Know your sender, know your caller, and know that they know you
Who are you?
We have recently begun receiving spam e-mail from – of all people – ourselves! Well, that’s at least what it says in the header of the e-mail. This has been a little puzzling, as we have neither Viagra nor low mortgage rates to sell. While the forging of header information is illegal in many states, it is easy to do and hard to police.
The danger of this is that if people see e-mail coming from us they may, not unreasonably, think it is from us. This is, of course, one of the ways certain viruses and worms work: They steal your address book and send out messages from your machine. In this case, this was not what was happening. It was merely spam.
Where are you calling?
We have issued prior warnings on camouflaged pay-per-call numbers. As an example, area codes in the Caribbean look just like American area codes, and use the same country code of 1. Some of these numbers because of the vagaries of international law, it is not required, in America, to identify itself as a pay-per-call area code. You might receive a voicemail, e-mail, or other communiqué with a message to call a number with an unknown area code.
According to one source, if they keep you on the line a few minutes, a call to an international pay-per-call number could cost you as much as $100.00! If you do fall for this scam, your local phone company will be of little assistance, simply because they won’t want to get involved in your dispute and will say they are only providing the billing for a foreign company and then refer you to that company which will argue they have done nothing wrong. Check with the operator before calling any number whose area code you don’t know.
Who knows whom you have called, and whom they have called?
Another issue in telephone calls is the fact that when you call someone, a record is kept of this. Why would you care any more about this than about other invasions of your privacy? Mostly you don’t, but keep in mind that very sophisticated software exists to make tenuous connections clear. As an example, in Colombia, where the bad guys have more money than the government, modern data mining software is used to locate police informers, who can then be killed. While the connections are so tenuous and fifth-hand that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, if they, er, acquire all the phone records of a country and put them into their large and expensive computer to be massaged using very sophisticated software by their highly-paid and highly-qualified staff, they can come up with some very interesting conclusions, which will more easily help them decide whom to kill. Where have you browsed?
By the same token, unless you use a proxy server to hide who you are, you will leave traces of where you have been on the web. Do you care who knows what web sites you have visited? Maybe yes, maybe no. But it is something you should know about.