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Part I: Free tools to maintain your privacy and safety while you surf
Now that you've secured your email and file transfers and have added anti-spyware programmes, you're probably feeling relatively safe online.

But wait! There's more you can do to increase your level of security. Here are enhanced tools that will allow you anonymous and safe browsing.

1. Firewalls

These are special security walls installed to protect one's computer system. They filter data and accept or deny communication with other applications and machines. Your office computer probably has a firewall to guard against hackers and offensive sites. You can do likewise with your home network.

Zonelabs' 'no-frills' personal firewall can be your starting point. If you want more, check out Look 'n' Stop's 30-day trial version and ZDNet downloads' list of firewall freeware.

More Links
Firewall Downloads

2. Email and file privacy tools

Relatively easy to use email and file encryption software like Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is available free. According to its developer Phil Zimmerman, "PGP enables people to securely exchange messages, and to secure files, disk volumes and network connections with both privacy and strong authentication."

By encrypting messages, it provides protection against eavesdropping and snooping on networks. The software is distributed free by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for personal, non-commercial use. Download it here. For more information read these FAQs.

Software like PGP Freeware, also developed by Zimmerman, prevents your email from being intercepted and read by someone else.

Intelytics offers free downloads of its Personal Sentinel that monitors surfing activity for privacy threats and Message Sentinel, designed to analyse incoming mail and block Web bugs before you are tracked by a third party.

Hotlock is another free programme that encrypts email to prevent anyone other than you and the recipient from reading it.

Apart from making email secure, Cryptoheaven allows secure online storage and file sharing and distribution. It can be downloaded for a 30-day free trial.

For voice privacy, Speak Freely enables two or more people to conduct a secure real-time conference online. However, it does not offer technical support.

More Links
International (PGP) distribution from Finland
PGP user list and reference
PGP resources
More on PGP

3. Secure instant messaging

This article tells how even messenger conversations are open to snooping through software like Carnivore developed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

To guard against this, ImPasse encrypts messages sent through AIM, Yahoo! and MSN messengers. You can avail of a 14-day trial period.

Then there's Project SCIM, an instant messaging software that opens a secure chat window and allows you to send encrypted messages. However, do read the FAQ before you download it.

Another such software, PSST, is compatible with Windows and Linux. According to its developer it is not guaranteed to be absolutely secure but will be a major challenge to hackers.

4. Encryption: Web, telnet and disk

Do you know that browsers can be encrypted at the users' end? Fortify offers 128-bit cryptography to those using Netscape Navigator (v3 and 4) and Communicator (v4).

Users of applications like telnet, ftp and rlogin might be unaware that their passwords are transmitted across the Internet unencrypted. OpenSSH encrypts all traffic, including your passwords, to prevent snooping, eavesdropping and connection hijacking.

Safeboot, a PC security system, encrypts your whole hard disk so that it cannot be read by anyone unauthorised. The Safeboot File Encryptor comes with a 30-day evaluation period.

Scramdisk creates virtual encrypted files on your hard disk that can be accessed only with the correct passwords. It's no longer updated but you can still download the last free version.

More Links
Disk encryption
Disk encryption programmes

Part I: Learn more about free tools to maintain your anonymity, safety and privacy as you surf

More Resources:

-- Privacy enhancing technologies
-- Online privacy downloads
-- Top 10 online privacy tips
-- Privacy analysis of your Internet connection

Also Read:

-- Firewalls keep off the enemy
-- Carnivore might help track terrorists
-- Keep off the trespassers
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