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Watch out when you open your web browser - things can get in, get attached and take a ride that they will tell others about.

When you look at a website, ‘cookies’ attach to your computer and leave ‘crumbs’ that let snoopy people learn what you do with your internet time and then exploit that information for money.

In the early to mid 90's - the birth of the Internet as we know it today - doing business online was against the rules. Imagine that. You got in trouble with administrators if you attempted to promote yourself, even if you weren't trying to make money. Yeah, imagine that. I know. I tried.

Today’s connected world is quite the different Internet experience. You are being hunted, you represent sales opportunities, you are a commodity. You need to be exploited.
But if you happen to like privacy, there are some ways to clean up the crumbs and make your trail harder to follow.

Cookies: Let's start with cookies since that's the most popular device for tracking you. These little text files don't contain much data but allow you to be recognized when you return to a web site. Back when I was writing programming scripts, the cookie was suspected only by the very savvy who were also a bit paranoid.

Cookie files are not a program that can run on your computer, they are just a string of text that identifies you. But they are sticky and will try to jump on board every time you go to any website.

You can get rid of cookies if you so desire. But be warned - if you remove all cookies you will be required to log in each time you return to your favorite sites. That's because a particular cookie is what lets that site recognize you.

A neat way to manage cookies for free is the use of Ccleaner. Check out my previous article about cookies to learn more.

Security experts recommend that you turn on your browser’s private mode, usually found under Preferences, Tools or Settings. When this mode is activated, tracking cookies are deleted once you close your browser, which essentially wipes clean your history. But if you use Ccleaner you can select which cookies to keep and which to get rid of.

Wireless: One writer, Minh Uong of the The New York Times, compares opening your browser program on the Internet to that dream where you suddenly realize that you're stark naked in public: "….your information can then be stored, analyzed, indexed and sold as a commodity to data brokers who in turn might sell it to advertisers, employers, health insurers or credit rating agencies".

Of course the federal government stores every transaction including phone calls and internet communications in huge archives. Hard to imagine.

We know that hackers are forever peering, snooping and eaves-dropping on unsuspecting wireless internet users. They do this with little hacker programs that create router devices that then become available for your portable devices to use to get on the Internet wirelessly.

Once connected to your computing device a hacker can possibly have access to the resources on your machine. If you have any data of value stored on your device or don't want them to install some mal-ware capable of taking control of your device, you must be careful, diligent, un-hackable.

The solution is to know who the internet service provider (ISP) is for any wireless access you use. Ask someone who knows what the correct name of their wireless internet is and make sure that's what you connect to.

Some of the most benevolent of snoopers and trackers are the big websites that have been criticized for their tracking devices, as mentioned above.  No names here, but one starts with a G and another with an F and another a Y and so on. It is suggested that you manually log off of sites as soon as you are finished with them, stopping the tracking process as you officially go away. They are trying to build a history of you, without asking you.

If you are using one of the common large web mail type of services and you don't want the content of your e-mail messages examined or analyzed you may want to consider lesser-known free services like HushMail, RiseUp and Zoho, which promote no-snooping policies. You can investigate these possibilities by Googling (oops) and then logging off.
Another shrouding tactic is to use the search engine DuckDuckGo, which claims "We do not track or bubble you!". ‘Bubbling’ is filtering search results based on your search history. If you’re bubbled, you are less likely to see opposing points of view or be exposed to something fresh and new.

If you have a static IP number and you aren’t subscribed to a service provider with network identity protections in place, you might want to consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN) setup that will encrypt everything you send and receive into gobbly goop.  Snoops don’t enjoy and can’t exploit gobbly goop. Setting up a VPN is beyond the scope of this article, but it can be found on the internet, or can be purchased with an annual fee from internet companies.

Interestingly, there is Tor, a free service with 36 million users that was originally developed to conceal military communications. Tor encrypts your data stream and bounces it through a series of proxy servers so no single entity knows the source of the data. The only drawback is that with all that bouncing around, it is very S-L-O-W. I’m not experienced with Tor, but it seems fascinating. Oh, not really, you say? ;-)

One of my personal favorites for helping to eliminate intrusions is "NoScript", an add-on that is available with the use of Mozilla Firefox browser. It's free but you can also support the outfit that continually updates its use by going to their web site. The web site explains what NoScript does to protect you. It is a favorite of the Internet security industry.

My wife complains about using NoScript because it will require you to manually allow some functions of your browser, like automatic form fill, in order to go forward. But you are in the process of protecting yourself, and if you have been hacked and had your computing ruined, you know that "allowing" is a very small price to pay versus angst, misery and embarrassment.

That’s a lot when all you want to do is communicate with friends, buy stuff and discover the unknown about our world.

In the beginning the Internet was simple because there were virtually no hackers. As time passed and money transactions were added to the traffic of communication hacking became first a sport and then a matter of big crime. So we are still in the process of discovery, with big crime, and in time the resolution to that will reign over all.

I wax blissful and wishing. In the meantime, keep aware.