I can't remember how many times I've heard someone whom I work with or one of my customers say this:
"How can I use the Internet and be *totally* safe and secure, and not be the target of hackers, spammers or any of the other miscreants of the Internet?"
Well, it's actually not that difficult. Once you lay everything out in regards to *what* you want protected and *what* you don't care about, the decisions become nearly as easy as picking your lunch off of a reader-board or menu.
So, let's start with the basics.
There are really three kinds of Internet Users in the world today:
1. Home User with dial-up
2. Home User with Broadband (xDSL/Cable/Sattelite/Wifi)
3. At-Work User
Regardless of which Category you fall under, here are some simple, common-sense measures that you can take to keep yourself "Safe on The Internet":
1. Only give your email address to people you are expecting to send and/or share email with. When posting comments in an online forum, web-board, or discussion group like the Usenet Newsgroups, NEVER use your real email address - disguise it! An example would be scottkWAKKAWAKKA@WAKKAWAKKAkindorf.com (Do NOT try to send mail to this address - it will only bounce back to you) - the reason is that there are programs that spammers run against newsgroups and forum postings that automatically extract posted email addresses...and once they get your email address, it's all over; expect email spam to flood your email inbox for months, if not years.
2. NEVER open and email attachment from ANYONE unless you are expecting it, regardless of the file-type! This is one of the easiest ways that hackers can get into your system; it's called the "Trojan Horse" method, because it works with you just like it did the Army of Troy - the Greeks hid inside the massive, hollow wooden Horse while the Trojans pulled into their city gates...and the rest, as they say, is history. Opening unexpected file attachments in email is one sure-fire way to get your system severely messed-up.
3. ALWAYS use and create what are known as "Strong" passwords. Never use a last or maident name, or middle name, or ANYONE'S name - especially a common one. Instead, take that easy-to-remember name and to a little "Emeril Magic" on it - spice it up (*BAM*) with some numbers interspersed into the name; for example, take "washington" and turn it into "wash4283ington96". The reason for this is very simple; most hackers that are intent on getting access to your email or your system or other online accounts regularly employ what is known as a "Dictionary" attack - using software that is designed to draw words from a vast dictionary of words and use a brute-force attack against that username and use the words in the dictionary for the guessed password. By "obfuscating" that password, you increase the difficulty of having that password guessed. Foreign words work almost as well, but just like not being able tot make a good Chilli too hot you can't make a password too strong.
4. ALWAYS use an Anti-Virus program on your systems to ensure that they are not infected with viruses and other software that can compromize your system. As an example, I've been using Norton AntiVirus (NAV) on all of my systems, and I have only had one system infected by ONE virus in over 10 years - and it was my mistake and not NAVs.
Now, on to the individual categories...