E-Mail Privacy FAQ
E-Mail Privacy FAQ by André Bacard, Author of
This article offers a nontechnical overview of possible threats to YOUR e-mail privacy, and it suggests two key steps that you can take to guard your privacy. I have written this especially for persons with a sense of humor. You may distribute this (unaltered) FAQ for non-commercial purposes.
Can people (secretly) read your e-mail?
Very likely yes. Most electronic mail is notoriously UNPRIVATE. E-mail is less secure, and in many ways more dangerous, than sending your personal or business messages on a postcard.
Who secretly reads your e-mail?
A MacWorld survey found that roughly 25% of the businesses contacted admitted that they eavesdrop on employee computer files, e-mail, or voice mail. This 25% excludes unauthorized e-mail monitoring. When I asked a Silicon Valley C.E.O. if he uses e-mail, he said: "Hell no, Andre. Half the nerds in my company can hack e-mail. E-mail is a party line!"
Internet e-mail, the kind that brought you this FAQ, is child's play for some people to intercept. Your typical e-mail message travels through many computers. At each computer, people can access your personal and business correspondence.
It's a safe bet that administrators (not to mention hackers) on Bulletin Board Systems, college campus systems, commercial information services, and Internet hook-up providers can read your e-mail. Of course most snoops will deny they're reading your e-mail because they want to continue doing so.
Doesn't my password protect me?
Charles Piller, in his excellent article entitled "Bosses With X-Ray Eyes," reports on a study MacWorld made of Macintosh software. Here is part of Piller's conclusion: "All the major electronic-mail and groupware products that combine messaging, file management, and scheduling (such as WordPerfect Office) allow the network administrator to change passwords at any time, then read, delete, or alter any messages on the server. With few exceptions, network-monitor programs such as AG Group's LocalPeek, Farallon Computing's Traffic Watch II, and Neon Software's NetMinder, allow astute managers to read files transmitted over the net. In short, these tools are only slightly less invasive than others specifically designed for surveillance and used primarily on mainframe systems."
Unix, Dos and other software networks are just as easy for administrators to manipulate. Who is to stop your Internet hook-up provider or any network supervisor from using or distributing your password?
Doesn't my e-mail vanish after I read and "delete" it?
In many cases, NO! Many Internet providers and network administrators "archive" (store) your incoming and outgoing mail on a computer disk for six months or more AFTER you think that you've deleted your mail. If someone sues you (for example, in a divorce), he or she may be able to subpoena and READ your previous correspondence. Of course, unauthorized snoops might choose to read your archive for their own reasons.
What motivates a snoop?
Maybe he's a thief who sells company business plans or customer lists. Perhaps she's the office intriguer trying to play people against you. Possibly he's a computer stalker like the fellow who shot actress Rebecca Schaffer to death. Conceivably she's a blackmailer. Maybe he's an old-fashioned voyeur. Information is power. Snoops want power.
Whatsamatter, I've got nothing to hide. Why do I need e-mail privacy?
Show me an e-mail user who has no financial, sexual, social, political, or professional secrets to keep from his family, his neighbors, or his colleagues, and I'll show you someone who is either an extraordinary exhibitionist or an incredible dullard. Show me a corporation that has no trade secrets or confidential records, and I'll show you a business that is not very successful.
Robert Ellis Smith, Publisher of the Privacy Journal, quips, "An employee with nothing to hide may well be an employee with nothing to offer."
Privacy, discretion, confidentiality, and prudence are hallmarks of civilization.
OK, maybe I could use e-mail privacy. What can I do?
There are two big, practical steps that you can take. First, use PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) software to encrypt your e-mail (and computer files) so that snoops cannot read them. PGP is the de facto world standard software for e-mail security. Second, use anonymous remailers to send e-mail to network news groups or to persons so that the recipient (and snoops) cannot tell your real name or e-mail address.
Where can I learn more about these privacy tools?
Two excellent places to start are the Usenet news groups alt.security.pgp and alt.privacy.anon-server.
Anything else I should know?
YOUR privacy and safety could be in danger! Prolific bank, credit and medical databases, e-mail monitoring, and computer matching programs are just a few factors that threaten every law-abiding citizen. In short, our anti-privacy society can serve criminals and snoops computer data about YOU on a silver platter.
MORE HELPFUL WEB RESOURCES...
This page hosts various online helps for AOL users and Windows users:
Most of the info is provided by friends, and PC magazines.
