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Vannevar Bush
  Key computing development
  Key Internet development
  Key World Wide Web development
 
July 1945 Vannevar Bush publishes an essay entitled "As We May Think" in which he described a hypothetical system of information storage and retrieval called "memex." Memex would allow readers to create personal indexes to documents, and to link passages from different documents together with special markers.
 
October 1957 Soviet Union launches "Sputnik" into orbit, and throws American scientific community into turmoil. President Eisenhower authorises setting up of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, ARPA.
 
1960 Benjamin Curley develops the first minicomputer, the PDP-1, at Digital Equipment Corporation.
 
1962 First commercial modems launched by AT&T. They could transmit data at 300 bits per second.
 
August 1962 JCR Licklider proposes a network to enable ARPA researchers and contractors to work together more closely.
 
1963 Douglas Englebart invents the mouse at the Stanford Research Centre.
 
1964 IBM announces the System 360, the first family of compatible computers.
 
1965 Ted Nelson presented a paper to the Association of Computer Machinery in which he proposed how elements in one text could be linked to related or identical elements in other texts. He coined the term hypertext, and in 1967 named his system for linking all the world's documents Xanadu.
 
1968 Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce found Integrated Electronics (Intel) Corp.
 
September 1969 ARPA sets up ARPANET. It relies on two key technologies devised by Paul Baran, a distributed network and, packet switching which was also independently co-invented by Donald Davies.
 
March 1972 Ray Tomlinson writes a basic email send and receive program.
 
September 1973 Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn present a paper outlining Transmission Control Protocol, which was later to become TCP/IP, a key component of the Internet.
 
January 1975 Altair 8800 becomes first mass-selling home computer - as a do-it-yourself kit. Paul Allen and Bill Gates write a BASIC compiler for it and other soon-to-be-launched home computers.
 
1975 John Vittel develops first all-inclusive email program, providing reply, forward and file capabilities.
 
1976 Seymour Cray designs and installs the first supercomputer, the Cray-1.
 
26 March 1976 HM The Queen sends her first email.
 
1 April 1976 Steve Jobs and Steve Wosniak launched their new Apple Computer and founded the firm of the same name.
 
1979 3Com founded by Bob Metcalfe who had invented the Ethernet.
 
1979 CompuServe become first service to offer email to personal computer users.
 
27 October 1980 ARPANET halted by an accidental virus.
 
August 1981 IBM PC launched, running on Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system.
 
1983 Sir Clive Sinclair launches the Sinclair Spectrum and achieves sales running at 15,000 units per week in the UK alone, selling millions worldwide.
 
1985 Microsoft release their Windows operating system, introducing the GUI concept to the mass market.
 
1985 First domain name registered: symbolics.com.
 
1986 Commercial companies wooed on to the Internet to share the costs.
 
1987 UUNET founded.
 
1989 AOL service launched.
 
December 1991 Tim Berners-Lee writes a proposal at CERN for sharing files - the World Wide Web.
 
September 1993 Mosaic browser released, written by Marc Andreesen and Eric Bina.
 
April 1994 David Filo and Jerry Yang start Yahoo! as a hobby whilst at Stanford university.
 
March 1994 Mosaic Communications Corp founded. Later renamed Netscape, they launched their own browser in October 1994. In 1999 they were bought by AOL for $10 billion - a business that had been built on a product that was given away for free.
 
May 1994 Arizona law firm Canter & Siegel is the first to spam the Internet - they had their account cancelled.
 
1994 AOL provides Internet access to its one million customers who, totally ignorant of Internet ettiquette become like a plague. "AOLer" coined as a derogatory term.
 
March 1995 Two day seminar to introduce the WWW to journalists - it was completely unknown to the general public at that time.
 
January 1998 Internet Lodge Consecrated.
 
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Sputnik
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Dec PDP-1
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JCR Licklider
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The first Mouse
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IBM 360 Series
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Ted Nelson
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Altair 8800
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Seymour Cray
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The first Apple
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Bob Metcalfe
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The first IBM PC
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Sir Clive Sinclair
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Windows 1.0
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Tim Berners Lee
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Internet Lodge

DISCLAIMER: No responsibility will be accepted for any consequences arising from downloading and installing programs listed in these pages. We have no control over these programs which are supplied by third parties and brought to your attention in good faith. It is your responsibility to ensure you follow the instructions they provide carefully and properly. If you are not fully confident in what you are doing we suggest you seek qualified assistance and do not proceed.

