July 30, 2007, - 4:41 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR TWO VERY IMPORTANT UPDATES. MAYBE THIS IS BAD ADVICE AND SHOULD BE DISREGARDED. ****
To all of my sources, tipsters, venters, etc.–especially if you are from the above-referenced federal agencies (all of whom have personnel that have contacted me and/or frequently visited this site)–I know you are often concerned about contacting me and/or visiting this site and getting found out by parties like the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director of Investigations of Sources of Debbie Schlussel Marcy “Black Ass” Forman-Friedman a/k/a “Peppermint Patty” and other similarly ineffective malefactors and snoops. And I also know that this site is frequently blocked at various of your offices (that means you San Antonio ICE, I’m told).
Therefore, I’m re-posting a few portions of today’s Wall Street Journal article, “Ten Things Your IT Department Won’t Tell You.” These tips should help you (but, FYI, I haven’t tried any of them, so I can’t guarantee their effectiveness; test them and use them at your own risk, though I hope they work):
3. HOW TO VISIT THE WEB SITES YOUR COMPANY BLOCKS
The Problem: Companies often block employees from visiting certain sites — ranging from the really nefarious (porn) to probably bad (gambling) to mostly innocuous (Web-based email services).
The Trick: Even if your company won’t let you visit those sites by typing their Web addresses into your browser, you can still sometimes sneak your way onto them. You travel to a third-party site, called a proxy, and type the Web address you want into a search box. Then the proxy site travels to the site you want and displays it for you — so you can see the site without actually visiting it. Proxy.org, for one, features a list of more than 4,000 proxies.
Another way to accomplish the same thing, from Mr. Frauenfelder and Ms. Trapani: Use Google’s translation service, asking it to do an English-to-English translation. Just enter this — Google.com/translate?langpair=en|en&u=www.blockedsite.com — replacing “blockedsite.com” with the Web address of the site you want to visit. Google effectively acts as a proxy, calling up the site for you.
The Risk: If you use a proxy to, say, catch up on email or watch a YouTube video, the main risk is getting caught by your boss. But there are scarier security risks: Online bad guys sometimes buy Web addresses that are misspellings of popular sites, then use them to infect visitors’ computers, warns Mr. Lobel. Companies often block those sites, too — but you won’t be protected from them if you use a proxy.
How to Stay Safe: Don’t make a habit of using proxies for all your Web surfing. Use them only to visit specific sites that your company blocks for productivity-related reasons — say, YouTube. And watch your spelling.
* * *
4. HOW TO CLEAR YOUR TRACKS ON YOUR WORK LAPTOP
The Problem: If you use a company-owned laptop at home, chances are you use it for personal tasks: planning family vacations, shopping for beach books, organizing online photo albums and so on. Many companies reserve the right to monitor all that activity, because the laptops are technically their property. So what happens if your — ahem — friend accidentally surfs onto a porn site or does a Web search for some embarrassing ailment?
The Trick: The latest versions of the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers both make it easy to clear your tracks. In IE7, click on Tools, then Delete Browsing History. From there, you can either delete all your history by clicking Delete All or choose one or a few kinds of data to delete. In Firefox, just hit Ctrl-Shift-Del — or click Clear Private Data under the Tools menu.
The Risk: Even if you clear your tracks, you still face risks from roaming all over the Web. You could unintentionally install spyware on your computer from visiting a sketchy site or get your boss involved in legal problems for your behavior. If you’re caught, it could mean (at best) embarrassment or (at worst) joblessness.
How to Stay Safe: Clear your private data as often as possible. Better yet, don’t use your work computer to do anything you wouldn’t want your boss to know about.
* * *
7. HOW TO KEEP YOUR PRIVACY WHEN USING WEB EMAIL
The Problem: Many companies now have the ability to track employees’ emails, both on work email accounts and personal Web-based accounts, as well as IM conversations.
The Trick: When you send emails — using either your work or personal email address — you can encrypt them, so that only you and the recipient can read them. In Microsoft Outlook, click on Tools, then Options and choose the Security tab. There, you can enter a password — and nobody can open a note from you without supplying it. (Of course, you’ll have to tell people the code beforehand.)
For Web-based personal email, try this trick from Mr. Frauenfelder: When checking email, add an “s” to the end of the “http” in front of your email provider’s Web address — for instance, https://www.Gmail.com. This throws you into a secure session, so that nobody can track your email. Not all Web services may support this, however.
To encrypt IM conversations, meanwhile, try the IM service Trillian from Cerulean Studios LLC, which lets you connect to AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and others — and lets you encrypt your IM conversations so that they can’t be read.
The Risk: The main reason companies monitor email is to catch employees who are leaking confidential information. By using these tricks, you may set off false alarms and make it harder for the IT crew to manage real threats.
How to Stay Safe: Use these tricks only occasionally, instead of as a default.
**** UPDATE: One federal employee writes, and I think he’s correct, so only use the above tactics, if you were going to contact me from work anyway, which I never advise (I always ask for a non-government, private e-mail address, whenever anyone e-mails me from the government):
Debbie, my assumption is that I would get into a lot of trouble for the agency I work for if I used my work computer to contact you under any circumstances. The safest way to contact you is not to use a job-computer. Sooner or later they are likely to find out, even if the correspondent takes all the precautions that you mention. For instance, in my agency, computers are replaced every three years, and I have always assumed that they examine the hard drives, etc. etc. prior to giving the old computers to charity, which is what they say they do.
As you certainly know, there is a very expansive definition of
political correctness in the Govt.; there is always a poster of the
month on display, Asian month, American Indian month, Women’s month, etc. etc. A few years ago, during March, which is women’s month, there was a poster (displayed throughout the Government) of heroic American women. One was Ethel Rosenberg, and this was in one of the departments mentioned in your heading. [DS: Traitor Ethel Rosenberg?! On a poster at a federal law enforcement agency?! Incredible. What’s next–a Bin Laden Poster? Well, we’re not so far off from that, with the Muslim hijab-encrusted Homeland Security recruitment ad.]
While some correspondents may get away with the tactics you mention, I think they are taking a big risk, and as you indicate, there is no doubt that your website would be viewed as a hate site by many in the Government. I would never take the risk of accessing your site at
work under any circumstances. For instance, they have sent memos to about 1/3 of the people in my office about inappropriate computer use in the last few months, probably for visiting sites a lot more
“innocuous” than yours. Most people have computers at home, or at
least could go to a library.
Again, I agree with this, and it’s the recommended, safe way to go.
**** UPDATE #2: Our Jedi Master Photoshopper and in-house artist, David Lunde, has even more bad news:
Along with clearing browsing history, the temporary files and cookies will also give up clues to websites you‚Äôve visited. You can clear them, but not without it being noticed (that they were cleared). If I wanted to check on what sites were being visited, I would check browsing history, temporary files, and the cookies. Real Alpha-geeks can even dig further to snoop.
Okay, so fuhgedaboutit.
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