling up your mailbox. Believe it or not, there are ways to stop 90% of spam from arriving into your mailbox. Here at Scriba Org, our Administrator Gard, has taken several steps in preventing garbage to ever enter our mailboxes. According to Scriba Org system log, the following messages were rejected:

May 1997:0June:758 July:6102August:1148 Sep 1-7:114

How does this system work? First of all the mailserver checks the name of the sender of the incoming e-mail. As you may have noticed in much of the spam that you receive, it usually arrives from a bogus user (ex. [email protected]) By doing a DNS lookup of the name, the server is able to determine if the site exist or not. If the domain name does not resolve (it does not exist), the mail is refused.

Of course there are domains that have been specifically created for the whole purpose of sending spam. These domains are banned, and if the name matches any of those in the ban list, again, the mail is refused.

Lately spammers however have been using names of other domains that unfortunately resolve, in an attempt to by-pass filters, which, as Gard has stated "defintely isn't legal". However, from personal experience this system works, and it works well, since not one of our Capnasty Org addresses has ever received a single piece of spam.

Further info can be obtained at the following URL: http://www.scriba.org/virtual

When surfing the Internet, Cookies collect information about who you are. If you do a search with the Find command on your computer, you'll find a directory where all the Cookies are stored. Take a look and you'll see who's been lurking over your shoulders.

Cookies allow companies to invade your privacy and access your phone number, credit card number, address, and other sensitive personal information and preferences. The next time you enter that website, they will know that you've been there before, what you've been looking at and perhaps what advertising to throw at you.

To have Internet Explorer warn you before it accepts a Cookie, click on Options, select Advanced and turn the option on. This way you can refuse incoming Cookies, although some pages might not allow you to continue. If you really need to view a page, go to http://www.luckman.com and get a free "anonymous cookie" which disables cookies and allows complete privacy.

The moment the Internet became popular to the masses, it ceased from being a computer network and it became another place for marketers to shove advertising and gain information about us. There is no such thing as the word "Private" on the Internet. Even your e-mails, have you been wondering who else is reading them?

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