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 And there's a good chance that most of what you think you know about staying safe is out of date.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.)

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.

The environmental case for multiple cars and insurance reform

There is a strong case to be made, from an environmental perspective, in favour of owning multiple cars.

Wait, what?

Conventional wisdom is that the environmentally friendly thing to do is to not have a car, or if you depend on cars, to have as few as possible. In many cases (indeed, in any case where you can get by without a car), the conventional wisdom is right.

It turns out, though, that if two conditions are true- (1) you depend on cars and have no public transit options, and (2) you need a large vehicle often enough that renting a van on occasion doesn't make sense- the environmentally preferable option may be to own more vehicles, not fewer. Sharing the largest of these vehicles (something that's very difficult under current insurance rules, but could be encouraged with insurance reforms) would make the benefits easier to achieve.

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