How to protect your privacy on Facebook

I haven’t talked about Facebook that much on air, but I can’t remember when I last found a site quite so addictive! Usually most of my peers have got better things to do with their time than mess around on the web, but Facebook seems to be the site which has changed all that, persuading loads of 40-somethings (as well as teens and twenty-somethings) that the web can as entertaining as it is useful.
But many Facebook memebers dont realise that their profile pages may be visible even to complete strangers, exposing them to the risk of identity theft.
There’s a really useful piece in today’s Telegraph which explains how to protect your privacy on Facebook – It’s well worth a read:

BopSpam – Website’s of the Day’s current anti-spam service of choice

Bopspam_1 >> BopSpam
I’ve recently been trying a newish anti-Spam service at home, and after a couple of months of use, I’m happy to give BopSpam a hearty recommendation.

While I’ve not been spam-free at home for several years, I had found that previously the problem was easily manageable using a free product like Mailwasher to identify and delete Spam emails before I downloaded them.

However towards the end of last year I noticed a dramatic increase in the number of spam messages sent to my home email address, which meant it was no longer practical for me to use a product which requires extensive intervention from me.

At work we have a pretty efficient spam filter which automatically removes spam messages before they reach my inbox, so I was hoping to find a similar product to use at home. I’d noticed some pretty glowing reviews of BopSpam in the webby magazines, so I thought that would be the one to try.

Bopspam is a completely web-based service (so there’s no need to install any software). It works alongside your existing Internet Service Provider (Wanadoo, Tiscali, Virgin etc) to filter your emails before they reach your inbox.

The service is preconfigured to identify (and remove) email from many known spammers. But for best results, you’ll need to take a week or two to train your account to recognise which messages you consider legitimate and which ones are spam. This is the key to the product’s success rate. A weekly email newsletter from your local health authority might be essential reading to you, but your neighbour might consider the same message to be junk mail.

BopSpam relies on a custom-built database of which messages you have marked as legitimate and which ones you have identified as spam. The more messages you “tag” the greater the chance of BopSpam automatically removing unwanted mail in future.

They boast that the product removes over 99% of spam from your inbox. Initially I found that it fell well short of that target, barely reaching 50% in the first week of use (in spite of my devoting 10-20 minutes a day “training” the service). I contacted Bopspam’s technical support and received a very quick and very comprehensive response. One small tweak of settings later and the service improved dramatically. After 3 months of use, BopSpam is successfully removing 95% of all the spam I receive, and now requires minimum manual intervention.

In summary this product repays a bit of time spent setting it up. If you’re not prepared to take some time training it to recognise which messages you regard as spam, it won’t do its job properly. But for those who don’t mind putting in a bit of time upfront, it’s a very effective tool that’s well worth a look.

Bopspam offer a free no-strings 30 day trial to all new users. After that you’ll pay between £30 and £50 a year dependant on the volume of mail you receive. Not cheap for home users then, but certainly worth considering if it saves you enough time and hassle in the long term.

I’m going to try some rival services over the coming months in order to see how BopSpam stacks up against its competitors for price and performance. Watch this space!

Get Safe Online

Getsafeonline >> Get Safe Online
This is the official site for a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of how to protect yourself online. Even if you start to glaze over at the mention of concepts like Viruses, spyware, spam, hackers and identity theft, this site is a good first port of call for anything to do with online security. Jargon is kept to a minium and when it is used you’ll notice a dotted line underneath a word which links you straight to a definition.
There’s advice for all computer owners – not just Windows users. If you have a computer security problem you can go straight to a Help! I’ve got a problem! section for specific advice. Or if you’re not sure how to ensure your computer is safe from attack, a 10-minute beginners guide aims to give you a general security MOT.

BT Privacy Online

Modemprotection >> BT Privacy Online
This is a free download to help protect dial-up customers from the scam which runs up massive connection bills without the users knowledge. The software protects you from so-called "rogue diallers" by monitoring your modem and warning you if it attempts to dial a premium rate or international number.
>> More info from BBC News

Free security software downloads for Windows

Also mentioned today:
>> Download free Windows security patches from Windows Update
>> Zone Alarm: Free firewall software
>> AVG: Free Anti-Virus Software
>> Avast: Free Anti-Virus Software
IMPORTANT: Please note that free firewall and anti-virus software is usually unsupported, so install and use at your own risk. If you want a product which includes free technical support, expect to pay for the software. You’ll find reviews of a range of windows security products (both free and paid-for) at the following links
>> Web User: AntiVirus software reviews
>> Web User: Firewall reviews
>> Web User: Anti-Spyware software reviews

>> Website of the Day: More online security links

The Website of the Day Guide to Spambusting

SpambustingSpam (or unsolicited junk email sent to many recipients) accounts for nearly 40% of all email sent but as it is an international phenomenon it is notoriously difficult to legislate against. As a consequence individual web users need to be vigiliant to avoid their email addresses falling into the hands of spammers. Here are our golden tips for spam avoidence:

  1. Never buy anything from a spammer, however much of a good deal may appear to be on offer.
  2. Never ever reply to an invitation to unsubscribe from a spam mailing list; That simply tells a spammer that your email address is active, and leads to even more junk email.
  3. Research shows that activities most likely to reveal your email address to spammers are posting to newsgroups or message boards, entering AOL chat rooms, and signing up for online sweepstakes and lotteries. Online shopping and subscribing to email newsletters are lower risk, but not risk-free.
    >> More info
  4. We suggest you always read a site’s privacy policy so you know exactly what they will or won’t do with your email address
  5. Use a secondary email address for signing up to any message boards, posting to news groups or online shopping. Although Microsoft’s Hotmail webmail service has an inbuilt spam filter, the service’s huge popularity makes hotmail addreesses more attractive to spammers, so your secondary address is less likely to be guessed if you choose a more obscure UK based provider from the Free Email Providers Guide. Better still, consider using a ‘disposable email’ service like Spam Motel or Spam Gourmet.