Screen Saver Dilemma
One friend says you need a screen saver to prevent burn-in, and another says that only applies to older monitors. Who's right? Burn-in is rarely an issue for today's monitors. But using a screen saver or setting your monitor to rest after periods of inactivity can help prolong the life of your monitor. Over time, the phosphors in pixels darken and lose their ability to emit light. Pixels are the basic unit of an image on a monitor. Each pixel is a triad of red, blue, and green dots of phosphor that glow when activated by an electronic beam. It takes hundreds of thousands of pixels to make up the image you see on your screen.
Get in the habit of turning your monitor off overnight. "The most important thing you can do to prolong the life of your monitor is to turn it off when you're not using it," Martin says. Unlike a PC that can age faster by being turned off and on, he says a monitor's CRT will last longer if you turn it off when you're not using it because it has a limited number of hours of life.
Solve Keyboard Quandaries
Troubleshooting the keyboard port is easier than with other devices because the system BIOS (Basic Input/Output System; software that controls the startup process of your system) checks the keyboard (and thus the port) every time you start up your system. First, turn on the computer and watch for keyboard error messages at startup. If you see a keyboard error, turn off the system. Then, unplug the keyboard and plug in a known-working keyboard. Restart the system and watch for keyboard re messages again. If the same error occurs, the keyboard port is defective. If this is the case, you probably will need to replace the motherboard because the keyboard port is built into the motherboard, and you cannot replace it just by inserting an add-on card.
DEALING WITH SPAM
The BEST way to limit the amount of spam you get is to keep your email address out of the hands of spammers. Here are some tips to do that:
- Don't participate in public forums with your primary address. Spammers use software designed to suck email addresses out of chat rooms, mailing lists and newsgroups. This is so prevalent on AOL that you can get spammed within MINUTES of entering a chat room. Use an alternate address provided by your ISP or get a free account at Hotmail, Yahoo or another web-based email site. Or try Sneakemail, a free service that you can use to generate disposable email addresses.
- Don't post your email address (in plain text) on your website. For information on how to encode your address and hide from Spambots (programs that extract email addresses from web pages) look here:
- If you have a "member profile" on your AOL address, you'll get tons of spam. Some users who remove their AOL profile report an immediate and drastic drop in spam.
WHAT ABOUT SPAMCOP?
Several readers wrote to me after the last issue to recommend SpamCop as a tool to strike back at spammers. Spamcop is a free service that deciphers those confusing email headers and composes emails which can be sent to the spammer's ISP, network admin and website host. It will NOT help you to identify the spammer, but I have heard stories of spammers losing their account as a result of a SpamCop report.
But spammers expect to lose their accounts, most of which are free and anonymous. So they just get another and move on. And even more troubling, many (I've heard most) ISPs no longer pay attention to SpamCop reports. That's because they get so many duplicate reports and "false positives" sent by over-zealous SpamCop users. Another problem which the SpamCop site warns about is the possibility of revenge if your complaint falls into the hands of the spammer.
So SpamCop may be a victim of it's own popularity. It's a good idea, but it needs work to remain an effective anti-spam tool. I recommend that if you DO use SpamCop, be extra careful to not report legitimate emails. And before filing a complaint, check the timestamp on the spam message. If it's more than a few hours old, it should be safe to assume that someone else has reported it already.
DO SPAM FILTERS WORK?
Some people prefer to install spam filters in their e-mail program. These work to varying degrees, but my concern is that over-zealous filters might zap some non-spam emails. I don't know about you, but I'd rather delete the junk than risk missing an important message.
Some Internet Service providers are filtering email at the server level, which makes me even more nervous. For example, EXCITE and HOTMAIL have at times blocked TOURBUS and other LISTSERV mailings to their members, because the incoming volume triggered one of their spam rules. If your software or ISP is filtering, make sure there's a place you can look to find the blocked emails and inspect them.
I've heard that BrightMail is a very effective spam filter, but alas, they are no longer accepting new users. However, service providers such as Earthlink, AT&T Worldnet, Visto and Hiwaay are using the corporate version of BrightMail. If you use one of those ISPs, I'd like to know if your spam levels went down after switching. For more information on spam filtering services, look here:
WHAT NOT TO DO
DON'T reply to a spammer. If you send REMOVE requests this tells the spammers two things: (1) your e-mail address is valid; and (2) you read the e-mail you receive. Thus, you are a perfect target for more spam.
DON'T register at sites where you can list yourself as a "no spam" address. Suppposedly spammers run their bulk mailings through these databases and remove the addresses that have requested no spam. You can't be sure these sites are legit and I recommend that you NOT use them. Some of these sites are merely collection points run by spammers to obtain valid e-mail addresses. It's quite likely that registering at these sites is the cyber-equivalent of hanging a "Kick me" sign on your own back, and will actually increase your spam level. Even if they are run by well-meaning people, would spammers actually use them?
