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David hosts ZDNet Government -- ZDNet's politics and policy coffeehouse -- where civics lessons meet technology, nothing is sacred, and everything is fair game.

Issue: Online Safety

David is always telling his readers, audiences, and radio listeners that homeland security begins at home.

Whether it’s scammers using "phishing" to gain access to your account information, junk emailers innundating your inbox, spyware writers attempting to grab your identity off your own computer, or "botnet herders" using your own computer against you, your family, and your country, there are bad guys out there and they’re as close to you as your network port.

David has now founded the Online Safety Foundation, a project of the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute. Visit the site for a learning center, online resources, and more tips for staying safe.

David has both written extensively about online safety and encouraged his magazine writers and editors to write about it as well. What follows are some of David’s articles on the topic. After that, we present some links to articles in his magazines by Brenda Coxe, one of his authors. Brenda wrote a series on internet safety for grandparents that’s really a must-read for everyone.

All will help keep you, your family, your friends, your company, and even your country more safe. Remember: awareness is prevention.


When it comes to protecting their identities, consumers are being threatened and pressured from all sides. It’s not just scam artists who are doing everything they can to separate you from your birth date and social security number, it’s often the online Web sites you choose to use and — most troubling — those in authority as well.


Beyond physical security is the growing issue of cyber-security. Don’t think that cyber-security concerns are simply a question of whether a few laptops get hacked. In fact, the digital threat vector represents issues impacting communications confidentiality, identity theft, emergency response, organized crime, and even (perhaps especially) espionage.

CNN – ANDERSON COOPER 360 | October 16, 2009

Every topic needs its own day or month, and I guess cybersecurity is no exception. This October is the sixth annual Cybersecurity Awareness Month sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security. And while it may seem silly for cybersecurity awareness to need its own month, there’s nothing silly about keeping your computer secure.


It’s not what you know, or who you know. It’s who knows you. And that’s pretty much where the trouble starts.

CNN – ANDERSON COOPER 360 | May 29, 2009

A few months ago, I posted a blog on this site about how to protect yourself from counterfeit check scams. I get security alerts from the FDIC about these check scams. The reason I posted that article was because I got seven alerts in one day, an all-time record. Today, that record was broken. I got alerts about 11 counterfeit check scams, all over the country. Here are some key ways to protect yourself.

CNN – ANDERSON COOPER 360 | May 25, 2009

Last week, The National Archives — a repository of important government documents, including the U.S. Constitution — announced it had lost a computer hard drive. Congressional aides briefed on the matter say it contains "more than 100,000" Social Security numbers and Secret Service and White House operating procedures. David Gewirtz tells us why we should be concerned.

CNN – ANDERSON COOPER 360 | May 20, 2009

Zombies. I hate zombies. I particularly hate it when wave after wave of zombies come at you, eating brains and dripping flesh. And yet they came – zombies…everyday computers, brains hijacked by outsiders and linked together to form an army on the attack – they came in droves.

CNN – ANDERSON COOPER 360 | March 26, 2009

Our banks are struggling in a world of self-inflicted hurt, but now they’re also suffering from a very old-school problem: counterfeit checks. Counterfeiting, of course, has been around forever and the first fake check was probably created within days of the first genuine check being printed.

AC360 Exclusive Investigation
CNN – ANDERSON COOPER 360 | March 10, 2009

The risk isn’t just about military contractors and national security. These programs can upload whatever they find on your computer and share them with everyone. They can upload your banking information, your medical history, everything you’ve got in My Documents, your passwords, your credit card numbers, and even that embarrassing love letter to the hottie working Thursday nights at the local Taco Bell.


Now that America has decided its new President, the dark underbelly of society has come up with a new social engineering scam designed to separate you from your money, infect your computers, and turn your technology against you. I know. Happy thoughts.


In this all-new book review shootout, we put five books to the test. Read on to learn how Crimeware: Understanding New Attacks and Defenses by Markus Jakobsson and Zulfikar Ramzan, Internet Forensics by Robert Jones, Phishing Exposed by Lance James, Aggressive Network Self-Defense by Neil R. Wyler, Bruce Potter, and Chris Hurley, and Insider Threat: Protecting the Enterprise from Sabotage, Spying, and Theft by Eric Cole and Sandra Ring stand up to our editorial review.


Here’s a quick tip that’ll save you a bunch of time. If you use the Junk E-mail feature within Outlook, you can easily increase the system’s accuracy and reduce the number of false-positives, all by checking one checkbox.


A recent study reported that 63 percent of phishing attacks are targeted from three major Web sites: PayPal, eBay, and Bank of America. These top Web sites signal dollar signs for cyber-criminals as many people unknowingly open and use the links contained inside phony emails. This week, we had the opportunity to interview Adam Schran, an Internet and PC security expert on what constitutes "phishing" and how you can defend yourself.


Is Symantec trying to force Microsoft to create Vista security holes simply so they could sell more copies of their antivirus program? That’s what some claim. But what’s the truth? What’s really going on? There are always two sides to every story and this one seemed no different. To get to the bottom of the issue and try to derive a better understanding, David decided to speak with both Symantec and Microsoft. He had the opportunity to conduct exclusive interviews with Cris Paden, Manager on the Corporate Communication Team at Symantec and Adrien Robinson, Director of Communications, Microsoft Security Technology Unit. This is our special report.


