IT Professionals Play Key Security Role

Information technology professionals provide a key role in eBusiness

Ethical and security concerns arise that need to be handled immediately instead of pushing it off to human resources department.

An area related to eBusiness ethics is the handling of information that IT comes in contact with on a regular basis. Issues arise quickly with-in an organization where the appropriate action needs to occur immediately when it comes to ethics or security of data related to privacy. Employees
do not have the luxury of waiting to speak with Human Resources. See story
A Question Of Ethics, Information Week, 2/19/01

Information technology folks are at the very core of the data that is key to our lives, and as such it is extremely important that management realize this fact, and have an ethics policy which includes more than a one hour training session. Ethics needs to be at the core of the company; a way of life.

In addition, it is a good idea to have a “checks and balances” system in place for all aspects of the business. There have been instances in which employees have had access to private information collection in which the data was sold in the market place. See stories on Out-Law.com.

Companies need to incorporate tighter controls with-in their own organization. For instance, with USB memory sticks and flash drives available to anyone, an unethical employee could copy the information on a memory stick, CD, or DVD and walk right out the door with out anyone knowing. Or, they could send an E-mail outside the organization, with a list of names or private and confidential information. Imagine all the mortgage, banking, and broker companies that have key data on individuals such as: social security numbers, names and addresses, drivers license numbers, credit card numbers, and bank accounts. Think how easily information could fall into the wrong hands.

Is it any wonder we have heard of US institutions that use other countries for customer service issues, and then find out later that there was a security breach with hundreds of thousands of personal data being sold for identity theft and credit card theft.

So, no matter what the size of your company, implement a standard of ethics that is more than one hour long. Make it a way of life!

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Can I Trust My Email Address With That Website?

The Internet is like the Wild Wild West. It is the final frontier, with lots of landmine hazards to watch out for.

Consumers are signing up for free information by email, downloading freeware programs, and buying products and services online. How do you know if a website is secure or if they are going to release your email address to the spammers?

One of the ways in which people are fighting the online fraud is with disposable, temporary, dedicated email addresses specific for online sign ups. When someone sees or reads something that they are interested in, a person may have one or several email addresses to use when they sign up for something online. However, many websites are requiring more information, or permanent email addresses, and herein lies the problem.

The trust issue is the main ingredient when dealing with any company. If a company’s online privacy policy states that they share information with other advertising members or a conglomeration network has hundreds of other websites, will I then get tons of spam if I sign up for something? Then, even after reading privacy policies that supposedly do not share information, how can I be sure the company can be trusted?

McAfee is one company that has come out with a very cool automated tool that can give you a quick check of what is going on. The program is McAfee SiteAdvisor. The program can tell you before you even go to a website from the search engine results pages if a website is good or bad. With indicators of green, yellow, or red flag warnings of what to watch out for from each website.

It is an excellent program that works in tandem with your browser. It can be used for both Internet Explorer or Firefox.

The automated system for checking websites is very unique. The program checks for all types of Internet threats. “They built a system of automated testers which continually patrol the Web to browse sites, download files, and enter information on sign-up forms. They document all these results and supplement them with feedback from their users, comments from Web site owners, and analysis from their own employees.” Go to McAfee SiteAdvisor to download the software.

While you are at their website you could take the McAfee SiteAdvisor Spam Quiz (McAfee recently updated their website and the quiz page has been moved). This quiz test would have given you an indication to see if you could spot the websites that will produce the spam. It was very interesting to see for yourself. McAfee also provides the privacy policies from the websites to read and you can analyze the privacy information based on what McAfee says. I have to say that I read lots of privacy policies on the Web. Many of these policies are opened ended invitations to share your email address with virtually everyone. So, I fully expected to get a 100% on my grade. I missed one. After you take the test look at the results for all of the people that have taken the test so far. I think you will be surprised at the numbers of people that got it wrong.

While reading a privacy policy is important for a consumer today, the legal mumbo jumbo, and the length of these policies can be difficult to overcome. That is where having this program can be a great benefit for everyone. Check out your favorite websites. Can you trust them?

Look for a privacy policy that is easy to read and understand, and one that specifically states the company keeps your information private today.

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Glib On Privacy – Use Online Tools to Check Now!

I have seen the Internet grow from its infancy to where it is today with billions of pages of information.

