Thursday, June 08, 2006

Oh, So NOW He Tells Me!

I'm being tongue-in-cheek here, because while being "outed" by JackBog last week was a detriment to my privacy and an embarrassing episode for the once-respected Bogdanski, contrary to his belief I wasn't ardently seeking to guard my true identity. I knew my information was out there floating around the Internet, and if someone really wanted to be an ass about it, they could find out. (They were, and they have).

So it's not like I was desperately trying to maintain my pseudonymity, and Bog blew the lid off my secret game by threatening to out me and then making good on the threat. But it IS an issue that all of us using the net for discussion should be aware of: if you don't want to have your real identity meet up with your PC persona, you'd better be mighty careful.

To that end, here is a very useful discussion of cautionary steps to take in protecting your identity, compiled by Kos diarist Bluerevolt. A sampling:
1) ALWAYS use a pseudonym. Choose a good pseudonym that does not give away your name, location, occupation, or any other identifying information about you. Picking a screen-name like JoeInNY may seem like a good idea at the time, but do you really want to give the bad guys that much of a head start?

2) ALWAYS choose good passwords. Good passwords are at least 6 characters long and use a combination of alpha and numeric characters. Do not use passwords that are real words as these can be easily hacked. Never use the user ID and password on a blog that you use for other websites that contain personal or sensitive data (ie bank accounts, email, etc.)

3) ALWAYS use a free webmail account when registering at web sites. Yahoo and Hotmail are a couple of examples of companies providing free webmail service. This way you don't have to use the unique e-mail address that is associated with your account at your ISP. I personally have three e-mail addresses, one for conducting business, one for friends and family, and one specifically for registration on websites.

4) NEVER give out any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, that could serve to identify you. Remember that a small tidbit in one posting may seem like no big deal, but many small tidbits in many postings can add up quickly. For example, let's say that in one of your posts you mention that you work for a local TV station. Then, weeks later in a thread comment, you mention that you live in Columbus, Ohio. Months later, you go on a rant about how you hate the idea of working for a network that is associated with the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Standing alone, each of these tidbits of info say very little about you. But summed together I can say with a high degree of certainty that you work for WTTE-TV, the local Fox affilliate in Columbus, Ohio.

5) NEVER blog, post to a blog, or conduct any kind of personal business from your work computer. A majority of companies today monitor thier employee's internet activity in some fashion.

6) NEVER post your real name. Never post the real names of your family members or friends.

7) NEVER post your private e-mail address to a public forum. If you feel you must give someone your e-mail to contact you, be sure to use a free webmail account as described in #2 above.

8) NEVER post a picture of yourself, your neighborhood, your pet, your car, or anything else that could be used to uniquely identify you.

9) NEVER post your telephone number in a public forum. Reverse phone directory lookups are available that can identify your name and address from your phone number.

10) ALWAYS try to have a story and stick to it. For example, if you get in the habit of always saying you live in a "medium-sized midwestern city" you will be less likely to slip and give away that you live in Omaha, Nebraska.

Damn that #5! :)