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Protecting privacy on the net
Posted Oct. 11, 2006

More than 6,500 known Web sites on the Internet are designed to invade computers, but there are many ways to stop them. 

First off, when putting personal information on the Internet, make sure there is a little lock icon in the bottom tool bar.  Also, look for the letters “https” to be in the internet address.  That little “s” says there is security on the page. 

Most sites with log-in information have this lock, but sites, such as hotmail.com, do not lock or secure the page when sending out email.  The email then becomes free game for the world.

“There is so much you can do to protect yourself,” said Clive Houston-Brown, chief information officer of the University of La Verne office of information technology.  “You become very visible to the world.”

Houston-Brown offers a lot of information for students on how to protect themselves.  OIT is working on a student help center on their Web site.  This would allow students to see what they can do to protect themselves. 

“I’m not really too worried about my information getting out,” Jesse Rodriguez, a senior business major, said.  “I don’t use the Internet for shopping or anything.”

Many students use the Internet for shopping and online gaming.  This is where things can get sticky.  File sharing and shopping online open up computers to a wide range of problems.  It can give access to programs that store information enabling certain companies to obtain information about shoppers and their shopping habits. 

A few steps people can take to prevent the loss of information include using anti-virus software.  Also, use a spyware program.  This will show if a site is trying to install a spying program onto the computer.  Keep pop-up blockers set on high to prevent accidental entry to bugged sites. 

These steps will help save you from identity theft or just the annoyance of ads on the internet.

Some of these preventative programs can cost a few hundred dollars to buy.  But, there are companies that offer student discounts.

“It is a little scary to know everything that is out there,” Jeff Craig, a senior psychology major, said.  “There are a lot of people who don’t care and will steal identities.”

“You have to stay proactive,” Houston-Brown said.  “Keep your computer and programs up to date.”

OIT continually works to keep the campus computers up to date. 

There is no longer a worry that an infected student computer can effect the entire campus.  The residence halls are now on a separate network from the main campus.  There is no link from the residence hall computers to the computers in classrooms and computer labs. 

The University of La Verne has strong firewalls and protection from the outside.  Risks include using portable drives or storage devices, which may contain viruses, on campus computers connected to the network.

Some ways to stay up to date on viruses and spyware programs are to read PC Magazine and visit the Microsoft Web site. 

Being “proactive” is the best way to keep your vital information safe. 

Rick Montanez can be reached at rick.montanez@hotmail.com