Many individuals, both older and younger take online privacy very lightly. The younger crowd is using the MySpace.com, Facebook.com and other areas online for sharing way too much personal information in my opinion. This younger group of people haven’t a clue how this could possibly affect them in the future when prospective employers will be doing online background checks on these prospective employees. The older group of individuals also are unaware of the power of online search and what type of discovery can be attained by advanced searches using the search engine tools available.

To really understand the implications of privacy online, one only has to do a Google , Yahoo, and Bing Search on their own names. To do this may require a little advanced search engine search techniques, especially if you have a common name like, Joe Smith.

Here are a few helpful insights into doing a search for yourself.

We will use Joe Smith as our example for Google Search.

First try just doing a search for Joe Smith. In this particular example it shows a large number of Joe Smiths. To filter it further try doing a search with “Joe Smith” in quotes as shown. This will bring up the exact results for the name in quotes. This produces less search engine results but does not exactly break it into just one particular individual. Try adding a middle initial or middle name to the search criteria. Then filter it down even further to the area of the country or world. For example, let’s say that your are a Joe Smith, living in Washington. Then just add the word Washington after your name in the search box. “First I. Last” State

Most people are surprised by the number of online results for their names. This might be OK for individuals that understand the privacy aspect, but have chosen a high profile profession. Others on the other hand might not understand the implications of writing online, publishing personal content, or having their names posted in an online company directory, or postings in forums, or being a member of a local soccer or softball club in which their name is picked up by the search engines.

A little advice for those wishing to maintain as much privacy as they can. Consider carefully where you post your name online. If you are a member of a club or if your company has an online directory ask that your name or even your email address be kept offline. Do regular background searches on yourself to verify your brand image online. Use all of the major search engines to double and triple check the results.

Writers and journalists, be careful of who you quote, even in newspaper reporting. Consider the privacy of individuals. News stories are picked up and published online. Consider the ethics aspect when reporting information in news stories. Bloggers too should follow ethical standards when publishing information online.

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Email us today for professional Internet marketing services to get your business and website discovered online by new prospects and customers. Search engines will love your business-to-business, B2B or business-to-consumer, B2C website.

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Internet Privacy Concerns and Your ID Information

We got Your Number, and Then Some

No matter what your take is on the ACLU, I think they certainly have a point with this one. As Internet technology continues to expand, the reverse occurs with a decrease in our privacy. Click the Privacy Concerns video above for a Web look at the amount of ID information that is at the government’s fingertips.

Privacy must be protected. So, you think you have nothing to hide, think again.

Defense of Controversial Internet Law Does Not Justify “Fishing Expedition,” ACLU Says Plaintiffs’ Response to Motion to Compel Google

Privacy & Technology:
The tremendous explosion in surveillance-enabling technologies, combined with the ongoing weakening in legal restraints that protect our privacy have us drifting toward a surveillance society. The ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project fights this trend and works to preserve the American tradition that the government not track individuals or violate privacy unless it has evidence of wrongdoing.

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Google For The People, Government Against The People

In a follow-up story from E-Commerce News: Portals and Search: Google Playing for High Stakes in Fight With Feds are some additional insights involving privacy, security, and business privacy.

First off, we should all be backing Google in this fight. I don’t care what the reasons for Google standing up to the government. I honestly believe that there are numerous reasons why Google is taking this stance.

First, for the government to say that no personal information would be reveled is ridiculous. For example, the government could look up how many times someone has searched on the name “James Smith”. What if by some strange situation that your name were to fall into another website that was not even related to what it is that I do. This happens more often than people would imagine. People steal information online simply by copying whole texts in order to try and get their websites to the top of the search results. This in turn gets copied, and copied again to hundreds and in some cases thousands of websites all over the world. What if one of these websites were on the government’s list of potential problem areas for anything at all. Would you want your name showing up on some government list? What if in the process of Googling yourself or your friends, and your name, or their name is in one of those questionable web pages through no fault of their own, and you click on that website page, are you now a marked target by the US Government?

The government is saying that it is not asking for individual names or searches. But, with the right algorithm built to extract certain key data, the government could match up certain patterns for just about everything. Details of your lives, details of your business, what patterns are searched for and when, along with a myriad of various possibilities. They could extract what Christian sites are visited and when. The government could even group searches by conservative and liberal. They could determine how many times the word gun or other keywords are used online along with what websites have that keyword in it. Think about your friends and relatives that have written blogs about all types of personal data with a keyword here or there, that might trigger the “Red Flag”. Even accidentally clicking a spam email could hyperlink to an off-limits site. Additionally, individual IP addresses do show up in searched for results. Many times bloggers and other websites are displaying their search results online and these would certainly get cataloged by all the search engines. These could be traced back if the government chose to demand the IP records from the ISPs, Internet Service Providers.

