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Think that your Web e-mail, surfing history, and browser cookies are safe under your control? Nowadays, it is relatively easy to gather information about you while you are online. Luckily, there are a number of simple things you can do to thwart these attempts. These are not just tips for attorneys to follow, but for your clients as well. Why? Sometimes the bad guys are not just “out there” — people within an organization can employ questionable tactics as well. To even the odds, you just need to make your information more difficult to access: 10. Set your Web browser to prompt you before it downloads or runs scripts and ActiveX modules. While most of these tiny programs are useful, they are a security risk. By otherwise allowing these to run automatically, you can be giving a lot more access to your computer than you bargained for. But be warned: These new settings will generate more prompts from your browser as you surf, especially if you have a number of browser plug-ins like Shockwave and Acrobat. 9. Be wary of Web-based e-mail for sensitive content. HTML-formatted e-mail and Web pages can contain embedded scripts. If your e-mail reader’s JavaScript feature is enabled, it could allow the scripts to run. Some scripts breach system security by exploiting well-known flaws in browsers and e-mail programs. Another type of script can surreptitiously route forwarded e-mail back to the original sender. Even if your JavaScript is disabled, someone else’s e-mail program might have it enabled so it sends your private message back to the original sender. This applies to internal and external e-mail. 8. Toss your cookies often. No, this is not a new supermodel diet. While surfing the Web, tiny files (called cookies) are being saved to your hard drive by the Web sites you visit. Some cookies are benign, such as for remembering your account login and various Web site settings. Others contain even more profiling information, such as a unique identifier and personal preferences. Deleting the cookies removes them from your computer, but it is not a perfect solution — Web sites will simply make more the next time you visit. You can set your browser to block all cookies or ask you first, but some sites will not let you in without setting a cookie, or the myriad of prompts will drive you crazy. That is where cookie management programs like Cookie Crusher ($15 from TheLimitSoft.com) come in handy. Not only does it allow you to block cookies in real time, Cookie Crusher even tells you what each cookie’s purpose is, such as for ad tracking, online shopping, or site tracking. 7. Tune in, but opt out. In addition to managing your cookies, online advertisers such as DoubleClick allow you to click on a special link on their site to “opt out” of their identification tracking cookie. It generally does this by replacing the unique identifier in your cookie file with a generic one, which purportedly maintains your anonymity while they continue to gather information from your browser. The idea is that the information is no longer matched up with your computer’s ID. But note: If you delete these modified cookies, you are opting back in, and will need to go back to their site to opt out. 6. Clean up after yourself. There are many programs that can delete and wipe your browser cookies, Web site history, temporarily stored Web pages (the “cache”), Windows’ program run history, recently accessed documents list, the recycle bin, and other sensitive data. HistoryKill ($29.95 from HistoryKill.com) is one of the most comprehensive packages, as it can automatically delete all of the above data and a lot more immediately after closing your browser. 5. Install ad-blockers and browser “pop-up” stoppers. These types of programs may not do all that much to protect your privacy, but they definitely speed up your Web browsing and make it more enjoyable without having to download all that clutter. And if you do not see those ads, you cannot click on them — so you might just have a few less cookies and Web bugs to deal with. AdSubtract and Pop-Up Stopper are two common programs in these categories, and are available from AdSubtract.comand Panicware.com, respectively. HistoryKill also comes with a PopUp Killer feature. 4. Use anonymizers. Anonymizers funnel your browsing through special software and/or servers to both filter and hide your system from the Web sites you visit on the other end. That way, those sites cannot “see” your system directly. Because it is an extra step to filter out the privacy and security threats, anonymizers can slow down your browsing somewhat. One of the best known sites is, naturally, Anonymizer.com. They offer a scaled-down free service, and for $50 a year, more features and faster surfing. If you do not like the idea of paying a monthly fee, you can install other software on your own PC. Anonymity 4 Proxy (A4Proxy) is a special local proxy server program for your computer. It includes a database with hundreds of anonymous public proxy servers located all over the world, so you can connect to them instead to perform the filtering. A4Proxy is $35 for home use, $65 for business use, and is available at iNetPrivacy.com. For an eye-opening demonstration of the information collected from your browser, go to Privacy.netand try it with and without an anonymizer to see the difference. 3. Put up firewalls. In basic terms, there are two kinds of firewalls: hardware and software. Hardware firewalls are designed to keep the bad guys from coming in, they are generally more secure from external attacks than software firewalls, but they do not always stop your programs from sending data back OUT. That is where software firewalls from ZoneLabs, McAfee, and Symantec can fill in to some degree. Also check out other firewalls that are free for personal use at Tinysoftware.com and Sygate.com. Then head over to grc.comto have the free Shields Up! service test its effectiveness. For business use, make sure you have an enterprise-grade firewall in place. However, it is somewhat unusual to see both hardware and desktop-level software firewalls in an enterprise setting. 2. Give your system a flu shot with antivirus software. This is just common sense, but many people still do not update their antivirus database often enough. Set it to automatically update at least once a week, and more often during major virus outbreaks. Trojans, viruses, and other programs can send information from your PC very easily and surreptitiously. The combination of a properly configured firewall with a fully updated antivirus program is one of your best bets against the Wild Wild Web. 1. Prevent your electronic documents from becoming double agents. Office suite programs are much more sophisticated today, and their corresponding word processing, spreadsheet, and other data files contain a lot more “hidden” information. When collaborating or e-mailing, keep in mind they can contain metadata and Web bugs. Metadata literally means “data about data” and can include the following information: Authors, subject, title, company, prior revisions, hidden text or cells, comments, and summaries. The best practice is to sanitize these files by running them through a metadata remover before sending them electronically. Otherwise, it is relatively easy to access that information. A number of metadata analysis and removal tools are available from Microsystems, Payne Consulting Group, and Perfect Access Speer. Electronic documents can also contain Web bugs. Web bugs are near-invisible graphic files used for tracking documents. This is accomplished by embedding a Web link to a tiny picture file on a Web server anywhere in the world. When the bugged document is opened, it attempts to retrieve that graphic file from the server. In turn, that Web server logs the graphic file name, date, time, your computer address and domain name. It is possible to track individual documents by using a different graphic file for each one. The Privacy Foundation offers Bugnosis, a free program for Internet Explorer, that alerts you to Web bugs. It is available at www.bugnosis.org. Further Reading Not that we will ever be completely private while on-line, but at least we can significantly minimize unnecessary exposure. In addition, the following organizations and directories offer a host of useful information on privacy and security issues: Center for Democracy & Technology Electronic Frontier Foundation Electronic Privacy Information Center Privacy Foundation www.privacy.net The SANS Institute The Google Directory-Privacy The Yahoo Directory-Privacy Jeffrey Beard is a legal technologist with Quarles & Brady in Milwaukee, Wis.

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