DON'T buy anything from a spammer. No matter how tempting the offer, resist the urge to patronize any business that contacts you with unsolicited bulk email.
LOW TECH, BUT IT WORKS
We've learned that there are ways to stem the tide of spam by protecting your email address. Filters and automated spam reporting services may help, but can prove to be a double-edged sword.
So my best advice is still Press the Delete key and get on with your life. Really. I get more spam than most people (dozens every day) and I spend less time deleting them than I do "filtering" the paper junk mail that comes via snail mail.
I know that I'll take some criticism for recommending this approach. Some people say that I should focus more on tracking and punishing spammers. Others are convinced that legislation is the answer. But think about it... spammers continue to operate for one simple reason. People are BUYING the stuff they are selling. Solve THAT problem and the spammers will curl up and die.
Run Automatic AOL Now
For those of you who may not be aware of auto aol and don't want their mailbox to blow up with an overabundance of EMs. It just makes your life a little easier..... BUT delete the EMs you don't want opened first (ie...abnoxious mail, solicitations, etc.) -Gypsy
Click on My AOL, then Preferences
Click on Auto AOL
Check off Get unread mail and put in "Incoming Mail" folder
Click on Select Names
Check off SN and enter password, click OK
Click on Run Automatic AOL Now
Just let it run it's course, it let's you know when it's done.
It hangs a little longer on EMs that have embedded pictures.
Then read 'em at your leisure....and your mailbox won't blow up!
If you wanna know what else you can do with it, just click on "Walk me through"
Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 helps
(The following helps are within your IE5.0 browser)
To scroll toward the end of a document in large increments, press PAGE DOWN.
You can type the friendly name of a favorite page in the Address bar, then select the page name in the AutoComplete list that appears.
To display the Links bar, a handy place to keep your favorite Web sites, click the View menu, point to Toolbars, and then click Links.
To quickly print just one frame of a Web page, right-click inside the frame, and then click Print. You can print a table of all the links associated with a Web page. In the Print dialog box, click Print table of links.
Clicking the Search button displays a search service on the left side of your screen and a Web page on the right. To move backward or forward within the Search bar, right-click within the Search bar, and then click Back or Forward on the menu that appears.
To search from the Address bar, type go, find, or ? followed by a word or phrase, and then press ENTER.
You can mark favorites or Links bar items for offline reading by right-clicking an item and then clicking Make available offline.
You can specify whether to accept "cookies" on your computer for each security zone. For more information, look up "cookies" in the Help Index.
You can rearrange shortcuts on the Links bar by dragging and dropping them.
To change the color of links on Web pages, click the Tools menu, click Internet Options, and then click the Colors button.
To open a new Internet Explorer window, press CTRL+N.
You can print all documents that are linked to a specific Web page. In the Print dialog box, click Print all linked documents.
To rename an item on the Favorites list or on the Links bar, right-click the item, and then click Rename.
You can drag your toolbar, Links bar, and Address bar anywhere you want them. You can even combine them to save space. For more information about Internet Explorer features, click the Help menu and then click Contents and Index.
To see the names of the buttons on the toolbar, click the View menu, point to Toolbars, click Customize, and then click Show Text.
To stop downloading a page, press ESC.
To change your home page to the page you have open, click the Tools menu, click Internet Options, and then click Use Current.
To gain space on your hard disk by deleting temporary files, click the Tools menu, click Internet Options, and then click Delete Files.
You can add folders to your Favorites list by clicking the Favorites menu and then clicking Organize Favorites.
You can remove a shortcut from your Favorites or Links list or menu by right-clicking it and then clicking Delete.
To turn off the underlines in Web page links, click the Tools menu, click Internet Options, and then click the Advanced tab.
To change a favorite site's offline properties, right-click the item on your Favorites list, and then click Properties.
To screen which Web sites can appear on your computer, click the Tools menu, click Internet Options, click the Content tab, and then click Enable.
You can use Profile Assistant and Microsoft Wallet to store personal information securely.
To go to the next page, press ALT+RIGHT ARROW. To go to the previous page, press ALT+LEFT ARROW or BACKSPACE.
You can see a list of Web sites you have visited recently by clicking the History button on the toolbar.
You can move your cursor into the Address bar by pressing ALT+D.
You can tell if the Web site you're on is secure; a lock icon appears on the status bar. For more information, double-click the icon.