 

Everyone needs an anti-spam strategy. Here are some measures you can take to minimise the disruption to yourself or your business.

Measure 1
Prevention is better than cure. Reduce the opportunities for spammers to obtain your e-mail address in the first place. This means not showing it or giving it out where you don't need to, for example:
  • When you post something to a bulletin board or chat board, etc
  • If, when you register somewhere, your data will be publicly accessible
  • You are asked if your details can be passed to "carefully selected" third parties
  • You need a contact e-mail address on your web site (see Measure 3 below)
Measure 2
Create multiple e-mail addresses. You should certainly create one e-mail address for strictly personal and private use, for close friends and family for example. Never give that address to anyone else; never post it on any list; never publish it anywhere.

Create an 'expendable' private e-mail address. Add a number or letter to your name, so it might be john66 for example. When you start to receive more spam than you can put up with, simply abandon it and use john67 instead. You could also use a letter, such as johnasmith johnbsmith and johncsmith etc. Use your 'expendable' address when you need to register with a web site or post to a bulletin board or chat board. Also use your 'expendable' address to give out to causual contacts.

Obviously, tell all your contacts when you switch to a new 'expendable' email address!

Create an 'expendable' business e-mail address along the same lines as above. When switching to a new address, keep checking the old one for maybe two or three months to be sure no-one is still using it, then simply ignore it. You can set up "filters" on most e-mail programs to send e-mail for selected addresses straight into the "junk" folder.

Measure 3
Encrypt your e-mail address. Spammers send out "spiders" to trawl the Internet looking at web sites for anything that looks like an e-mail address. Once they've found yours, you're on the slippery slope to endless spam. To prevent that, you can encrypt your e-mail addresses when you put them on a web site. There are a number of small programs you can download for free or nearly free. What they do is turn each plain text letter into a code number representing that letter. It looks exactly that same on screen, and works exactly the same if someone 'clicks' on it to send you an e-mail, but it defeats the spammers' spiders which cannot read the code. Try: Natata Anti-Spam Encoder

Measure 4
Filter out spam. There are two methods to achieve this. One is to use what are called Bayesian filters. These are quite clever scripts that 'learn' to identify spam by 'recognising' words that typically appear in spam and words that appear in typical genuine e-mails. They automatically scan your incoming e-mail and sort it into "spam" and "not spam" (or more categories if you wish). You 'train' the script by correcting any e-mails that are placed in the wrong category. Very quickly and very easily they can achieve accuracy in the ninety-ninth percent.

The drawback, and there are always drawbacks, is that even at almost 100% accuracy, you are still going to lose a genuine e-mail into the junk folder now and again. If you want to try this method, a number of e-mail programs now have Bayseian filering built-in. The paid version of Eudora is a good example while POPFile is a pretty good stand-alone program.

The other approach is the challenge-response method. You can sign-up for this service on a number of web sites. Your e-mail is then routed through the service and if the sender isn't on your "white list", the sender is sent a challenge which they have to reply to. Spam is invariably sent out automatically, so even if the reply-to address was legitimate there won't be anybody there to respond to the challenge and you never get to see that spam. If the sender is genuine, they respond to the challenge and the e-mail is then cleared to be passed to you. They are also added to your "white list" so they don't get challenged again.

The minor drawback is the inconvenience you might be putting a prospective client or customer to. It largely depends on how informed you think they are as to whether you might be getting a new relationship off to a hesitant start.

DISCLAIMER: No responsibility will be accepted for any consequences arising from downloading and installing programs listed in these pages. We have no control over these programs which are supplied by third parties and brought to your attention in good faith. It is your responsibility to ensure you follow the instructions they provide carefully and properly. If you are not fully confident in what you are doing we suggest you seek qualified assistance and do not proceed.

 
canter-02 Canter and Siegel Spam consumes vast resources on the Internet which necessarily ends up costing us more than it ought. It can also overwhelm your mailbox and make reading legitimate email hard work. It means that what should be one of the greatest social and business innovations of the 20th century is in danger of becoming distrusted and unreliable.