In this very special DominoPower article, we destroy hard drives, save drive motors, build wind chimes, and discover the power of rare earth magnets. It doesn’t get more interesting than this!


What AOL and Yahoo are now doing is selling your inbox to the highest bidders. Those that are willing to pay to gain access to your inbox are suddenly "trusted" while those who don’t pay the tax aren’t. To read all about this new surge in digital racketeering, read this very important article.


David had the opportunity to conduct a follow-up interview with Wade Callison, discussing many of the more scary aspects of identity theft – and what you can do to protect yourself. This is a must read interview.


The eBay Survival Guide: How to Make Money and Avoid Losing Your Shirt, shown in Figure A, is a new book from No Starch Press by Michael A. Banks. This Q&A session is a first for Connected Photographer. In it, we don’t mention photography at all. Michael’s book isn’t really about photography. But it is about protecting yourself and getting the most out of eBay. And eBay is certainly a hot topic among Connected Photographer readers. In this interview, Michael shares ways in which you can safeguard yourself while using eBay.


It’s interesting, and sad, that a publication like OutlookPower has to spend so much time talking about scams and how to protect yourself. But email is a mass communication tool and with anything that has mass effect, you have people doing good and people doing not so good. Email certainly has provided enormous benefits to vast numbers of people, but it also creates risks. In this time of holiday celebration, many of us share goodwill, while others seek to tap into that goodwill for nefarious gain. So, before you start thinking about giving, make sure you watch your back.


Here at OutlookPower, we’ve considered safe computing to be a very important area of our coverage. One of the more interesting aspects of safe computing are the related questions of anonymity and identity theft. Lance Cotrell makes a product known as Anonymizer and is an expert on both of these topics. David had the opportunity recently to learn more about anonymous computing directly from Lance.


Like everyone else on the planet with an email account, you, too are getting these forwards. You may also be guilty of sending them. So then, let’s talk about the issue of email forwards and the fragile social fabric of relationships.


Before we begin our story, we want to be clear: this is must read article. Hurricane Katrina was a devastating disaster. Like many of you who weren’t in harm’s way, we felt an almost overwhelming need to help, to do something. The generosity of Americans and our friends in other countries is nothing short of astounding. Unfortunately, another group of people watched the disaster. These folks didn’t feel an overwhelming need to help. These folks sought to feed on the generosity of those who care. These people are the phishers. If you’re not careful, these phishers could do you considerable harm while you seek to do good.


In this Q&A, David spoke with Jim Doherty and Neil Anderson, authors of "Home Networking Simplified".


Microsoft recently announced a series of powerful anti-spam initiatives. OutlookPower wanted to make sure we really understood Microsoft’s plans and intentions, so David held a fascinating email interview with George Webb, Microsoft’s Business Manager, Anti-spam Technology and Strategy Group.

Online safety for grandparents

The Internet is a rapidly changing beast, even for those of us immersed in it. But for grandparents, many of whom have never used the Internet before, or who are just getting a handle on the difference between email and the Web, the Internet is something vast and strange. Unfortunately, there are scammers out there who prey on unsuspecting seniors. The following series of articles by Brenda Coxe may help you stay safe

OutlookPower Magazine | March 2008 | BY Brenda Coxe

One of the most important aspects of computer ownership is knowing how to protect your computer and the files that it contains. Before you can do that, you have to understand some of the things that might hinder that process and the steps you can take in order to prevent the loss of valuable files. As a grandparent and writer, Brenda Coxe tells us that nothing would upset her more than to lose years worth of hard work and irreplaceable pictures of her grandchildren that she holds on her computer.

OutlookPower Magazine | January 2008 | BY Brenda Coxe

With all the incidents of identity theft, fraudulent bank account transactions, and credit card fraud, the age of computers has created havoc in the world. For those new to the computer, it can be scary to think how easy it is for someone to access their information. Some people are scared of even ordering online because of the potential that someone can obtain their credit card or debt card information. This article will give you some tips on how keep your Internet experience safe and secure.

OutlookPower Magazine | January 2008 | BY Brenda Coxe

Over the past few months, Brenda Coxe has been writing a series of articles on Internet safety. Although she’s aimed them at grandparents (probably the most vulnerable group online these days), she recommends everyone read these articles. Internet safety is too important. In this article’s title, she uses the term "compromised" because there are so many different things that can happen online if you are not careful. This article will help keep you safe.

OutlookPower Magazine | SEPTEMBER 2007 | BY Brenda Coxe

Grandparents who never worked on computers have had to learn how to use email to communicate with children and grandchildren. Before you even begin to use email, there are some things that you need to know. Some are safety tips, and others are just helpful hints about handling different email functions. What follow are ten important tips for grandparents.

Some of David's affilliations...

ZATZ Publishing

ZATZ Logo David is the founder of ZATZ Publishing, one of the first technology magazine publishers on the Internet.

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ZDNet / CBS Interactive

ZDNet/CBSi Logos David is CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer. He also hosts ZDNet's DIY-IT and ZDNet Government blogs.

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U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute

USSPI Logo David is Director of the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, a 501(c)3 nonprofit research and policy organization.