Category Archives: Internet

Improve Your Online Personal Security

With the explosion of the internet in the last ten years and the ever increasing use and reliance on it to perform our every day life and work, it has become more important than ever to consider your personal security online.

The overwhelming majority of internet users have no idea at all about the steps required to help protect their personal information online. This can be seen by the massive surge in identity theft in the last five years, which is happening online and offline.

To help combat that epidemic, below are my top recommendations to lower your risk of identity theft and improve your online personal security:

  1. Don’t Share Your Account Information
    Just like your PIN number on a debit card or your credit card number, don’t share your account information for with anyone. If you have in the past, regardless of how much you might trust that person – make a point of changing your password as you don’t know how lax they have been with your personal information.
  2. Don’t Reuse Your Account Information
    People hate having to remember different usernames and passwords for different web sites. However, reusing your account information from one site on another puts all of your online accounts in serious jeopardy if someone tries to attack your identity online.
  3. Create Different Accounts For Different Purposes
    For most people it is hard enough to not reuse your account information across literally dozens of different online accounts. However, if you can’t manage a unique set of credentials for each web site – at a minimum group the web sites by type (email, social network, banking, online shopping, ..) and use a different set of credentials for each site. At least if someone gains access to your Facebook account, they don’t automatically get access to your bank accounts.
  4. Choose Strong Passwords
    Just like people hate having to remember different usernames, people hate having to remember different passwords. This leads people to using a simpler password, in the hope that they’ll be able to remember it. That mental stumbling block is the perfect attack point for an average user, as their password will probably be a dictionary word or another simple combination of characters such as ‘12345’. When creating a password, regardless of whether it is for an email account, social networking or an internet banking account – it should contain lower case, upper case, numbers, special characters and be at least 8 characters long. I know that sounds like a lot of hoop jumping but there are simple ways to remember a complex password, such as using a memorable phrase and replacing a few characters within it.
  5. Reduce The Number Of Online Accounts
    With the creation of the authentication protocol OpenID, web site developers now have the ability to allow clients to create a new account without having to worry about managing yet another password. Instead users can signin using an existing account such as a Google, Microsoft Live, Yahoo!, AOL and many more. By signing up using an OpenID enabled account, you have one less password to remember and when you change your password – it is changed on all sites that are linked to it. It might seem as though using OpenID contravenes points 2, 3 and 4 above however it doesn’t because you can create one more OpenID accounts and use a strong password on each instead of something simple like your pets name.
  6. Ensure You’re Using HTTPS
    If you’re logging into a site or disclosing your personal information online, make sure you’re currently viewing that web site in HTTPS. The ‘s’ in HTTPS stands for secure and it uses high strength encryption to keep your personal information private when transferred from your web browser to the web site in question. If you aren’t viewing it site in HTTPS, your personal information is transferred across the internet in clear text that anyone could potentially read.
  7. Practice Minimal Disclosure
    The internet is a public medium, once you put your personal information out into the public realm – it could very well remain their for the foreseeable future. That means that anyone that might be inclined to go looking for information about you can find it with ease. With that in mind, you should make a point of only ever publishing as much information about yourself on a web site as you’d be happy to have displayed on a billboard beside a busy motorway.
  8. Consider Using A Password Manager
    If you do have dozens of different accounts and you cannot keep up with it all, consider using a password manager. You can generate a strong, high complexity random password for every site you create an account on and store it within your secure password manager. If and when you need to signin to that site again, simply look it up within the password manager. If you don’t want to use a standard desktop password manager like KeePass, there are also some fantastic secure password managers which provide web browser integration such as LastPass.
  9. Your Email Address Isn’t Your Username
    If a web site doesn’t support OpenID but it does allow you to create a username that isn’t your email address – you should take them up on that offer. While convenient, your email address isn’t your username and can lead to issues in the future if you lose that email account. A friend of mine signed up to Amazon using their Hotmail account and it was previously used by another person but expired. Once signed in, my friend could see all of the previous owners personal information they’d provided Amazon, including name, address, purchase history and more.
  10. Shared Computer Access
    If you’re in a position where you use a computer and it is shared between a number of different people, either at home, work or elsewhere – always remember to clean up after yourself. Most web browsers have the ability to remember usernames and passwords for convenience. However if you’re using a shared computer, you could be leaving your account information laying around for someone else to pray on. An easy solution for this is to simply clear all the temporary internet files when you’re done or before logging out of the machine. If that seems like it is too much hassle, the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera all provide a privacy mode or private mode which won’t keep any history of your activity while it is enabled.

While there might seem like a lot of things above to consider, those ten items certainly aren’t the only things you can do to improve your identity management process. In a future post, I’ll talk about how you might go about implementing some of my recommendations above so you can take the first step, which is often the hardest.

Best ADSL Broadband Plan

I have been using ADSL for the better part of 10 years and in that time the meaning of best ADSL plan has changed quite a bit. Early on in the Australian ADSL landscape, best broadband often meant stable, reliable and not charging like a wounded bull. As more broadband ISP’s entered the market, best ADSL plans often meant biggest download quota, which subsequently became cheapest ADSL plans and these days the best broadband plans provide a mixture of competitive pricing, larger download limits, more flexible usage and even the option of bundling and VoIP services.