History records that the first ever spam was sent, ironically enough for an activity of dubious legality, by a firm of lawyers on 12 April 1994. Arizona-based Canter and Siegel, a husband and wife business, had their email access cancelled and immediately became the stuff of Internet lore.

Spam takes its name from a Monty Python sketch set in a cafe in which every dish comprises multiple portions of Spam, see right. The Hormel Corporation, which still makes and sells SPAM Luncheon Meat, takes a philosophical view of it all. As long as you don't spell it with a capital "S" and you don't use a picture of a tin of SPAM Luncheon Meat to represent spam, you're okay. They have a page about it here: SPAM and the Internet.

The reason we have so much spam is that it is virtually free to send and, incredibly, it works because enough people are trusting enough to buy the products being offered to make it worth the hassle. In this era of identity theft it is amazing that people still entrust their credit card details to someone who knowlingly uses deceitful means to get their message out. Because of that, we are all burdened by spam.

The Internet industry has been working hard to eradicate this abuse for many years now. The reaction to Canter and Siegel was immediate and the same vigour is applied to spammers today, spammers are hunted down with a vengeance. However, that effort is diluted by ill thought-out laws attempting to stamp it out.

A good example is illustrated in the text box to the left. A US Senator by the name of Frank Murkowski tried to pass a law that outlawed spam. But, at the same time, the bill attempted to define what was spam and what was not. One stipulation was that it would not be spam if there were a way of unsubscribing from the spammers list. It didn't stipulate that attempting to unsubscribe had to work, merely that a means had to be offered. How it never occurred to the good Senators that spammers would merely include the relevant text but never honour any requests is impossible to say. But that's not the whole story.

The attempt to pass this law failed. But to this day, some spammers include the wording anyway in order to make their spam seem legitimate and to fend off attempts to have them stopped.

Another example comes from the UK where laws were passed that defined spam as being to a person's private email address. This sets out in law the concept that spam to a business email address is not, legally, spam. Another idea is that the first unsolicited email is not spam, but that subsequent ones sent without consent would be. Now, how many spams do you ever see that come from the same address? Given that spammers routinely fake "From" addresses this cannot do anything to solve the problem. On the contrary, it gives spammers more legal ammunition to foil moves to shut them down.

The final word should go to the US Supreme Court who in their decision in Rowan v. U.S. Post Office, ruled:

"Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit. We categorically reject the argument that a vendor has a right under the Constitution or otherwise to send unwanted material into the home of another. If this prohibition operates to impede the flow of even valid ideas, the answer is that no one has a right to press even 'good' ideas on an unwilling recipient. The asserted right of a mailer, we repeat, stops at the outer boundary of every person's domain."
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The famous Monty Python "Vikings" sketch.

Man: You sit here, dear.
Wife: All right.
Man: Morning!
Waitress: Morning!
Man: Well, what've you got?
Waitress: Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam;
Vikings: Spam spam spam spam...
Waitress: ...spam spam spam egg and spam; spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam...
Vikings: Spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!
Waitress: ...or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam.
Wife: Have you got anything without spam?
Waitress: Well, there's spam egg sausage and spam, that's not got much spam in it.
Wife: I don't want ANY spam!
Man: Why can't she have egg bacon spam and sausage?
Wife: THAT'S got spam in it!
Man: Hasn't got as much spam in it as spam egg sausage and spam, has it?
Vikings: Spam spam spam spam
Wife: Could you do the egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam then?
Waitress: Eewwww!
Wife: What do you mean 'Eewwww'? I don't like spam!
Vikings: Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
Waitress: Shut up!
Vikings: Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
Waitress: Shut up! Bloody Vikings! You can't have egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam.
Wife: I don't like spam!
Man: Sshh, dear, don't cause a fuss. I'll have your spam. I love it. I'm having spam spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam and spam!
Vikings: Spam spam spam spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
Waitress: Shut up!! Baked beans are off.
Man: Well could I have her spam instead of the baked beans then?
Waitress: You mean spam spam spam spam spam spam...
Vikings: Spam spam spam spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam! Spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam. Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Spam spam spam spam!
capitol-02 The Capitol Building
website design - the best on the web Senator Murkowski
"DISCLAIMER:
This e-mail is sent in compliance with strict anti-abuse and NO SPAM regulations. Your address was collected as a result of either posting to a link, a free classified ad, or you have sent me an e-mail in the past. Under Bill S1618 TITLE III, passed by the 105th US Congress, this message cannot be considered SPAM as long as there is a way to be removed, paragraph (a) (c) of S. 1618."
justice-01 The US Supreme Court
As explained elsewhere, e-mail is often written in a chatty, informal manner but when it is received it appears as stark black and white with no hint of emotion or context. The judicious use of a few emoticons can go a long way to avoiding misunderstandings or causing unintended offence. It is far safer to put a smilie :-) after a comment you intend to be taken lightly than to lose a friend or spend time smoothing hurt feelings.

