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Online Security Issues, Part 2

by Alan Grissett, Owner and Project Manager of InfoServe Media, LLC

While there is no foolproof way to ensure that no one will EVER access information you don't want them to, there are several very effective steps that you can take to minimize the risk.

When passing sensitive data like credit card numbers, addreses, or social security numbers over the Internet, be sure that the connection you are using or implementing is encrypted using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). SSL is a commonly-used protocol for managing the security of message transmissions over the Internet. Essentially, SSL works by using a public key, or password, to encrypt data that's transferred over the connection. The receiving software, usually a browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, decrypts the message into meaningful information for the intended recipient. The encryption of the data prevents unauthorized access while the data is being transmitted over the network. (By convention, URL's that require a SSL connection start with https instead of http.)

Another step that can be taken to minimize the risk involved with transmitting information across the Internet is to use several different e-mail accounts, each with a specific purpose. To limit your exposure to unwanted spam and potentially dangerous viruses, the e-mail address provided by your ISP or Web host should only be given to trusted parties, such as family members, friends, co-workers, and business associates. If you frequently fill out online forms that require the use of an e-mail address, use a "throw-away" address, such as one that can be obtained from Yahoo! or Hotmail. This will help stop your primary e-mail account from being flooded with unwanted mail, and it might reduce your exposure to viruses as well.

Several other key preventative measures to safeguard your personal information include checking your credit reports regularly, paying by credit card for online transactions (instead of ACH bank account debits), and searching for your name at a good search engine, like Google, to find out what information about you is online.
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