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Who Is Watching You?

With all of this talk about security, you might be wondering who is out there watching. What do they want with you? That question has many answers, and we’ll explore them in the next few sections. But before we do, let me warn you that these sections touch on some areas that sound scary to most people. I have every intention of scaring you a bit with this information, but I don’t want to scare you away. There are some rather unseemly characters out there in the world, and some of them are on the Internet. Locks and walls, doors, and maybe a dog can protect you at home. All I’m trying to do here is demonstrate that having protection on the Internet makes good sense too.

Let’s say that now you are connecting to the Internet. You do so by dialing a phone or by using your cable or DSL connection. No one can possibly know you are there, right? Wrong. Let’s hit the obvious ones first. Your ISP (Internet service provider) and the phone company or cable or DSL provider (if different than your ISP) all know you are connected. You haven’t even done anything yet, and a few people already know. Of course, the Internet isn’t really fun unless you do something, so next you hit the Web, answer some e-mail, and maybe start up your instant-messaging program. Now you’ve made some requests (called DNS requests) across the Internet to resolve names so you can get to those places. You’ve sent requests to Web sites, your online “buddies,” and some other people through e-mail. What you might not know is that you’ve also sent information to the Web site owner and to advertisers through the banner ads that display on Web pages. Furthermore, your requests passed through probably dozens— possibly hundreds—of servers or routers along the way.


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