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Computer Safety
Original Tips by www.elight.org

These tips and guidelines can help you stay safe.

INTERNET SAFETY (Email, Chat, Discussion Boards, Newsgroups)

Tip 1: Don't give out personal information

This includes last name, city, address, phone numbers, and your school name or location. The amount of information that is easily obtainable on the Internet is always increasing. Even if you don't give out all of your personal information, with the right clues, and the right resources, figuring out the rest is not difficult.

If you do… If you do give out personal information, make sure you trust the person. Make sure you know as much personal information about them as they do about you and verify it! Usually the smart thing to do is to keep online friendships online.

Tip 2: Don't plan meetings with people from the net

No one can ever be sure of the real person sitting at the other keyboard. You can seriously put yourself in danger. These dangers can include stalking, abduction, assault, among other dangerous acts.

If you do… If you do plan a meeting with one of your net friends, ALWAYS make sure the meeting is done in a public place like the mall, a restaurant, or the movies, and bring a friend along with you. Restaurants are usually good meeting places. Just remember that your comfort level is always the most important thing. The moment you do not feel comfortable, get out of the situation quickly!

Never let them drive you anywhere. Do not get into their car, even if they claim to help out (such as, giving you a ride to your car or home.)

If you don't bring a friend, tell someone where you are going. Tell a friend. Let your friend know where you are going and how long you will be.

Tip 3: Don't respond to online harassment

Receiving threats and harassment can be common online, especially for gay teens. It's usually best not to respond to the threats.

If you do... If you do respond, it should be to the postmaster of the person's Internet Service Provider. This address is usually postmaster@theirdomain.com. Some online service providers have special email addresses for reporting harassment. You may also report harassment to your own ISP. If you receive harassment in a chat room, report it to the moderator. Report IRC harassment to the Channel Operator.

Tip 4: Be informed

The best defense is always education. Keep yourself updated on the latest technology and trends for the Internet. Be careful not to be swept away in all the hype though.

Tip 5: Use common sense

The last on the list, but definitely the most important. Don't do anything online that you wouldn't do in person. That includes your language and actions and what you tell the person you're "gonna do" to them. The main reason you even hear about bad things happening to people because of the Internet is usually because they didn't use common sense. The Internet is a new technology and has seen a tremendous amount of growth very quickly... lots of people are online, without even knowing what they're doing. This is how they become vulnerable and can become online victims.



Tip 1: If you are using the family computer or shared computer, make sure you have your OWN private email address, such as Yahoo or Hotmail. This is especially important if you are not out to your family. You don't want Mom or Dad, reading your private email to your new Internet friends do you?

Tip 2: Did you know that Netscape, Internet Explorer, and other web browsers keep track of where you are going online? Both browsers create history files that get saved to your hard drive. These history files are also used for the browsers autocomplete URL feature. So if Mom or Dad or big brother sits down at the computer and types "www.c" the browser might autocomplete the URL as "www.coolgayyouthwebsite.com", the website you visited a few days ago. To get rid of this you should follow the instructions for your browser on how to delete the history files.

Tip 3: Netscape and Internet Explorer both cache the websites you view. What "cache" (pronounced "cash") does is store the website HTML and images temporarily on your hard drive as you surf the web. It does this to make your surfing faster. However, when your done these files still hang around. Now your browser will delete them as its cache limit fills up, but it doesn't automatically delete all of them. To fix this you should "clear your cache" when you are done, that way no one will be able to view the locally saved cache copies of pages you viewed. Check your browser for instructions on how to do this.

Tip 4: Did you know that when you delete a file from your computer, it REALLY isn't gone? Say you move a file to the recycle bin (or trash can for Macintosh) and then empty the recycle bin/trash can... Think your file is gone? NOPE! When you empty the recycle bin/trash can all this does is tells your computer's directory (the directory keeps tracks of what files are what and where they are and how much space they take up) that that the file's space on your hard drive can now be used for another file when needed and also to not display the file anymore. However, the file is still there. It is possible that the file could be there for a few more minutes or for several days or weeks depending on how big your hard drive is and how often you save files to your hard drive. Utility applications like Norton Utilities' UnErase can search your hard drive and recover files that have been deleted. How can it do that? Well remember that the file is not really gone, the directory just said it could use the space the file took up. It will use the space when a new file is set to be saved in that location. So how do you "securely delete" a file? You can find little utilities out there (sorry at this time, ELIGHT does not have a list for you) that will delete the file and then write over the file with garbage data. Because the only real way to delete a file is write over it with junk. Your browser's cache files (see Tip 3) are deleted all the time, and you guessed it are recoverable with utility programs. Some of these programs will erase all free space (free space=space not used by current files) on your hard drive therefore writing over everything that was deleted. If you want to make sure your deleted files are not recovered you will need to run this utility program often or when ever you delete files.

Tip 5: Well with all this talk about saving to the hard drive, and securely deleting files, where can I safely store my files? Removable medium such as a floppy disk, zip disk, jaz cartridge, can be your peace-of-mind. Data stored on these removables is as secure as you locking up the disk. Remember if the data is valuable that you make backups. Having your three year personal journal on only one zip disk is a bad idea! What if you stepped on it? Three years of writing down the drain. Make a backup. Make three backups of important stuff, that is what the experts do!

Tip 6: The safest and most secure way of protecting a file you do not viewed by other people is to encrypt it. Encrypting uses fancy mathematics to scramble up the data in your file. The only way to de-encrypt it is to use a secret key that will de-scramble it. This is very secure because it is very difficult to de-encrypt a file without the secret key, only really really good hackers can do this and they are probably trying to hack into more important files than yours anyway. You will have to find an encrypting utility to do this. (sorry at this time, ELIGHT does not have a list for you) Besides your files, you can also encrypt the email you send on the Internet. To learn how, do a search on "PGP" in your favorite search engine.


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