50 ways to protect your ID

For as long as there have been dustbins, there have been conmen capitalising on the things you discard. For as long as there have been magnetic stripe readers, there have been double-swiping waiters helping themselves to your credit card details. But the threat to your privacy and the likelihood someone can steal your identity has skyrocketed since the explosion of the PC market.

50 ways to protect your ID

We not only live and work in a digital age, but our identities have themselves become digital. The growth of the Internet, the knowledge of kids brought up within a culture of technology and the spread of always-on broadband have catapulted computer-based ID crime to the top of the heap.

We bank online, file tax returns online, shop online, some of us even fall in love online. Who you are, what you earn and how you spend it is all there in the public domain – unless you actively take steps to guard your personal information.

Often it’s the obvious things that get overlooked by those who should know better. The simple truth is that it doesn’t matter how much hardware you throw at the problem, nor the software you install: system security and data integrity is only ever as strong as the weakest link. More often than not, that’s you.

We can’t promise to safeguard your data for you, but we will provide you with both the tools and know-how needed to lock down your PC and protect your privacy. We’ve also tested a selection of the latest hardware designed to stop prying eyes. In total, we’ve put together the 50 essential precautions to protect your identity in the era of ubiquitous computing and, although you may already have implemented some of the advice, we guarantee you haven’t got them all covered.


1 Use MailFrontier phishing and fraud protection

Hardly a day goes by when phishing and fraud don’t feature prominently in the IT news. And although you may feel safe using your instincts to protect you from such scams, technology is available to do it for you. This tool uses patent-pending fraud-detection technology to filter phishing scams out of your inbox. Suspect messages are quarantined in a Fraudulent Mail folder, from where you can either delete them or forward them to a central database where they’re then used to help fight against email fraud. It comes as part of the MailFrontier anti-spam package for Outlook/Outlook Express, $30 (£16.50 plus VAT) from www.mailfrontier.com, or integrated with the ZoneAlarm Security Suite, $40 (£22 plus VAT) from www.zonelabs.com

2 Display email as plain text

Nobody wants their email address in the hands of spammers, so set your email client to display email messages as plain text by default. That helps you avoid being caught by ’email marketers’ that use linked graphic files as a means of tracking ‘live’ email addresses. However, if you can’t make do without HTML mail, at least use an email client such as Outlook that can disable the downloading of linked graphics. If the email has come from a trusted source, a couple of clicks will enable the graphics to be downloaded for that message only.

3 Easy email encryption

Encrypting email is undoubtedly a very good idea, but it can all too often be overly complex and difficult to implement. CenturionMail (£32.99 from www.itred.com) uses symmetric encryption and requires just a single password to both encrypt and decrypt messages. It uses 256-bit, open-source AES encryption and is self-decrypting. The recipient receives an attachment that prompts for the password before the email can be opened.

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