Monday, September 29, 2008

Wild Wild West

The Internet is a dangerous place. So my paranoid self tells me anyway. I first had not-so-pleasant experiences when I first got to campus, and internet porn. Click here for free access they said. The number of links I followed, only to be told once I got to the next page that all I would now need was to provide my credit card details. How could they possibly have.. lied. Then there were those that said all one needed was a password. How I looked for those passwords. Trawled through half the internet for those, before I finally accepted the fact that there was no such thing as free access to a porn site. I also figured that a bunch of them must be run by mafia/criminal/hacker types. Even then I dared not follow those who said that all you needed to get the elusive free access is to download and install some dialer thingy. Just seemed nefarious. Then, after I was done with the porn came the search for cracks/product keys for some software or other. You'd follow some links and immediately get hit by like a thousands pop-ups of, you guessed it. Porn. It's one of the reasons I started using Netscape, and the tabbed browsing that it came with.

Anyway. I became suspicious of the net. The proliferation of Facebook makes me wonder though, if my paranoia is misplaced. I get terrified every time I encounter a website that asks for my name and phone number and stuff. And go ahead to give some ridiculous name, then receive an email after a while starting "Dear Thingamabob,". I hate websites where I have to register. My early internet experiences really traumatized me.

I've become even more conscious about the dangers home users face. The net has become an extension of the PC and being offline evokes the same emotions as having leprosy. Most apps have automatic updates. They touch base with some servers somewhere, look for and download updates, then happily inform you of what they've done, and can they now install the updates? When you're at work, and your employer has offered you use of the internet incidental to your work, you hardly notice it. When you're paying for data by the byte, you do.

The other, more common concern is anti-virus software. Someone asked me recently for a [licence] key. I avoided telling him many stories and just responded with "Don't have it". One needs to buy it, or look for a free alternative. I thought that was all but apparently one also needs a personal firewall. If one ever intends to connect their PC to the jungle that is the internet. There are guys out there just waiting to add your machine to their botnets, dumping all sorts of malware on you, and generally making your life miserable. Again, if you're in a corporate network you probably don't even think about this kind of thing. There's a team of guys paid to do that. Mom and pop at home, and the kids, are all on their own.

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