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Personal Security

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Here is a story about the latest 'Phishing' techniques and how easy it is to be fooled.

Phishing attacks are reaching a point of sophistication where even the most Internet-savvy user could be fooled, said the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) on Wednesday....

Jevans said that for less sophisticated users, the safest method of accessing their bank's or ISP's Web site is to type in the URL: "For a consumer right now, type in the Web address by hand. That is the best way," he said.

ZDNet UK article

Besides typing a link in by hand, it may be wise to tell your ISP/Bank/Financial institution that you no longer wish to receive e-mail communications that contain account information. If an institution needs to communicate with you about your account, a better means would be for them to send you an e-mail that indicates you have a secure message waiting for you on their web site. If you type (or use a secure "favorite" link), to the site, then you will be presented with the secure message that you can read over the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connection.

Remember too that these 'phishing' techniques aren't really new, they've just found a rebirth of sorts on the Internet. Don't give out personal/credit/banking information to anyone who calls you on the phone. Granted this isn't as prevalent as it once might have been, but it is still a problem. If someone calls you on the phone asking for account details. Ask for their name/employee ID and tell them you'll call them back. Look up the phone number yourself, (_Do Not Use One They Give You_), and call the company back. Verify that the person who called you really works there and has the authority to access the personal information in your account. IF it turns out to be a scammer who called, notify the institution and give them as many details as you can.

Personal security relates directly to personal privacy since a lack of security can cause privacy compromises. With that in mind, I submit this story. I think it relates to security because many times 'technology' has the hardware/software bits doing things we don't know about behind the scenes. It behooves us all to be aware of the capabilities of our equipment...even if it is a "futuristic" sorta thing.

TiVo watchers are uneasy after Post-SuperBowl reports

--Microsoft Releases Hidden Data Removal Tool

Microsoft has released Remove Hidden Data Add-In Tool, which will remove data such as change tracking and comments from documents.  The tool works with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files for Office XP/2003.

Article at TheRegister

Microsoft download area

The big problem is that there are many people who haven't upgraded to this latest version where the tool works. And, this isn't specifically related to Macs, but there are probably many here who use Windows/MSOffice at work or have friends who do. Luckily, you don't have to be a hacker to learn how to remove this "metadata" from your Office documents. Go to and do a search for metadata. There are instructions for removing this trash from your documents without the above tool. Check your Office for Mac documents to make sure they don't also have the hidden data embedded in them.

Diana, I hope I'm not straying too far from the original intent of the topic...!

Regarding destroying CDs containing sensitive data...

I have conducted my own limited and very subjective experiments on how to permanently erase data from CDs that are being discarded.  My Findings:

Burning CDs is smelly, possibly toxic and while undeniably effective a pretty disgusting way to do the job.

Zapping the CDs in a microwave is a relatively clean way to erase data.  At least six seconds on full power (1000 watt microwave) seems to do the trick.  I place the CDs with the silver/writeable layer facing up.  The longer you zap, the more the silver layer disintegrates.  Different brands of CDs require more or less time to do the same amount of damage.  Keep in mind that the longer you zap, the more fumes that are produced.

It's actually rather the silver layer heats up it creates crackling blue lightning-like effects on the surface of the CD, just like in Star Trek.

CDs so treated don't appear to be readable at all and are just spit-out by a computer.  At least that is what my 7300 does when presented with a freshly-nuked CD...

My microwave seems to suffer no ill effects but you know what is coming next:  you do this at your own (and your microwave's) risk!


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