Emoticons

     
Writer...
(:-)
...is bald
|:-)
...has bushy eyebrows
:*)
...has got a cold
8-)
...wears glasses
:-)
...is happy
:-x
...sends a kiss
:-D
...is laughing out loud
:-|
...is stern-faced
|:]
...is Robocop
:-(
...is sad
O:-)
...is a saint
:-O
...is shocked
:-V
...is shouting
|-)
...is/was sleeping
:o)
...is stout
:O)
...is really stout
:-\
...is undecided
:-/
(or is it this way?)
:-[
...is a vampire
;-)
...is winking
      Acronyms

AFAIK
As Far As I Know
BFN
Bye For Now
BTDT
Been There, Done That
BTW
By The Way
EOD
End Of Discussion
FAQ
Frequently Asked Question
FITB
Fill In The Blank
FUBAR
Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition
FWIW
For What It's Worth
FYI
For Your Information
GD&R
Grin, Duck and Run
GMTA
Great Minds Think Alike
HTH
Hope That Helps
IAC
In Any Case
IIRC
If I Recall Correctly
IMHO
In My Humble Opinion
IOW
In Other Words
IUD
Insert Usual Disclaimers
LOL
Laugh(ing) Out Loud
NBD
No Big Deal
OTOH
On The Other Hand
PBKAC
Problem (is) Between Keyboard And Chair
POV
Point Of View
ROFL
Roll On Floor Laughing
ROFLOL
Roll On Floor Laughing Out Loud
RTFI
Read The Flaming Instructions!
SOP
Standard Operational Procedure
TIA
Thanks In Advance
TLA
Three Letter Acronym
TPTB
The Powers That Be

DISCLAIMER: No responsibility will be accepted for any consequences arising from downloading and installing programs listed in these pages. We have no control over these programs which are supplied by third parties and brought to your attention in good faith. It is your responsibility to ensure you follow the instructions they provide carefully and properly. If you are not fully confident in what you are doing we suggest you seek qualified assistance and do not proceed.

 
Netiquette is an informal set of "Rules of the Road" for the Internet. Follow the rules and avoid incidents that may harm your business or lose you some friends. Here are some of the more important ones.

Reply!
If you receive an e-mail, always reply unless it would be silly to do so. The sender cannot know that you actually received it.

Don't Send Very Large Attachments Out Of The Blue
Although more people are on broadband, remember many are not. And while digital cameras take ever higher quality photos, the penalty is that file sizes are ever larger. Don't be tempted to send a series of images to someone without first checking with them.

Respect Privacy
Don't forward an e-mail you have received to someone outside your business without the permission of the sender unless it is reasonable to do so. Do not copy a posting on one List to another List without the express permission of the writer.

Respect Copyright
Just because you "found" something on the Internet does not mean you can use it freely. Copyright still belongs with the copyright holder, even if you used a search engine to find it. This applies equally to images as well as text!

Mind Your Language
Assume nothing about someone you are corresponding with for the first time, they might be highly offended even by mildly blue language.

DO NOT SHOUT
Typing whole sentences or even whole emails in upper case is surprisingly annoying to a lot of people who find it very uncomfortable to read.

Avoid Confrontation
Even the mildest forms of criticisms can come across in an e-mail as quite severe, remember, your correspondent is getting it in black and white.