From E-Commerce News article

“Companies are at risk too. Think about what employees search for in the course of the day. That information can reveal a lot about what is going on at a particular company — whether it is preparing for a product launch, or researching a new demographic, or preparing for a lawsuit,” said Andrew Krcik, vice president of marketing for PGP.

Global Passwords And Online Security At Risk

This type of action could even reveal security passwords and other private information such as your personal and business email addresses, or banking, and securities, and investments. The Google Search bar has been used more and more by people doing all types of actions. Actions such as typing in phone numbers, addresses, and sometimes even typing a password in by accident to the search bar as opposed to another area of the web browser.

I for one am backing Google 100% on this one. The other search engines have already given in to this without even a fight. I think it is in the best interest of everyone in the country, no matter if you are a conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, to seriously think about the implications of this latest government action. Talk about it with family and friends, write about it online, send an email or FAX to your congressman. Do what ever it takes to support Google with your privacy.

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A Threat to Privacy on The Internet

RED FLAG: The Government Wants Your Searches

A story came out today from the San Jose Mercury News via Techdirt about the government having subpoenaed Google and other Search Engines to turn over a week’s worth of records to see what is being searched for online. This all in the name of a Web fishing trip from US government lawyers trying to make a point about the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) being necessary. The law was struck down in 2004 because of it being too broad, but the courts gave the government another shot at trying to prove their case.

To date, Google has initially refused to comply with the government subpoena; vigorously defending its position. Techdirt has reported that, “Google is defending its decision by saying that it’s both a violation of the privacy of its users and that turning over the data would reveal trade secrets.”

Additionally, the Techdirt report also stated, “It’s now been confirmed that Yahoo, MSN and AOL were all asked and complied, though it appears that some (such as Yahoo) simply gave search terms with no identification information.”

These reports are very troubling for a number of issues. Certainly the first of which is Internet privacy concerns. The other major issue which quite frankly is a potential for more problems is the ease at which the other search engines have complied with the subpoena. It appears as though there was very little opposition given by Yahoo, MSN, and AOL. If this is true, then this is extremely troubling because they are not defending the privacy issues at all. Yahoo, MSN, and AOL should all be making the same bold moves for defending the privacy of their users.

Google has done the right thing in fighting against this government move. While the information that the government wants at the moment is not each individual’s search results, they are attempting to get the details of the totality of the searched for keywords. This all in their Web eFishing trip to try and give the courts the information to pass a law. The government has in essence made a supposition and is trying to use Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL to try and prove it.

These steps taken by the government are also very troubling. It seems as thought the government is using its powers to subpoena other companies for information that is not directly related to a problem. After all, none of the search engine companies are directly involved in the legal action.

Nicole Wong, an associate general counsel for Google, said the company will fight the government’s effort “vigorously.”

“Google is not a party to this lawsuit, and the demand for the information is overreaching,” Wong said.

This will certainly be an interesting story to watch.

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The Internet Can be a Landmine

The Internet is a dangerous place for those unaware of the landmines that exist.

Internet technology is a wonderful thing but placed in the hands of the enemy can wreck havoc on a business or individual. To be sure that the enemy does exist is to just look in your email box today and most people would have at least one or more forward looking scouts called the unsolicited email just waiting to report back to headquarters about the state of affairs of your computer domain. Many of these spam emails are disguised as Trojan Horses. They look wonderful on the outside but it is what is on the inside that counts.

Once a computer domain has been compromised through these forward looking scouts it is only a matter of time to another campaign is waged against individuals or corporations through hundreds of scams that try to rob an individual or business from just a few dollars to sometimes thousands of dollars. Other times there is more than money at stake. It is a person’s identity and in some cases it is even the business identity at risk.

Staying informed of the online perils is not an option any more. The Internet is going to become more prevalent in our world. Business owners and individuals need to be aware of the risks and have an understanding of the landmine areas online. Many of these Internet issues involve all types of unethical SEO marketing, advertising strategies, and sales activities all designed with the idea of preying on the unaware with grandiose Internet marketing promises and online advertising strategies to magically place you, with very little work on anyone’s part, at the top of the keywords search engine results for keywords related to your business. Don’t believe it! Or, don’t you believe it? See the Keywords Online Advertising Scam. Read how thousands of businesses have been taken in by this particular scam.

