Software recap

To date I’ve recommended five computer programs that are essential to keeping your privacy and security intact. They are all free, they all work very well, and they all rival similar programs that often cost a lot of money. Here’s a recap:

Web browser:

If you’re still using Internet Explorer, you’re exposing yourself to unnecessary danger when you surf the web. Malicious websites can install spyware, adware, and viruses without your knowledge or consent by exploiting IE’s subpar security architecture. If you’ve got some spyware on your computer and don’t know where it came from, there is a good chance IE invited it in.

The fix is really easy, so there’s simply no excuse to stand on the sidelines any longer. Stop using Internet Explorer, download Mozilla Firefox, and start browsing the web safely. (continue reading…)

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The worst privacy screwups

Wired News has a list of ten privacy screwups that made the world cringe.

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Antivirus needs to go on a diet

Fat man staring at skinny man on bench

Antivirus scanners are often bloated and self-serving. Programs like McAfee and Norton Antivirus seem not to have the will or good sense to shed unnecessary code.

I have used both applications I mentioned above, each for more than a year. At one time I remember them being sleek and nimble, but with each update they got more features that I didn’t need. Scanning took longer, but didn’t get any better. At which point, I had to ask, “why do I own these products?”

Lighter is better

You are far more likely to use a program that is simple and fast, so you will be making yourself more secure by finding an antivirus program that fits this description.

Now that there are so many free and good alternatives to overweight applications, don’t hesitate to junk what you’ve used in the past. Try something new. If that sucks, try something else.

You don’t need to put up with programs that think they should dictate the use of your computer’s resources. Reclaim your memory and hard drive space. You will be glad your computer still has some zip the next time you’re working on five spreadsheets, watching a movie, listening to music, and surfing the net all at the same time.

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AOL fires employees, CTO for data release

Set of keys in door lock

America Online fired two employees and its chief technology officer because of the release of user search data earlier this month, says the New York Times:

‘This incident took place because some employees did not exercise good judgment or review their proposal with our privacy team,’ Miller said in a second memo. ‘We are taking appropriate action with the employees who were responsible.’

Accountability is a good thing when it comes to enforcing privacy requirements in any organization, and AOL seems to be taking it seriously. The company is taking several steps to ensure that this never happens again, such as keeping tighter controls on employee access to data, educating employees about privacy issues, and reviewing data retention and privacy policies.

I hope other companies that harbour large collections of user data are paying close attention. Then again, AOL didn’t take the hint from privacy fiascos that came before it (for example, it has been just over a year since ChoicePoint, a company that gathers and sells data about consumers, announced that it gave up sensitive information on more than 160,000 people to criminals posing as ChoicePoint customers – the media coverage on the story was extensive). (continue reading…)

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Will wiretapping ruling hold after appeal?

The order to stop the NSA’s wiretapping operation has been stayed, although it is unclear (at least to me) for how long. Of course, the government has appealed the ruling and everyone is wondering if it will hold.

One of the Wired News Blogs reports that at least one expert is not hopeful: (continue reading…)

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