You can add and remove buttons on the toolbar by right-clicking the toolbar and then clicking Customize.
You can save a Web page for offline reading by clicking the File menu and then clicking Save As.
Instead of clicking the Back button, you can press the BACKSPACE key to move back a page.
You can switch between a regular-sized Internet Explorer window and full-screen mode by pressing F11.
To save a page or picture without opening it, right-click the link for the item you want, and then click Save Target As.
You can get e-mail when a Web site changes. First make the site available for reading offline, then change its Download tab properties.
To make Web pages load faster, click the Tools menu, click Internet Options, click the Advanced tab, then turn off sounds and pictures.
When you add a Web page to your Favorites list, you can also make it available to read when you're not connected to the Internet.
To move to the beginning of a document, press the HOME key. To move to the end of a document, press END.
To see a list of all Internet addresses you have typed during this session, click the small down arrow at the right end of the Address bar.
You can set a different level of security for each Web site. On the Tools menu, click Internet Options, and then click the Security tab.
To search for a word or phrase on a Web page, press CTRL+F to open the Find dialog box. You can close the current window by pressing CTRL+W.
To display a list of the Internet addresses you have typed in the Address bar, press F4.
In the Address bar, you can quickly move the cursor back between parts of the address by pressing CTRL+LEFT ARROW. In the Address bar, you can quickly move the cursor forward between parts of the address by pressing CTRL+RIGHT ARROW.
If you use Netscape, you can learn about differences in Internet Explorer by clicking the Help menu and then clicking For Netscape Users.
To go to a new location, press CTRL+O.
You can install more Internet Explorer components by clicking the Tools menu and then clicking Windows Update.
If you want to learn more about using the World Wide Web, click the Help menu and then click Tour.
You can quickly put a shortcut to any Web page on your desktop by right-clicking in the page and then clicking Create Shortcut.
To see how any Web page was coded, right-click in the page, and then click View Source.
Next, you'll find a list of helpful links ...
Below the links, you'll find a few text helps.
AOL keywords: Help New to AOL News
(2) New Patch For Windows' "TCP/IP Retransmission" Glitch
Here's a new patch posted at Microsoft.Com.
When you are transmitting data over high-delay networks (for example, satellite links), transfer throughput may be lower than expected and the number of packets retransmitted may be unnecessarily high. This problem occurs because TCP uses a retransmit timer to retransmit packets that do not seem to have reached the receiver. To set this timer, TCP uses information about the historical round trip time (RTT) for each connection, which it measures by observing the time between sending packets and receiving acknowledgments for them. The Windows 95 and Windows 98 TCP/IP stack incorrectly computes the retransmit timer because of a math error. When you are transmitting packets over high-delay networks, this can result in unnecessary retransmissions and lower throughput.
This isn't a life-or-death issue for most people, but if you're looking to ensure that you have as few throughput bottlenecks as possible, I recommend you get the patch at http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q236/9/26.asp
WIN95/98: DELETING INTERNET FILES
When these folders are maxed-out, it (can) slow your PC
and (can) cause crashes at times.
At times, your internet connection (can) hang on a cookie.
(Sometimes) when you can't load any sites or go anywhere
on the net or web, this (could be) the problem.
Empty your internet folders and reset them
to the (smaller) default size: (This is done offline)
1) Press Start then press Shut Down . . .
2) Press the 'Restart the computer in MS-DOS mode?' radio button,
then press OK . . .
3) Next, wait for the computer to shut down and restart in DOS mode.
(It may take a minute of so for this to complete)
4) At the DOS Prompt, type:
Deltree c:\windows\history then press enter . . .
It will ask you if you want to delete the HISTORY and all subfolders,
Press Y then press enter . . .
5) After this completes, at the next DOS Prompt, type:
Deltree c:\windows\Tempor~1 then press enter . . .
It will ask you if you want to delete the TEMPOR~1 and all subfolders,
Press Y then press enter . . .
6) After this completes, at the next DOS Prompt, type:
Deltree c:\windows\Cookies then press enter . . .
It will ask you if you want to delete the COOKIES and all subfolders,
Press Y then press enter . . .
7) After this completes, at the next DOS Prompt,
type: exit then press enter . . .
Wait for your computer to restart WINDOWS and you're finished.
This procedure should be done every now and then.
It's different from just `deleting' those files from Windows...
Much the same as UNINSTALLING software...
Is different from DELETING software.
*NOTE: Your Temp and Cookies folders will take longer to delete than the History folder. Don't be surprised if the TEMP folder takes 3-15 minutes to delete.