Don't Jump To Conclusions
It is all too easy to make an assumption about why someone has done something - and get it wrong. If you're pointing out a mistake, do so without making out they're an idiot.

Do Not Edit Original Text
When you are replying to or forwarding an e-mail, never edit the original text, even to make helpful grammar or spelling corrections. However:

Do Delete Extraneous Text
When you are replying to a long e-mail or post, delete text you are not responding to. It makes it easier to understand your reply and follow a thread. However, do not delete so much that the context becomes unclear.

Do Not Quote Out Of Context
When quoting text, be very careful to retain the original meaning. It can cause endless arguments about what was meant and you might be accused of deliberately distorting the writer's meaning.

DISCLAIMER: No responsibility will be accepted for any consequences arising from downloading and installing programs listed in these pages. We have no control over these programs which are supplied by third parties and brought to your attention in good faith. It is your responsibility to ensure you follow the instructions they provide carefully and properly. If you are not fully confident in what you are doing we suggest you seek qualified assistance and do not proceed.

 
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Business correspondence
History could record e-mail as the greatest invention of the modern era for all the difference it might make to our lives. How much difference it will make remains to be seen, it is largely at the mercy of spam right now.

As the photo on the left suggests, correspondence in a previous era was carried out with formal letters sent through a typing pool. They contained all kinds of strained terminology: "Reference your esteemed communication of the 3rd inst." for example, or "I remain your humble and obedient servant." As if.

Modern communication is nowhere near as stilted. However, you should retain some degree of formality in e-mail with a new correspondent until the ice is broken, unwarranted familiarity can cause offence to some people. This can be a difficult point to remember as e-mail is by nature an informal medium, it's almost chatty the way you use it.

Some people adopt an abbreviated style almost like texting, and they don't bother about punctuation or spelling. While that's fine in your private correspondence, on lists it can annoy some people who find it hard to read or understand, and in a business context it could be seriously damaging to the image you wish to convey. Always capitalise letters that ought to be capitalised, in particular "I", and use full stops and commas where they belong.

E-mail is a notoriously easy medium for misunderstandings, it does not carry the inflections of voice that are so vital to conveying context. You might say something with a chuckle, but the same words printed on a screen are black and white and unemotional. Re-read what you have typed before you send it to see if there is any other possible interpretation of what you wrote. A judicous use of emoticons, or smilies, is highly recommended.

Explore your e-mail program, find out what it can do for you and make use of some of those features, especially to manage additional e-mail accounts and create folders for sorting and saving your e-mails. Make sure that you have a meaningful name in the "From" field - meaningful to people receiving your e-mail that is. Just having "John" or whatever is useless. Find out how to set up signature files as well, you can have several different ones and they can be very helpful to people receiving e-mail from you.

E-MAIL TIP 1 Create separate e-mail accounts for business and personal e-mails, if you change jobs you don't lose touch with all your friends! Only ever give your private e-mail address to close friends and family, and never let it appear on a web site or bulletin board where it might be picked up by spammers. See page on Anti-Spam Strategies.

E-MAIL TIP 2 Suppose you have e-mail going to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. sent on to your own e-mail account with btinternet.com or whoever. Many small businesses do that. However, edit the set-up to show the "Reply To" address as "This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." instead of "This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.". It looks so much more professional.

E-MAIL TIP 3 Find out how to create a "signature file" on your e-mail software. It is a piece of text automatically added to the end of every e-mail you type and send. Include your name and position, perhaps your company postal address and phone number, and a link to the company web site.

For Masonic use, create a separate signature file and put your Masonic rank and a list of all the lodges and orders of which you are a member, along with any web sites they may have.
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Rapid communication
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Family togetherness
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Battlefield resillience
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Personal relationships
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Simplicity of use
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Friendly debates
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Being understood

DISCLAIMER: No responsibility will be accepted for any consequences arising from downloading and installing programs listed in these pages. We have no control over these programs which are supplied by third parties and brought to your attention in good faith. It is your responsibility to ensure you follow the instructions they provide carefully and properly. If you are not fully confident in what you are doing we suggest you seek qualified assistance and do not proceed.

 

The other great hazard on the Internet are the scams. They are many and varied, and all intended to separate you from your money. In all cases, the con artist praises you for your honesty and integrity and says he only found you after extensive research, or you were specially recommended to him by an unnamed mutual friend. The truth is he hopes you are seriously lacking in common sense and he simply spammed half the planet at the same time.

