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2013's computer security risks: What you need to know (and do)

The Internet is a marvelous, but scary and dangerous, place. And there's a good chance that most of what you think you know about staying safe is out of date.

Here's a summary of the major risks I've seen for individual users recently, and some tips on how to protect yourself against them. (A business or government will of course face more, and more sophisticated, threats- this article is about individual users, with mobile gadgets or home PCs.)

Boat manuals need to include electrical schematics and software details

Good drawings take time to make. Time costs money. Therefore, good drawings are not cheap.

Some boat builders seem to think that this logic leads to a fourth point: "Therefore, we will not include drawings."

Er, guys? Not cool. Seriously, not cool. Just see what happens the very first time the owner has to have something fixed, and the technician spends most of a day rooting around in the bilges trying to figure out where the hell all the wires are going.

Privacy? It's not gone (yet), but you'd better be careful

Many in the tech community have been concerned for a while- quite a long while- that privacy as we used to know it is a rapidly disappearing concept. Year after year, they've been dismissed as alarmists, radicals, and so forth.

It is now becoming increasingly obvious that those "alarmists" were right. Whenever we interact with anything involving a networked computer, we leave a digital trail that can and will be mined for someone else's financial benefit.

Don't trust your Web presence to third parties

A popular blog hosting service, Posterous, is shutting down next month.

Posterous is far from the first such service to spontaneously close up shop, leaving hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of users high and dry. Remember Geocities? Remember BlogSpace? Remember Hosting.com?

There's an important lesson in this, one that's been well known for a long time but that bears repeating: If your Web presence is important to you or your company, you- not some third party- must be in control of it.

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