posted by Howard Fosdick on Thu 1st May 2008 01:55 UTC
IconSecurity consultant Howard Fosdick has contributed the latest entry in the 2008 OSNews Article Contest: a highly detailed examination of security and privacy on the Windows platform, and how to use free software tools and a little knowledge to protect your privacy online.

Do you know that --

  • Windows secretly records all the web sites you've ever visited?
  • After you delete your Outlook emails and empty the Waste Basket, someone could still read your email?
  • After you delete a file and empty the Recycle Bin, the file still exists?
  • Your computer might run software that spies on you?
  • Your computer might be a bot , a slave computer waiting to perform tasks assigned by a remote master?
  • The web sites you visit might be able to compile a complete dossier of your online activities?
  • Microsoft Word and Excel documents contain secret keys that uniquely identify you? They also collect statistics telling anyone how long you spent working on them and when.
This guide explains these -- and many other -- threats to your security and privacy when you use Windows computers. It describes these concerns in simple, non-technical terms. The goal is to provide information anyone can understand. This guide also offers solutions: safe practices you can follow, and free programs you can install. Download links appear for the free programs as they are cited. No one can guarantee the security and privacy of your Windows computer. Achieving foolproof security and privacy with Windows is difficult. Even most computer professionals don't have this expertise. Instead, this guide addresses the security and privacy needs of most Windows users, most of the time. Follow its recommendations and your chances of a security or privacy problem will be minimal. Since this guide leaves out technical details and obscure threats, it includes a detailed Appendix. Look there first for deeper explanations and links to more information.

Why Security and Privacy Matter

Why should you care about making Windows secure and private? Once young "hackers" tried to breach Windows security for thrills. But today penetrating Windows computers yields big money. So professional criminals have moved in, including overseas gangs and organized crime. All intend to make money off you -- or anyone else who does not know how to secure Windows. Security threats are increasing exponentially. This guide tells you how to defend yourself against those trying to steal your passwords, personal data, and financial information. It helps you secure your Windows system from outside manipulation or even destruction. It also helps you deal with corporations and governments that breach Windows security and your privacy for their own ends. You have privacy if only you determine when, how, and to whom your personal information is communicated. Organizations try to gain advantage by eliminating your privacy. This guide helps you defend it.

The Threats

Windows security and privacy concerns fall into three categories --

  1. How to defend your computer against outside penetration attempts
  2. How Windows tracks your behavior --and how to stop it
  3. How to protect your privacy when using the Internet
The first two threats are specific to Windows computers. The last one applies to the use of any kind of computer. These three points comprise the outline to this guide.

Table of contents
  1. 'Introduction'
  2. "1. How to Defend Against Penetration Attempts"
  3. "2. How Windows Tracks Your Behavior"
  4. "3. How to Protect Your Privacy When Using the Internet"
  5. "4. Wisdom"
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