For the majority of my time using broadband ADSL, I have been using Internode. They have been providing, what I would consider, to be near faultless ADSL service over that time. They have a comprehensive network throughout Australia, which has proved itself to be very fast, low latency and tolerant to network outages. I’ve been so impressed with their service, I have lost count of how many people I would have referred to Internode and I stand by my recommendation as well – I have moved house four times in the last 5 years and each time I have chosen to reconnect my broadband with Internode at my new address.

While I use the internet heavily at work and at home, I no longer download a huge amount of data – so a lighter weight plan has suited me for at least the last five years. However since Hugo arrived in September 2008, the monthly usage has steadily been creeping up and in the last six months, our monthly usage has skyrocketed. The sharp increase of late, I’m quite sure is directly related to an increase in rich content such as songs and videos that Hugo likes to watch and my increasing use of YouTube. That increase had finally resulted in hitting our monthly 10Gb data limit and subsequently the shaping of our 1500kbit ADSL connection back to about 64kbit.

Like anyone that uses the internet regularly on a broadband internet connection, using a slow internet connection is frustrating and nearly intolerable unless you really need something. To make sure that doesn’t happen again next month, I went to the Internode web site and started reviewing their plans. My current plan, which has been grandfathered is $49.95/month and provides 10Gb of data. If I could avoid it, I didn’t want to spend more than that – it feels like a sweet spot for pricing in my opinion.

Internode had a newer version of my current plan, which was $49.95/month and provided 20Gb of data but I hadn’t bothered to upgrade to it because I had no need. I was about to upgrade to that plan, when I noticed a new plan called Easy Broadband. The basic concept behind Easy Broadband is that there is just one plan option, no more confusing choices and having to guess how much data you’ll need per month and worrying about topping it up if you run out. It comes in fast or faster configurations – which equates to at least 1500kbit and if ADSL2+ is available – you’ll get that automatically as well. It costs $49.95/month and provides a whopping 50Gb of data to use anytime of the day – not a peak/off-peak plan like a lot of ISPs provide. The only real difference between it and the other ADSL plans I’ve been using is Easy Broadband counts uploads and downloads, my existing plans only counted downloads.

When you couple the price point, a very respectible 50Gb of data per month with Internode’s impressive quota free unmetered content – the Easy Broadband plan seemed like a perfect fit. After using less than 10Gb per month for a number of years, we’ve now increased that to 50Gb – or in actual download terms probably about 45Gb since it counts up and downloaded data. I think it has to be one of the best ADSL broadband plans available in the market place at the moment and when it is backed by Internode, you can be nearly guaranteed that you’re broadband ADSL will just work.

Cheapest Domain Names In Australia

If you’ve ever gone looking to buy an Australian domain name in the past, such as a, or even a personal like this site uses – you’ll have been frustrated by the number of options and the wildly varying prices on offer for a simple domain name.

Previously, I’ve seen domains for Australian businesses range from $15 per 2 years all the way up to hundreds of dollars per year. A lot of domain registers purport to offer the cheapest domain names, however very few actually do and most are inflating the prices quite a bit.

Last year, I came across a very simple but fantastic Australian domain comparison site named What’s In A Name. The site is run by Josh Rowe and compares the retail price of the .auDA accredited domain registrars throughout Australia.

Next time you need to buy cheap domains, check out Whats In A Name to see if the place you’re intending to buy from is selling well over the wholesale price or not.

Bigger, Faster & Better Web Hosting

I last wrote about web hosting back in May 2005 when I changed from HostCentral to McGooHQ on the lead up to our wedding for price reasons. Since then my site has been sailing along without a worry in the world, super fast and with next to no downtime.

I’ve been blogging away since then and not so long ago Andrew & Belinda also started blogging which has been great. I set them up with a sub-domain and we kept on trucking along but it wasn’t too long before I was getting warning emails about disk space usage and the like.

A quick email conversation with the fine folks at AussieHQ about an upgraded web hosting plan and I was en route to a bigger, faster & better everything. Gone are the days of using Cpanel and I’m back in the high gloss world of Plesk – which is what I was using when I was at HostCentral many moons ago.

The migration staff at AussieHQ moved everything for me from server to server and I provided a few bits of vital information via email to smooth things over. Everything has gone smoothly, all data migrated successfully and the server configuration was spot on. All that was left for me to do was a simple change to DNS and away we went.

I hope the next few years of this hosting plans life are as pain free as the last few have been, keep up the excellent work AussieHQ!

Everything Is Relative

I came across a snippet of information regarding ComCast, the United States largest cable TV and second largest internet provider – they are about to place limits on their clients internet usage.

As you can imagine, after having competitively priced, very fast all you can eat internet for a long time – the change has been received as though it was the end of the internet and after all, a heavily restrictive 250Gb per month is outrageous!

To contrast what ComCast clients are about to receive, most broadband users in Australia pay a little more for their internet, it is 1/10th the speed and the overwhelming majority of people survive on a plan that offers less than 50Gb per month.

After having lived through the notorious 3Gb Cap from Telstra in the late 1990’s, Australian broadband users were happy when competition entered the market and provided better value plans. While we’re happy we’re not being limited to 3Gb and can get up to 50Gb at a moderate price, ComCast clients are screaming foul play that they are being pulled down to a measly 250Gb per month.