How to control you Internet experience

How many articles and TV news reports have you read or heard that describe the problem of spam email and...

How many articles and TV news reports have you read or heard that describe the problem of spam email and inappropriate images popping up within your computer’s browser? Probably enough to make you an expert on the statistics.

A recent poll showed 96 percent of people who get email said that either they hated spam or that it annoyed them. 84 percent said that all unsolicited commercial emails should be banned. 83 percent said that they believed that most spam emails are fraud or deception.

However, for all the complaining we do, how many solutions have worked? Can we rely on software or government officials to give us a break? Perhaps the answer is to own the problem and own the solution.

I recently got the following email from Charles, a WebTalk Radio listener, that posed a very important question:

“Do everyone a great favor and have a discussion on how the Internet is becoming nothing but a promotional site for commercials and porn . . .. I can’t believe all the trash that pops up on [our family’s computer] when I am trying to just do simple work . . .. Pop up programs don’t work and even when I’m not on the Internet, I get pop ups. My email is nothing but sex, Viagra, penis patches, and creams. [T]his is getting ridiculous and our legislators and congressional people, along with the federal trade commission need to start taking action to stop the smut and commercialism that is taking over internet. Hell, I’m trying right now to look up information on The Discovery Channel and getting pop ups that would make my older son blush. Honestly, this has to stop and maybe folks like you can get the word out for someone to put an end to it. Thanks for letting me blow off some steam.”

I cannot disagree with anything Charles wrote. The thing to keep in mind is that we are dealing with an Internet that is free and open to all forms of communication. It spans the spectrum of good and bad.

Freedom comes with a price, I’m sad to say. You can be assured that the market will, in time, take care of this when the outcry gets loud enough. There will come a time when we will see more regulation of the Internet. The question is can it be controlled and who will control it? Until now, it really has been the user who has had the responsibility to control their Internet experience. To a lesser extent, the Internet service providers (ISP’s) do what they can by blocking communication, sometimes including legitimate email.

I still think users will always need to be able to control their own Internet experience. It is possible for you to do, but it takes research and becoming savvy to the tools and ways these spammers and virus writers operate. I don’t think we can rely on the US government — or any government — to protect us online entirely. They move too slow.

The best advice I can give you is to do a search in Google and educate yourself by reading anything you can find on this subject online.

Until recently, I made a conscious choice not to follow the basic rules to control my Internet experience. I have wanted to get exposed to the spam and pop ups so I could learn about it. I decided about a month ago that it is time to implement the things that I have learned throughout my eight years online to see if, in fact, it is possible to really control my experience with the Internet.

It is also very much time for me to change as it is in fact getting so bad that it is really having a significant impact on my time. I would say that spam is the most important thing for me to control and the second most important is pop-ups and third is trojans, worms and spyware.

Unsolicited emails – SPAM – require the most drastic action. Extreme solutions are to actually close your email accounts or run all your emails through a third-party filtering software that is either installed on your computer or is provided through an online email hosting provider. These solutions work fairly well most of the time. The “most of the time” part it the catch with this, as none are 100 percent effective at catching all the SPAM. The filters do sometimes block emails that you want to get, thus the dilemma facing all Internet service providers.

Here are some actions I plan to take:

1. My long-term solution involves a strategy that does not include filters on my primary email address. I am planning on changing my email address and sending my old address through a SPAM filter. I’ll make sure my new email address would be protected from email address harvesting online.

2. The best way to protect your email address online is by not making it visible on web pages as an active email link. If you still want to get emails from your Web site, you will need to use an email form that uses a form-mail script in the web page that hides your address and forwards the filled-in form text to your email address. The web page visitor cannot see your email address, but they can still send you an email.

3. You also need to use a throwaway email address that is going through a SPAM filter for submitting to various ecommerce and email newsletter subscriptions. This will protect you from those greedy business folks that are try to make money from selling your email address to big-time spammers.

4. There are some significant changes you can take to how and what you do online. It will also require in some cases a change to your ISP and get your own domain name because email addresses that come through @AOL.com, @Earthlink.net and @Comcast.net are big targets for spammers. They gather addresses dynamically and randomly generate the names in front of the @ symbol. However, if you own your own domain name, it is less likely that a spammer will target you unless you somehow give them your address.

5. The other major area is Spyware and Adware that are often running on your computers without your knowledge. Spyware programs track and report your computer use. Adware delivers advertising to you when you least expect it. You should download and install a free program called Spybot Search & Destroy on every computer that has an Internet connection. You can get it by going to www.safer-networking.org. You should run this program once per week to make sure your system is clean. You will need to download an update to this program every week.

Good luck and remember it is all a good fight.

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