Book Review: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Protecting Yourself Online

[The date of publication is not known.]

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Protecting Yourself Online
Preston Gralla
0-7897-2035-3, 348 pages, Que: Alpha Books

Are you a Windows95 user? Do you use America Online and read mail with Outlook Express? Browse the web with Internet Explorer? New to the Internet and have concerns about your safety and privacy? If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, this book is just right for you.

With millions of people interacting in any fashion, there are bound to be bad elements that have no regard for you, your family, or your privacy. They seek to profit in one way or another at your expense. Fending off the wave of evil doers can be a daunting task to say the least. In this book, Preston Gralla attempts to cover all the bases that you should be concerned about. These concerns include privacy, chat forums, newsgroups, shopping, viruses, and a whole lot more.

Gralla offers quick and easy to implement solutions to problems you may face online. Step by step instructions accompanied by screenshots puts some of the power of privacy and anonymity back into the hands of the end user. Offering tips and tricks on how to configure utilities like your web browser, IRC program, and mail reader, the book shows you just how much information you give out every time you visit a web site. Gralla includes a wide variety of web sites and resources for you to find more information or utilities to better help protect yourself.

Building on the fundamentals of the technology that makes the Internet work, terms like TCP/IP, MTA and FTP are demystified. With this level of understanding, technology that seemed out of reach or incomprehensible become more clear. By the end of the book, neophyte Internet users should have a basic fundamental understanding of the elements that lead to security and privacy.

When browsing the web, beware of cookies that can monitor your browsing activity. While on IRC or chat forums, ignoring harassing chatters is often a few clicks away. Anonymous remailers allow you to contact anyone while fully hiding your identity. Usenet, mail lists and chat forums are just a few places spammers harvest your email address in order to send you unsolicited spam mail. PGP is a free and powerful encryption utility that helps protect your communications from prying eyes. These are but a few of the valuable tips dispensed throughout the book.

Portions of the book attempt to portray the threats you face but are a bit naïve. Some statements Gralla make tend to be all inclusive and therefore a bit inaccurate. Fortunately, some of these sweeping comments are further qualified and explained later in the book. One of Gralla’s tools for passing information to the reader is repetition. It is not uncommon to read some of the same material two or three times, slightly reworded or included in ‘Extras’.

Gralla’s goal with this book is to educate the average end user about personal security and privacy. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Protecting Yourself Online does just that. In a matter of hours, new users to the Internet can find out the essentials needed to guarantee their security and privacy.

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