Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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June 2001, Week 3 -- Who Goes There?

 

   Did you know you can send an e-mail to anyone and have it appear to come from someone else?

 

 
 

   It can be an e-mail from your boss, a co-worker, a member of the family or your bank. Or is it? How do you know? You can also send faxes and beeper messages that appear to be from someone else. I am not inclined to scare stories but there is a problem here, and it is likely to get worse.

   Web sites like www.sendfakemail.com  and www.anonymizer.com allow you to send anonymous e-mail messages. If you put someone else's e-mail address in the "from" line, it will of course appear to be an e-mail from them. There is a legitimate purpose to anonymous e-mail or web browsing, and that is to stay off mailing lists. There are other purposes not difficult to imagine.

 

   Why is he telling us this, you might ask. 'He's just making it easier for hackers to mess up our lives.' Believe me, the hackers already know; it's time you knew. These are no dark secrets. A search on ZDnet, www.zdnet.com, turned up a hundred programs for sending e-mail and other messages under someone else's name. There were also a hundred programs for encrypting your own messages, which is the best defense.

 Secure Desk Outlook 
Secure Desk Outlook

 

 

   There are two types of encryption widely used today: SMIME and PGP. What they stand for doesn't matter much to the user but just for your information, SMIME stands for "Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions" and PGP stands for "Pretty Good Privacy" (no, I'm not kidding). All the encryption programs available through shareware use one or the other of the two, but we found another site that lets you use both. That's www.biodata.com, a German company that provides file encryption and other services.

   While Biodata is in business to serve corporate clients, they make a single user version of their encryption program available free to individuals. You can download it by going to their site and clicking on "Biodata Secure Desk." Then click on "Download Evaluation Version." It also creates digital signatures, which guarantee the authenticity of the sender. Businesses can get a more complete version for $50-$90 per user.

   The basic form of encryption involves a public key and a private key. The Biodata software creates both. Your private key is a sequence of numbers and letters several thousand digits long. Decoding such a string would take the most powerful computers in the world several centuries.

 

   Only your private key can decode a message sent using the public key. Where do they get that? You can send them the public key sequence in an open e-mail and you can also register it for all the world to see at sites like www.keyserver.com; there's no charge. What's the point if anyone can see it? Well, messages encoded by your public key can only be unlocked by your private key, and no one can see that. For businesses I would think it's almost a necessary precaution.

 

Summer travel

   DeLorme's version 7 of their "Map 'n' Go" travel CD carries the endorsement of AAA, the national auto club, and covers more detail than ever. The $30 Windows program can be upgraded for use with GPS (global positioning systems) units for another $40. Web: www.delorme.com; phone: 207-846-7000.

   There are turn by turn driving directions covering more than one million miles of road through Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. You can look up lodging by location and/or price and also find a 24-hour food stores, gas stations and ATMs (automatic teller machines). There are 66,000 touring destinations described.

 

   An interesting new feature is aimed at RV (recreational vehicle) owners. There are more than nine million camping vehicles in North America and Map 'n' Go lists camps and parks where these can hook up to services, and then additional WalMart and Sam's Club stores and Flying J Travel Plazas. Did you know these last allow RVs to park overnight on their grounds at no charge? I did not.

 

Internuts

-- www.janes.monster.com  "Jane's" (All the world's ships, All the world's aircraft, etc.) has joined with the huge hi-tech jobs database "Monster.com" to offer lists of jobs in the defense and aerospace industries. This is the place for that rocket to the moon.

-- www.onlineconversion.com  Big site, very fast. Converts pounds to kilograms, inches to centimeters, etc. Just about every kind of conversion table is available here, including those covering fairly obscure measurements, like joules to kilocalories and how old you would be in dog years. Find out what day of the week you were born.

 

-- www.everyrule.com  Rules for all kinds of games: cards (over 300 card games), casino, board games, sports and TV game shows.

 

-- www.powerreporting.com  Supposed to be tools for journalists but would be useful for anyone. Offers facts and general information that fit major "beats," like business, education, science, etc. Also offers tools that used to be seldom seen outside the press and police, like reverse phone directories: if you know someone's phone number, it gives you their address; it can also give you the phone numbers of other people who live at that address if it's an apartment building.

 

   NOTE: Readers can search more than four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com  or bobschwab@aol.com.

 

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