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Protecting Your PC While Browsing Online

Bill from Florida writes:

Is it possible for a web site that I’m viewing to obtain my email address from my PC in order to send me spam or for another malicious purpose?

While there are a few ways that hackers could obtain your e-mail address while you’re viewing a specific page, the circumstances involved make this a very rare occurrence. Typically, it is impossible for anyone to get your e-mail address if you’re simply browsing a Web page. If, however, you enter your e-mail address anywhere on the site, such as during login or to be added to a mailing list, there is a possibility that a hacker could obtain this information.

Another way hackers steal e-mail addresses and account information, which is more harmful, is by phishing. They send e-mails that look like they’re from legitimate companies, including Facebook, Ebay and banks. These e-mails contain a link to a login page that looks like the real login page, but is actually a fake designed to steal your login information. Although you cannot prevent every attempt that is made to steal your e-mail address or access your e-mail account, there are several things you can do to eliminate the occurrences.

Choose a Browser with Built-in Security

Most of the more commonly used Web browsers, including Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox have built-in security features to help users cut down on malicious attempts to gather data. Take a look at the browser you’re currently using and find out if one of the other browsers offers more or better security features. Nearly all Web browsers are free these days, so if you find one with better features, give it a try. If you don’t like it, you’re not losing anything.

Browsers will often alert you when something’s not right with a Web page. While there’s a possibility there is nothing malicious about the page or the site, it may be best to stear clear of these pages just to be safe.

Install Anti-Virus and Malware Protection Software

If your computer is connected to the Internet, anti-virus software is a must. Viruses are capable of a wide range of malicious activities, including spamming everyone in your e-mail address book or destroying all the data on your hard drive. Your computer can only be infected by a virus if you open a file that has the virus inside. This is why you should only open e-mail attachments from people you know. If you must open an attachment from an unknown source, run it through a virus scan first.

Spyware and malware are additional pieces of software that you may find on your computer. You do not want these programs on your computer either. If your anti-virus software does not scan and remove spyware or malware, look for a program that will hunt these little buggers down and get rid of them for you.

Think Before You Click

Hackers will try just about anything to gain access to your information, so make sure to surf the Web and click on links, both there and in your e-mail, wisely. If you get a suspicious looking e-mail from your bank or any other company you deal with regularly, it’s best to go to the company’s Web site directly and enter your login information, rather than clicking the link provided in the e-mail. Also, if you get a notification about a package or a listing on Ebay that you have no knowledge of, it may be best to ignore the e-mail or contact the company directly to see if it’s legitimate.

I hope these tips help you stay safe online.

~Chad Stetson