Tag Archives: online security

Google privacy policy changes and how to protect your online privacy

Google’s new privacy changes take effect March 1 and if you haven’t read them yet you should.  You can find them online here.  Here is a little summary of what these policy changes mean for Google services users.

Google states:

  • If you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services.  (Sort of like how Facebook is now working with services like Yahoo to automatically post content to your timeline sharing what you have read).
  • We can make search better – but that means storing your private information and pulling from it for everything from calendars to search topics (have you noticed the Google auto find feature where you start to type a word or phrase and it finishes it for you for example)
  • We don’t sell your personal information, nor do we share it externally without your permission except in very limited circumstances like a valid court order.

Here is their simple explanation video . . .

I highly recommend reading their privacy policy in full which explains exactly what happens with communications, services, searches, user information and cookies.

If this concerns you there are some steps that you can take to protect your online privacy.  The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) offers these six steps for protecting your online privacy, and they are very good pieces of advice.  They also demonstrate how to take these steps.  These steps include:

  • Don’t include personal information in your search terms.  Have you “Googled” yourself?  That’s one way to create a “roadmap” right back to you.
  • Don’t use your ISP’s search engine.
  • Avoid logging in and using your search engine (whether it is Yahoo, Bing or Google)
  • Block cookies (and they will tell you how)
  • Vary your IP address (which is a lot simpler than it sounds)
  • And using anonymizing software.
What steps can you take right now to protect your online privacy as the new privacy policies take affect?
1)  Don’t log in to use the tools from Google.  You can always log in later to get to the other tools you want like docs, mail, calendar and blogger.
2) Next you can . . .
Sign into your Google account. Google.com
Select “remove all web history”
At the prompt select “OK”
This pauses your Google Web History. However, it does not stop Google from collecting your web history information  and using it for internal purposes or providing it to law enforcement officials.

Why is this important?
Your online privacy is important.  The majority of identity theft personas are created using bits and pieces of a real person’s information.  Also, your online actions should be, your actions, not the ads or actions that some one else wants to steer you towards.
Last but not least,  consider this . . . I write articles. Sometimes that means doing research on some pretty questionable topics like “Spice” or Bottle Bombs.”  These are not so I can indulge in these activities, but  to share with other parents this information.  How does the search engine know this?  How do law enforcement know this?
Why not take a few minutes to take those steps that can protect your online privacy as much as you can?  What have you got to lose?

Nothing Anonymous about this take down of child porn sites

This summer the hacker group Anonymous lost a great deal of whatever support their organization had as they allegedly took down the online payment and invoicing service PayPal  hitting the average user hard as they tried to transfer funds or access money on deposit.

(Read PayPal Cyber Attack Arrests)

But the latest news about them is that they used recently used their talents to fight the forces of evil online.

Anonymous is taking credit for taking down more than 40 child pornography websites.   Their campaign “Operation Darknet” began mid October when they decided to enter the dark forces of the web world called “darknet” and bring the actions there to light.

Darnet is a part of the Internet that is hidden, deliberately concealed, offering services like fake ID’s, steroids, prank calling and ironically hacking tips.

Finding a site titled “Hard Candy”  while browsing the Hidden Wiki we noticed a section called Hard Candy which was dedicated to links to child pornography. We then removed all links on the website, within 5 minutes the links were edited back in by an admin. For this reason, we will continue to make the Hidden Wiki unavailable. (taken from their timeline of events) They then decided to dig deeper into the dark underworld of the Internet and found “Freedom Hosting.”

Freedom Hosting “free” no more 

The hackers affiliated with Anonymous warned the Freedom Hosting to take down the child pornography and issued a deadline.  When they failed to do so, the hackers did it for them.  Several hours later, the site was back up again only to be taken down again.

Anonymous issued the following demand statement of which this is an excerpt

“The owners and operators at Freedom Hosting are openly supporting child pornography and enabling pedophiles to view innocent children, fueling their issues and putting children at risk of abduction, molestation, rape and death,” the message said. “For this, Freedom Hosting has been declared #OpDarknet Enemy Number One. By taking down Freedom Hosting, we are eliminating 40+ child pornography websites, among these is Lolita City, one of the largest child pornography websites to date containing more than 100 GB of child pornography. We will continue to not only crash Freedom Hosting’s server, but any other server we find to contain, promote, or support child pornography.”

See the full timeline of events and their demands in this Pastebin post. 

Apparently Anonymous doesn’t take child pornography lightly, because not only did the take the sites down but they also released the names of  of some 1500 registered users in a Pastebin post, on these sites. This isn’t the first time that this organization has hackattacked a website contrary to their agenda.  Among those they have accessed are the New York Stock Exchange, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Recording Industry Association of America and government sites in Malaysia, Egypt, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

Let’s just hope they continue to don their “white hats” as they hactevate across the web.  I don’t think anyone would like to encounter another holiday season where they had to worry about what they may do next to popular online service and shopping sites.

(Read  WikiLeaks may be spilling into your online holiday shopping and bill paying plans)

Their parting “shot”

We are Anonymous.
We are Legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Expect us.
What do you think?  Are they the "good guys" or the "bad guys"  or the new online anti-hero?