The Nigerian Letter, or 419 Scam, or Advance Fee Fraud

Supposedly first seen in 1920, although not originally as an email of course. You receive an email purporting to be from someone related to some famous person who has recently been killed (and which you can verify by Googling for news about them) and saying they have inherited a lot of money, or are the executors of their estate, or whatever. They need your help because, would you believe it, there's some beaurocratic bungle and they need a foreigner to help them get the money out of the country and into a Swiss bank account. They promise you a share of the money concerned, usually many millions of dollars. What can go wrong? Well it starts off innocently enough, they want to meet you, will you come and visit them? No? Well will you send them the money for a flight and they'll come and see you. Then it's one thing after another, first they need to pay a bribe, then there's some solicitor's fees, and each time you are suckered into sending a little more money. And they keep going until you run out of money. It's called a 419 scam because Nigeria outlawed it years ago under Section 419.

The Lottery Scam

Ever won a lottery you didn't now you were in? No, of course you didn't. But you might well receive an email from abroad from someone purporting to be a solicitor or agent telling you that you have won a huge fortune on their national lottery, and for a small fee they will help you recover it. What can we say? It isn't ever true, it's another variation on the Advance Fee Fraud.

The National Representative Scam

You might receive an email from a legitimate-seeming foreign business offering you a position as their representative, or intermediary, or account manager, or exchange manager or something along those lines. There may even be the promise of an attractive salary, but usually the reward is a commission on the cheques from their "customers" you are to deposit into your bank account on their behalf. Sounds simple, you bank cheques and send them 95% of the face value. Not until weeks after you have started your new "job" does the bank give you the bad news - the cheques you have deposited are worthless and the funds you have forwarded cannot be recovered.

The Foreign Job Offer Scam

This is one where an employment agency tells you of undreamed of riches in foreign lands. They promise to find you a dream job, they will circulate your cv to all their high-powered contacts, and the best of it is, you only have to pay if you get a job offer. You can't lose. But guess what? You always get a job offer. The conmen set up a fancy-looking web site for a non-existent company which is the one that offers you this fabulous job at a salary you can't believe. You accept the job and pay the fee, a very happy new-recruit. Eventually you realise neither of them ever existed, hopefully before you've handed your notice in.

The Romance Scam

Similar to the two scams above, but with a more intimate angle! You might receive an email from a lonely-heart operating on her own behalf, or an offer from a dating agency or marriage bureau. The photos you are sent are stunning, they should be, they are of a model and used without her knowledge or consent. Once you have been duped into striking up a relationship via email, you find that "she" then runs into a variety of complications, such as needing medical treatment for which you are implored to send money.

Phishing

You will doubtless receive emails from a variety of banks and financial institutions, including PayPal, informing you of a problem with your account and requiring that you go to their web site and validate or confirm or reset the account or do something or other. Whatever it is, it requires you to enter your personal information including your 3-digit security code on the back of your credit card or your password for an on-line bank account. You ought to have noted that the URL of the website you end up at is not that of the institution the email claims to be from, but many do not bother to check. In any case, no banks ever send such an email.

The Spanish Prisoner

So called because it dates back as far as 1588 in its original form, that of a rich nobleman held prisoner by Philip II of Spain and whose release must be secured before the King realises who he is. Your job is to handle the ransom money. The modern version concerns legitimate goods held by corrupt customs officials (who know how valuable they are), or illegal goods held by honest customs officials (who do not know how valuable they are) or ordinary thieves just wanting an honest ransom. Your job is to pay the bribe or customs duty or ransom to secure their release upon which you will be handsomely rewarded.

DISCLAIMER: No responsibility will be accepted for any consequences arising from downloading and installing programs listed in these pages. We have no control over these programs which are supplied by third parties and brought to your attention in good faith. It is your responsibility to ensure you follow the instructions they provide carefully and properly. If you are not fully confident in what you are doing we suggest you seek qualified assistance and do not proceed.

