heard of numerous accounts of identification theft. How can I better protect
"Excellent question!" says Nicholas Pinheiro, associate computer
analyst and consultant for University Relations. "With the consistent
growth of the Internet and the rise of e-commerce, identification and
credit card theft have reached an all-time high. It is up to us as consumers
to protect ourselves and our information within cyberspace and beyond.
Unfortunately, we aren't always aware of the various procedures and protocols
currently in use to secure all transactions of information via the Web.
Here are a few things to look out for when surfing the Web to ensure you
"The first and most important thing to look for as you decide whether
to enter your personal information on a Web site is if the site is utilizing
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). SSL is a protocol that most vendors use for
secure order forms. With SSL, the secure server will actually contain
two keys - a private key and a public key. When you enter your information,
the public key encrypts your information by using advanced algorithms
that only the private key will be able to decrypt. Servers implementing
SSL are usually simple to spot. For example, the address of the page will
start with https rather than http. The final s stands for secure and means
that the page is protected; anything you send can be read only by the
owner of the site.
When using Internet Explorer, you will see a key at the bottom of the
browser that also indicates the page is secure; on different versions
and on Netscape browsers, you will see a locked padlock.
"Another important issue to consider when in cyberspace is how current
your Web browser is. Even if you have one of the latest browsers, such
as Internet Explorer 6 or Netscape 6.2, it is still important to visit
the developer sites to keep your browser up to date. As browsers are released,
of glitches are found that require certain fixes, or patches. At times
the faults within the software may allow hackers or other highly computer-savvy
individuals to get their hands on your information. Therefore, it is extremely
important to update your software monthly with all patches that have been
released. Microsoft has an excellent turnaround time in fixing any faults
found in their software. All updates for Internet Explorer can be found
"Ever wonder how your e-mail box gets cluttered with things you never
signed up for? Many companies sell information entered on their site to
other companies in the same trade. These companies then market their products
and services directly to you via e-mail or postal mail. When deciding
whether to enter your information on a site, take a few moments to read
of the page. Companies are required by law to supply this information,
so it doesn't hurt to take a few seconds to read it before telling them
your life story. Most important, if you do not see this information listed
anywhere on the site, you may want to think twice about doing business
with the company.
"One final option to consider when dealing with purchasing online
involves the various services credit card companies are offering for secure
purchasing. For example, Citibank has just released its Virtual Account
Number, one of the latest advances to curb online credit card fraud. With
this new technology, once you reach the checkout page of any online store,
the Citibank applet pops up. Enter your user name and password, and a
card number will be randomly generated to replace your actual card number.
This number can never be used again and is completely valid for your transaction.
"Stay secure - and happy surfing!"
the Bridge" welcomes readers' questions. E-mail email@example.com
or write to "Ask the Bridge," 10 Lenox Street, Brookline, MA