SAFER COMPUTING

We’re pretty sure we were the target of an attempted identity theft recently. Joy was asked to “verify” information on the phone regarding a recent credit card application. Bob was very suspicious, so Joy said, skip it, she didn’t want the card anyway. Even after she said that, she was asked to verify her birth date and other personal information in order to cancel. Whoop, whoop, whoop: Enemy attack! Battle stations! She hung up.

Clearly, the easiest way to have your identity stolen is to give out the important information yourself. Another way is to insecurely connect to the Internet at public hotspots. When you go online at Starbucks, an airport or some other public place, there’s always a chance hackers can get in and steal data.

Microsoft has an interesting article on how to protect your online computing at public hotspots. (We’ve shortened its Web address to tinyurl.com/HotspotWarning.) One tip is to turn off your laptop’s WiFi capability when you’re not using it. Another is to turn off file sharing. Another is to download “virtual private network” software. This may be too many tips. In fact, after seven of them, Microsoft throws up their virtual hands and says, “consider removing sensitive data” and storing it in the cloud.

A simpler way to do it is to activate the “private browsing” features found in Firefox, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. In Chrome it’s called “incognito mode.” It won’t protect you from every kind of hacker, but it helps. If you forget to turn on private browsing, and then visit banking and other sensitive sites, you can delete the history of your Web visits in most browsers by holding down the “Ctrl” and “Shift” keys and tapping the “Delete” key.

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