 
The term "virus" is widely applied to programs that can infect your computer without your knowledge or consent. In fact there are several distinct categories only one of which is properly called a "virus", but this distinction is perhaps only of interest to techies. In addition to straight-forward viruses there are "Worms", "Trojan Horses" and "Spyware" amongst many others.

Viruses usually arrive as an e-mail attachment which the user inadvertently opens. Virus writers use some well-tried ploys to dupe users into doing this, despite frequent advice to be careful. They use plausible-sounding subject lines, for example, or the virus uses e-mail addresses from the infected machine to send itself to someone else, usually in the address book. That way, someone will receive an e-mail from someone they know with a subject line that dupes them into thinking it is "safe" to open it.

You should adopt a strict anti-virus policy:
  1. you should run - and keep up to date - a bespoke anti-virus program. See the panel on the right for some recommended suppliers.
  2. you should always be careful when opening an attachment. See Virus Tip 1 below for some cautions.
Because they tend to arrive mostly via e-mail some people tend to lump them together with spam, treat them as one problem and then get all confused when they read what appears to be conflicting information. Spam is a serious nuisance, but Viruses can cause damage to your computer system.

Worms can arrive as e-mail as well. They can propagate by sending our masses of e-mails with copies of the Worm attached, or by using the computer's own connection to the Internet to look for other vulnerable computers and infect them directly.

Trojan Horses, on the other hand, and some types of viruses, are generally downloaded from illicit web sites. Needless to say there are some web sites you should not visit and some types of files you should not download. If you think it may not be legal, the chances are there might be a nasty pay-off as well. Stick to web sites for legitimate organisations and you should be okay.

The way to protect yourself from Worms and Trojan Horses is by running a Firewall. This is a special program that prevents other unauthorised programs from accessing your computer while you are connected to the Internet, or any other network. Personal Firewalls are available stand-alone but are often bundled together with most versions of anti-virus programs for a better deal.

Spyware or Malware as it is sometimes known, is a special type of virus that monitors your use of your computer and sends that information to a third party. For example, it can monitor the ink levels in your desk-jet printer and when it gets low enough will pop-up a window to take you to a site that sells ink cartridges. Other forms can be downright dangerous and could steal your credit card numbers as you type them into a legitimate on-line shop. It then sends that data to a third party. Some useful sites are listed in the box to the right.

VIRUS TIP 1 Only open an attachment if it is from someone you know AND it is something you are expecting AND the subject description, the covering note and the file name all make sense. If in doubt CHECK with the sender.

VIRUS TIP 2 Update your anti-virus program before you download your e-mail for the first time each day. That way it will be as up-to-date as it can be in case there is a new-variant virus waiting for you to download.

VIRUS TIP 3 Keep your Windows software up-to-date. You need to eliminate all vulnerabilities on your computer in case a virus or something does get through, a lot of hackers are looking to exploit them. The Microsoft sites have a number of helpful pages:
  • Windows Live "One Care" - free on-line safety scan from Microsoft

  • Microsoft Update - checks most MS products

  • MS Office scanner - checks your version of Office for updates

  • Windows XP Live Update - checks your version of XP


  • Useful Resources - Virus Information

    CA Virus Information Centre

    Trend Micro

    Symantec
    website design - the best on the web

    Useful Resources - Anti-virus

    Symantec

    Computer Associates

    McAfee
    website design - the best on the web

    Useful Resources - Firewalls

    ZoneAlarm

    Norton

    McAfee
    website design - the best on the web

    Useful Resources - Spyware

    Lavasoft

    Spybot

    DISCLAIMER: No responsibility will be accepted for any consequences arising from downloading and installing programs listed in these pages. We have no control over these programs which are supplied by third parties and brought to your attention in good faith. It is your responsibility to ensure you follow the instructions they provide carefully and properly. If you are not fully confident in what you are doing we suggest you seek qualified assistance and do not proceed.

     

    Useful Information for Internet Users

    This section carries a selection of pages of interest to users of the Internet with the general aim of assisting you to stay safe while you surf.

    • Viruses and anti-virus software
    • Scams: Keep the conmen at bay
    • Email, guidance for users
    • Netiquette, the Rules of the Road
    • Emoticons, add feeling to raw text
    • Spam, where did it come from?
    • Some anti-spam strategies
    • A Potted History of the Internet