Michael Fitzgerald - ExtremeTech
The classic techniques include things such as sniffing, which captures
all of the data coming from a connection and then analyzes
it. Sniffers originally were used to diagnose network performance. But
since they capture all of the data coming through a network, these
tools can be useful for mischief.
Sniffers might be a concern if you spend a lot of time surfing the Web
at your office, where your company has a right to track what you do
But from home, you probably have little to fear from it. It would
require either dropping software undetected into a home computer, or
breaking into an ISP and do the same.
And even then, with encryption and Secure Sockets Layer-type
protections built into most Web sites that handle transactions,
there's a good deal of data that sniffers can't see, says Chris
Wysopal, director of development at Symantec Corporation.
He warns that it's far simpler for malicious cyber-types to write and
distribute spyware, or phishing, which involves building sites that
mimic a bank or retail site and then sending out mass e-mails alerting
people to an "emergency" such as the closing of their account if they
don't go to the site and give their personal information. These are
his top two concerns for privacy violations online.
While there are tools for battling spyware, both schemes are best
fought through avoidance. Don't download toolbars for your Web site or
other such packages unless you know the vendor is a legitimate one
(not always clear in the case of spyware, since adware can look like
spyware to some, and legitimate business use to others). And don't
believe any company that claims it needs your credit card number or
other personal information in order to preserve your account. It isn't
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