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No Real Privacy on the Internet:

I added this page to my site to emphasize that web sites can collect many facts about you and your network without your knowledge.  

Information may include your email address,  the specific city and state you are visiting from, your computer's unique Internet Protocol (IP) address (pinpointing your specific location), applications installed on your computer and the operating system, browser information and settings, your firewall or cable/DSL modem type, internal network settings, and more. 

Knowing this information could provide an unscrupulous individual with information to help facilitate breaching your network and obtaining information stored on your computer or network. 

By examining information passed from a browser to my web server I can often determine enough information to identify a probable user account.  This would provide a potential hacker with information to begin an attack using a "brute force" method.  Many hackers either gain access to web server statistics, which are usually not very well secured, or stage sites to specifically collect this information.  Many spam or "phishing" attempts are actually scams to collect information about you.      

There are dozens of tools and online sites that illustrate how information about you may be used.  For example, I read your IP address as  54.80.188.87 (click IP for your service provider's city, which is just one of the many values that can be found).  The IP address may be used to track down and access your computer if it is not adequately protected. Click here to see a map of your location
 

Although my site does not have advertisements, many sites employ advertising service providers who attach an ID to the ads as they are served (delivered) to your browser.  They can then read the ID and the site addresses that you are viewing. Click here to see what a popular Internet advertiser DoubleClick collects.  The ID, site name and your specific Internet address allow the advertiser to construct a record of your behavior and the sites you access.  They sell this information and can even adjust advertising presented to you that you may be more likely to be interested in pursuing.  They can also determine your email address if you use browser based email services with their advertising, such as Yahoo or Hotmail.  This allows them to sell your email address and web usage behavior to providers of spam databases. 

Another technique known as web beacons allows web site portals, such as AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Google and others to track your access across multiple sites.  When used with other tracking systems, especially when combined with registry information collected when you join a site (such as Yahoo), this technique provides a powerful method for categorizing your behavior and targeting advertisements.  This information is traded with "partners" looking to focus their sales efforts directly at you.  Free email providers, such as Yahoo also attach web beacons to HTML email you send to track when it was opened and who opened it.  This allows them to not only track your behavior but who you communicate with and their behavior.  Click here to read Yahoo's policy. 

One way to limit the information collected about you is to use a special file on your computer that will redirect ads to a blank page.  Another way is to simply secure your browser and install firewall and Adware applications on your computer.  Click here for tips.

What law enforcement knows. What is the FBI's Carnivore program? From securities fraud to cyberterrorism, child pornography to espionage, electronic communication has become a major avenue for criminal activity. In response, the FBI developed Carnivore, a surveillance system that monitors electronic communication. With a court order or lawful consent from the Internet Service Provider (ISP), the FBI can tap Carnivore into an ISP's high-speed network. Aptly named Carnivore because of its ability to find the "meat," or criminal activity, in Internet traffic, it can track a user's incoming and outgoing e-mails. Information travels through the Internet in packets of binary code. In the case of e-mail, a single message is broken down into several packets. Every packet contains duplicate information such as, among other things, the address from which the e-mail was sent, the address to which it was sent, and the subject line. Each packet also contains unique information - a section of the e-mail's content.  Click here to learn more.

If you are extremely concerned about your behavior being tracked you may wish to consider one of the many anonymizing systems, such as Anonymizer.com.  These sites proxy or mask your connection to the internet by redirecting internet traffic through their servers and stripping identifying information.     

I do not provide information about my visitors to others and routinely remove all records from my site.  I do monitor access to some pages on my site to track when they are visited.  I provide this page to help explain the issues you face securing your identity.  You may write me at security@bfletcher.com with questions. 

You can help reduce Cyber Crime by reporting suspected information to the FBI or at the U.S. Department of Justice site.  You can also report attempts to collect information or lure you to a site at the Anti-Phishing Work Group web site or the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT).

Best wishes and stay safe. 


 


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