There are a variety of software packages which will help you filter out spam messages before they reach your inbox. The best-known free software for home users is called Mailwasher. It enables you to preview emails before you download them to your PC and decide whether to delete them, bounce them back to the sender, or download them to your inbox.

If you want to take your personal fight against spam further, a tool called Spamcop will help you identify the real address a spam message has been sent from, and contact the spammer’s service provider to get their account shut down.

Want to vent your anger? Have a go at Spam Wars, an online game that pits you against the evil Sid the Spammer in the ultimate spam battle!

>> Wikipedia: What is Spam?
>> BBC Webwise: Net Comment
>> BBC Webwise: How to stop Spam
>> Search BBCi news for the latest anti-spam developments
>> BBC h2g2: Advanced Spamfighting Tips

How to investigate a suspicious looking email

If you’ve been online for more than a few weeks, the chances are you’ll have received emails promising you free cash or items of clothing if you forward the message to at least 15 people, or telling you that you’ve recently won millions in an obscure European lottery. On the whole it’s best to assume that if an email looks too good to be true then it’s probably a hoax.
The same is usually true of e-mail messages that warn of a “new and deadly virus, which will destroy your hard-drive”.
Next time you receive a virus warning message or an email promising untold riches, check it whether it’s the real McCoy at – a huge online database of hoaxes and urban myths.

How to safeguard against the Virus that crashed Google

mydoomComputer viruses have been all over the news again as a result of the virus which attacked the world’s most visited search engine Google earlier this week. The virus responsible has been named MyDoom.M (or MyDoom.O) and is a variation of a virus that was especially prolific in February this year. But in the reams of press coverage so far, what has been lacking is a simple explanation of what damage this particular virus does and how to tell if you’re infected. So we called leading Anti-virus firm Symantec, and asked them to explain in technophobe-friendly language.

How serious is this latest virus for home users?
Don’t Panic! MyDoom.O does not leave lasting damage to your computer, but it will cause it to mass email from your machine – possibly causing slow performance on your computer.

Is that all the damage it does?
It will also create a security loophole on your computer, which potentially leaves you vulnerable to hackers accessing your PC at a later date.

How can I protect against this virus?
The good news is that if you’re already running anti-virus software and you update it at least once a week you should already be protected. Update your anti-virus software immediately to ensure protection, and also download and install any other outstanding updates for your firewall and for Windows as a matter of precaution and as part of safe computing practice. For more jargon-free advice about ensuring that your Windows security is up-to-date, follow the advice on this page

I’ve never got round to installing or updating anti-virus software… How can I tell if I’m already infected?
Unless your PC is running unusually slowly there is no immediately obvious sign of infection. However Symantec have a free downloadable tool which will scan and disinfect your computer.

How do I disinfect my computer?
Full instuctions are available on Symantec’s site, but here’s the abridged version:

1. Click here to download the My Doom removal tool: Save the file to a convenient location, such as your downloads folder or the Windows desktop,
2. Close all the running programs before running the tool.
3. If you are online, disconnect the computer from the network and the Internet.
4. VERY IMPORTANT: If you are running Windows Me or XP, then disable System Restore. Refer to Symantec’s instructions for further details.
5. Double-click the FxMydoom.exe file to start the removal tool.
6. Click Start to begin the process, and then allow the tool to run.
7. Restart the computer.
8. Run the removal tool again to ensure that the system is clean.
9. If you are running Windows Me/XP, then re-enable System Restore.
10. When the tool has finished running, you will see a message indicating whether MyDoomhad infected the computer.

For more information about the latest developments with MyDoom and associated viruses, see this story on BBC News.

Get your own back on an email scammer.

Thanks to the lovely Mrs Website of the Day for drawing my attention to a brilliant story from BBC News Online. If you’ve been online for more than a year or two you may well have recieved an scam email offering you untold riches if you help an alleged "official" representing a foreign government or agency with a business transaction which essentially involves money laundering. The BBC News story concerns a group called who use their web and email expertise to have some fun at the expense of these email scammers.
>> Read the full (and very amusing) story here

Free Security CD for Windows

protect>> Order your free Windows Security Update CD
Many computer viruses spread by exploiting loopholes in the security of web browsing and email software. Whenever Microsoft identify a loophole in their software they issue a free security ‘patch’ or update on their Windows Update site which you can download to safeguard your system from infection.

However these patches are often large files which can take many hours to download on a dial-up connection. Now, to save time and expense, you can go to Microsoft’s security site and order a free CD containing all Windows security updates issued up until October 2003.

Once you have installed the updates on the CD we recommend that you revisit Windows Update to download more recent “Critical Updates”.

In addition, we recommend that you install antivirus and firewall software and update that at least once a week. If you do not already have an antivirus or firewall programme, the Microsoft CD includes software which comes complete with a trial subscription or you can find links to free software in the AntiVirus section of our Website of the Day archive.