Read these 10 ISP Security Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about ISP tips and hundreds of other topics.
The major ISPs, like AOL, now include pop up protection software integrated into its software. This software keeps unwanted pop ups from appearing as you surf the net. If your ISP service doesn't have pop up control software, you can install it for free at Google. Download the Google Tool Bar and install it on you IE browser. It will control pop ups and enable you to search using Google or use an online dictionary.
S/MIME is used to securely encrypt e-mail messages. Many e-mail applications have support for it built-in. To enable it, one must obtain a security certificate (they're available for free). S/MIME is not really an ISP safety service per se; for it to work both the sender and receiver must have both S/MIME capabilities in their e-mail software and valid certificates. It can hide the e-mail message from everyone except the sender and receiver (including the ISP provider). While it cannot guarantee 100% full privacy and ISP safety (nothing does) it does come about as close as anything can.
PGP stands for Pretty Good Privacy. It is supported via special software plug-ins that have to be downloaded for most e-mail applications. It is not really an ISP service per se; for it to work both the sender and receiver must have PGP installed, and it can hide the e-mail message from everyone except the sender and receiver (including the ISP provider). While it cannot 100% guarantee full privacy and ISP safety (nothing does) it does come about as close as anything can.
Be safe online. There are phony web sites out there that use a technique called phishing to entice unknowing customers into handing over your social security number or credit card information. These web sites usually start as email from an ISP provider that promises you great sign up rates, or even free service. Most of them use spellings like PHREE. If you click on the links in the email, you're taken to a phake web site that looks official. If you have any questions about an ISP service, call them before signing up. Many phishing sites don't have phone numbers listed.
Many ISPs offer a small amount of free Web space as part of their basic service, but few offer much advice as to how it can be best accessed. FTP and Telnet are both popular ISP services for accessing Web space, but they are both extremely insecure. Check if your ISP provider offers WebDAV in lieu of FTP; it is a safer ISP service. Likewise, check if your provider offers SSH in lieu of Telnet. Using these safer means of access is one of the first steps toward maintaining ISP security.
Many ISPs do not advertise pop-up protection. Don't worry! You can get it yourself by simply using a modern browser like Firefox, Safari, or Opera, all of which have pop-up protection built-in; you don't need a special Internet content filter. All of these browsers can be downloaded and used for free, and they'll work with any ISP. Some computers (especially Macs and Linux machines) will come with one of these browsers preinstalled.
POP3 is the most common ISP service for getting e-mail. In its default configuration it is not secure. ISPs with better internet service provider security policies will provide APOP and/or SSL to enhance ISP safety. APOP makes it tougher for others to get your password; SSL makes it tougher for others to get your password or read your mail. Neither guarantees full privacy, though. For that you'll need something like PGP or S/MIME.
The major ISPs, such as EarthLink and MSN, include software to detect and remove spyware from your computer as you surf the net and download files. Spyware, or adware, is a program that downloads and installs itself on your computer. It can then display random popup ads on your computer, send back information about your surfing habits, and generally slow your computer down. EarthLink uses SpyBlocker and MSN uses SpySweeper to combat Spyware on your computer.
Even if your ISP provider has a firewall, it's still a good idea to protect your end of the connection with your own firewall. You'll notice that your firewall is likely to catch things that your ISP's provider missed. Norton's Internet Security Firewall is a good choice. If you're tight on cash, the free version of ZoneAlarm works well too.
Over the past few years, email spam filters have improved greatly. One of the best filters is ISP provider MSN's Junk E-mail Guard. It seems to catch about 80-90% of spam and saves it to a Junk Mail folder. It's a good idea to check this folder regularly to see if something you don't consider Junk Mail ends up in the wrong folder. Once found, you can "train" Junk E-mail Guard to recognize that as good mail and place it into your Inbox.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|