Read an Excerpt
Is it safe?
You listen a lot to talk radio, and have been hearing ads for services that promise to protect you from the threat of identity theft. You're pretty sure that a friend of a friend had her identity stolen a while back, and you're worried that someone could steal your Social Security number, bank account information, and other important data.
Is it safe?
Your company deals with a large customer base via its website. Behind the scenes, you have several key databases that store both customer and employee information. You've been reading about a rash of data thefts at similar companies, and your company's management team wants to know what you're doing to address threats to your electronic data.
Is it safe?
It's holiday time, and you've been doing your shopping online. You've found some great deals at a number of online retailers, and even identified some eBay auction items that would make great gifts. But you're concerned about giving out your credit card number online, and not sure how you feel about the whole online auction thing.
Is it safe?
You receive a ton of email messages every day. Some are legitimate messages from friends and colleagues, but a lot of it is unwanted spam. And then there's this one message, from someone promising that he can reduce your credit card debt, or maybe guaranteeing you a high-paying income from a work-from-home business. You're interested in these offers, but are concerned about their legitimacy.
Is it safe?
Last week you watched one of those "To Catch a Predator" shows, where a middle-aged pervert was entrapped trying toarrange a tryst with an underaged computer user. And just yesterday, your local paper ran an article about sex offenders preying on children via MySpace and Facebook. You want your children to benefit from the Internet, and use it to communicate with their friends, but you're worried about cyberstalkers and online predators.
Is it safe?
Your computer hasn't been acting right lately. Someone at work thinks you might have a computer virus, or maybe your teenaged son has downloaded some spyware while downloading MP3 files. You're worried about all the nasty technological gunk that can infest your computer, especially given the websites your kids visit.
Is it safe?
A few days ago you had trouble getting to one of your favorite websites; the whole site was out of commission for several hours. One of your friends thinks the site may have the victim of an attack by computer hackers; in fact, you're worried about your own computer being attacked, especially now that you have a broadband Internet connection and wireless home network.
Is it safe?
There are lots of potential threats on the Internet, ranging from spam and email scams to computer attack and identity theft. With so many threats out there, it's easy to get paranoid about what can happen to you, your computer, your family, and your business when you go online. It's natural to think about all these potential risks and wonder to yourself, is it safe?
That's why I've written this bookIs It Safe? Protecting Your Computer, Your Business, and Yourself Online. I wanted to evaluate all the potential threats, let you know which ones you should and shouldn't worry about, and show you ways to minimize your risk. The Internet, after all, needn't be a scary place.
And here's the good news: For most threats, the risk is much lower than you might think. For example, despite all the sensational stories about online predators and sex offenders, the actual risk is not only low, it's lower than it used to be. And even though you hear a lot about online credit card theft, you stand a greater chance of having your credit card stolen in a local restaurant than you do on the Internet.
That's not to say, however, that your risk for any of these things is zero. Any given computer user can be a victim of any of these threats; the Internet is not and will never be 100% safe.
For that reason, you need to know what the threats are, what your individual risk is for each threat, and how to deal with the issue should you fall victim. The risk of something happening might be low, but if you're a victim, it's a major problem.
So when it comes to identity theft or email fraud or spyware or computer hackers, is it safe? The answer is, it all dependsbut you can definitely make it safer. That's what this book is about.How This Book Is Organized
With so many different threats floating about the Internet, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Don't worry; I've tried to simplify things for you, by organizing the threats into seven major categories:
Part I, "Protecting Against Identity Theft," deals with one of the scariest threats on the Internethaving your personal identity stolen and used for criminal purposes. In this section, you'll learn about how big the risk is, how to keep your personal information personal, and what to do if you fall victim to identity theft.
Part II, "Protecting Against Data Theft," looks at the cause of much of today's identity theftlarge-scale data theft from big companies and organizations. How does a company protect its customer and employee dataand what should it do if those records are stolen? That's what we cover here.
Part III, "Protecting Against Online Fraud," examines online shopping and auction fraud. How safe is it to buy something onlineand how can you make it safer? And what about the issue of advertising click fraudhow does that affect you?
Part IV, "Protecting Against Email Scams and Spam," looks at the many different ways consumers can be fleeced via email. It's all about avoiding con artists who promise something that sounds too good to be truebecause it is. And, while we're on the topic of email, we'll examine the issue of email spamand what you can do to reduce it.
Part V, "Protecting Against Online Surveillance," discusses the various ways that people and organizations can spy on you online. We cover everything from cyberstalkers and online predators to how your employer and the U.S. government are keeping tabs on everything you do onlinewhether you like it or not.
Part VI, "Protecting Against Computer Viruses and Spyware," examines two of the oldest and most significant scourges of computer users everywhere. You'll learn how viruses and spyware work, as well as what you can do to protect against them.
Part VII, "Protecting Against Computer Hacks and Attacks," looks at what hackers do onlineto home networks, large corporate networks, and websites. Did you know that a hacker can break into your home network and hijack your computer for use in a larger Internet attack, or to send thousands of spam messages? Obviously, we also discuss how you can protect your computer from attack, including the use of firewall software.
Taken together, the 25 chapters in this book cover just about any threat you can think of to the security of your home or work computer. I try not to sensationalize the threat; in fact, I go out of my way to put every threat in perspective. But I want you to know exactly what it is that you're up against, so that you can work to minimize your risk. Conventions Used in This Book
I hope that this book is easy enough to figure out on its own, without requiring its own instruction manual. As you read through the pages, however, it helps to know precisely how I've presented specific types of information.Web Page Addresses
There are a lot of Web page addresses in this book. They're noted as such:
Technically, a web page address is supposed to start with http:// (as in http:// http://www.molehillgroup.com). Because Internet Explorer and other web browsers automatically insert this piece of the address, however, you don't have to type itand I haven't included it in any of the addresses in this book.Software and Services
I also list a lot of software programs, website services, and the like to help you protect against specific threats. Know, however, that companies are constantly changing prices, coming out with new versions, introducing completely new products, and discontinuing older ones. With that in mind, every product and URL listed in this book is valid as of Spring 2008; chances are, however, that something will have changed by the time you read the book.Special Elements
This book includes four special elements that provide additional information not included in the basic text. These elements are designed to supplement the text to make it your learning faster, easier, and more efficient.
Note - A note is designed to provide information that is generally useful but not specifically necessary for what you're doing at the moment.
Tip - A tip offers additional advice that might prove useful to the task at hand.
Caution - A caution warns you of a particular situationbe alert to the warning!
Let Me Know What You Think
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE - Personal experiences recall my own personal experience with the topic at hand, or a personal recommendation regarding the topic.
I always love to hear from readers. If you want to contact me, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can't promise that I'll answer every message, but I do promise that I'll read each one!
If you want to learn more about me and any new books I have cooking, check out my Molehill Group website at http://www.molehillgroup.com. Who knowsyou might find some other books there that you'd like to read.
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