Getting to the Top of The Search Engine Results

More Sales For Your BusinessThere are no shortcuts on this path for any business to the top of the search engine results. All require lots of hard work in ethical Internet marketing and other areas related to SEO, search engine optimization. To be sure, it requires a much more strategic partnership arrangement with outside services, Webmasters, and through close confidential communications with the principals, top insider corporate individuals. This will require a strategic marketing approach to all aspects of a business; from not only the sales, marketing, and advertising but also to brand, customer and corporate communications, business planning, market research, public relations, and even investor relations. All are uniquely intertwined in developing a successful online web presence with a key understanding of where revenue growth will likely occur in the future. Capturing that revenue growth will be key to the success of a business.

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Privacy on The Internet

Guarding Your Online Electronic Privacy

Internet Bits of PrivacyFor those of you that do not know me, one of the things that I value more than anything else is online privacy.

I have written many business articles about online E privacy issues and content provider concerns. I would be the first to say if a service is, or has a policy of sharing of information on the Internet with others.

Many E privacy policies are extremely vague and in fact should be labeled something else other than a privacy policy.

Good E Privacy Policy

There is one service that I have come to trust with my emails and information online. That service is the Google Gmail Service. One of the things that really has stood out from them is their down-to-earth privacy policy, written in an easy to understand style with very little of the legalize that only an attorney would understand.

When I first heard about the Google Gmail Service I was very impressed with their up-front statements of how this email service works. After hearing much of the criticism from the news media I took it upon myself to do some research online comparing the privacy policies of other large content providers that offer email and other types of services. What I found was quite shocking in the way of lack of privacy with other online service providers. Many of the documents that are written are designed in my estimation to be intentionally misleading and actually are a policy for sharing information as opposed to holding it confidential.

While these other services have been around for a longer period of time I find it fascinating that no one in the mainstream media seems to question these other online policies. Could it be that there is such a double standard that exists between various news organizations and web search companies that they would actually ignore certain web search service providers that intentionally allow information to be shared with others while at the same time trying to crucify a service that is up-front with the public? Are there other egregious factors at work here?

What Does The Future Hold

Why does this double standard exist? Do people just turn a blind eye to facts? Are we just a society of non-thinkers? I would hope that we are not, but the path seems to be set for the world to sit back and just be fed whatever they want to hear and never question anything.

First off, we all write with a certain degree of prejudice. The mainstream media has a responsibility to be as fair as possible with all stories written. If the story is not a commentary but a reporting of facts then it is the responsibility of the news organization to cover both sides and report fairly. We have seen problems in the lack of responsible television and newspaper media reporting in the political arena and in fact these stories have been exposed by Blogger journalists. Blogger journalists have broken stories that others in the mainstream press have ignored or have been grossly negligent in their reporting of the facts.

The future is changing quickly. The landscape for electronic news reporting is becoming increasing explosive as we become more virtual in our gathering of information and press reporting of news stories online.

People seem to feel threatened by the unknown. Maybe traditional news media organizations feel threatened by the new way of doing business. Broadband Internet continues to impact our lives in new and profound ways. Information sources are at our fingertips that we can quickly compare the stories from different perspectives. Traditional television and print media sees a shrinking customer base along with a decline in advertisers, because of the influx of the Internet. The media giants are becoming more concerned with the direction the World Wide Web is having on their OLD business plans. They seem to see it as a threat as opposed to an opportunity to establish a NEW type of relationship with an online readership.

Secret Mitigating Factors – Follow The Money

Here are a few thoughts and questions that come to mind that could certainly be mitigating factors.

Everything really is about money. What type of business relationships do some of the traditional media outlets have with other content providers? Is it in the interest of some content providers to share information with their business affiliates? Maybe that is exactly the business agreements that are in effect. Are owners and editors at top line newspapers and television networks in bed with some of the online content providers? If so, imagine how easy it would be to encourge an overeager news reporter to write stories that are not fully accurate. These same editors and owners could just as easily squelch truthful news reporting on other issues. How much money is given by some to support certain causes and seemingly altruistic associations that are related to the big news associations? How much does politics play into the mix? Where is the online ethics in business today? What other mitigating secrets are hidden?

Yes, these are but a few of the reasons for all the news reporting today. Though some of these may be business excuses, it does not make it right. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

James A. Warholic – President, Professional Web Services, Inc.

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