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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Be Smart, Be Safe, But Don't be Left Behind!
Protect Your Privacy Online

Question Categories:[General][Chat / IM][List Services][Web Sites][Email]

Question Answer

Can other people access my computer while I'm on the computer?
  • Yes.
  • Especially on wireless or cable connections.
  • Always use a firewall which blocks Internet access to your computer.
  • (Configure your wireless modem settings with a password (in the modem instructions) helps limit someone from using your modem )
Why does my home page on the browser default to a porn site (or a site I don't want)?
  • If you clicked a link on a web site it could have caused that web site to become bookmarked, or be added to your favorites, or to become your home page.
  • Clicking "Ok" on a pop up may cause a certain web site to become your home page.
  • Some viruses will change your home page to a web site of it's choice, this is called Hijacking your browser.
Equifax showed I had loans I'd never applied for how did that happen.
  • See information in Email Safety (left side margin) about Phishing, and Keylogging.
  • To contact Equifax see External Resources page
How confidential are network systems and individuals who have authority to view the computer?
  • Nothing is absolutely confidential via the Internet, including email.
  • Servers or computers that you connect to to use the Internet may log your email, Internet activity, etc. Company servers are often required by law to keep these logs for indefinite periods.
  • You have rights under the Canadian Privacy Act to know what information is collected about you. (See Privacy Rights page)
  • Systems are only as good as the company's privacy policy. Find out what your workplace policies are.
  • Your personal information could still be accessed illegally, divulge only what is necessary.
Can my employer track my Internet activity at work? Do they have a right to do that.
  • This is covered under the Canadian Privacy Act. If a company collects Internet activity it must follow strict rules, and it must also allow you access to see the information it collects on you. (See the Privacy Rights page)
Can my spouse track my Internet activity or what I do on the computer?
  • Your spouse can look at different files on your computer and from those possibly see what you have been doing.
  • Your spouse may use a keylogger / keystroke type program that would record all your key strokes and mouse clicks. (This could be a similar program to what "crackers" install through email).>
  • If you are concerned about your safety or privacy, use a computer at the library or one that your partner will not have access to.
  • (See External Resources - Domestic Violence )
How can I keep my abuser from seeing what I do on the computer?
  • Use a public computer.
  • Clean out your browser's history, cache, cookies, and the temporary Internet files. That is still no guarantee they won't find some other file indicating what you've done on the computer. There are also programs that will restore deleted files.
  • Use 3rd party software to clean your computer, but the abuser may wonder why you are doing that?
  • Do not save documents to the computer if they are sensitive, save them to a floppy disk that you keep in a secure place.
  • (See External Resources page)
Can my location be tracked even if I don't give a physical address?
  • Yes, there are programs that can find your location through the Internet Protocol (IP) number in the header of your email messages.
  • Other programs can trace the route of your Internet connection back to the city you are in.
What does it mean if someone is tracing my Internet Service Provider (ISP)?
  • They have a program that can tell who your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is and from there narrow down your geographical location (city, province, etc.).
  • If you don't want your ISP traced you can use programs such as the Anonymizer.
How can people locate me?
Some examples of how:
  • There are several programs that can trace IP numbers associated with your Internet activity
  • There are databases created now with names and addresses, some are based on telephone book listings or directories
  • Search engines may find documents that make reference to you, your location, your work place
What are cookies, what do they do?
  • Cookies are small programs put on your computer to trace your Internet history.
  • (See Web Site Safety page - Browser Settings )
What is a clear gif or web bug?
  • Clear gifs and web bugs are the same they are small undetectable programs embedded in HTML that install other tracking programs on to your computer. Usually they are used in marketing campaigns to record your Internet activity but they can also be used maliciously.
  • See Email Safety page and External Resources page to find out more.
I get a pop up window on the computer that says I have data mining viruses on my computer what should I do?
  • Do not click "Ok" or "Cancel". Try to shut the pop up by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete (all together) and then selecting the pop up and pressing End Task. Run a Virus scan and a Spyware locater program to find and delete that file.
  • Another way of closing a window without clicking on anything is pressing Alt+F4 at the same time.
  • See the information on Phishing in the left hand menu under Email Privacy.
Can other people besides me retrieve my password?
  • Your passwords are often located somewhere on the computer and therefore could be retrieved by someone who has access to your computer.
  • Always make sure that your password is not saved on the computer,
  • Make sure your password is not saved for a specific web site. For example on yahoo, hotmail, web sites do not click the option to "remember password". You will have to enter it in each time you want to access your web based email.
  • Make sure you LOG OUT of ALL web sites that are password protected, someone could access the site from your computer and change your password.
How was my dial-up kidnapped so I had to pay long distance charges?
  • Auto-dial programs are programs inadvertently downloaded to your computer that take over your modem.
    • Make sure you disconnect from the Internet when not online. This includes ADSL or Cable DSL users too.
    • Typically loaded through an ActiveX script, so you should make sure your browser is set to reject ActiveX script or at least warn you if an ActiveX script attempts to run.
    • Illegal auto-dial programs can be reported on the RECOL web site or by phone to Phone Busters 888-495-8501
  • 900 number scams - 900 numbers always cause the caller to be charged for making the call.
  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is - scams that offer free Internet service.
  • Trojan Virus changes your dial up access number.
  • (See RCMP Fact sheet on Auto-dial programs)
How was my computer hacked into?
  • Backdoor Viruses
  • Open ports
  • Unsecured passwords and usernames
  • Microsoft Vulnerabilities
Chat / Instant Messaging (IM)
Why did my daughter start receiving unwanted emails after going into a chat room?
  • She may have put her email address on her profile and someone saw it.
  • She may have told someone else in the chat room her email, but everyone saw the message.
When am I safe to give my personal information?
  • Never give your personal information in a chat room, anyone in the room can see it.
  • To become more informed also see the Chat Safety page and the Web Site Safety page
How safe is online dating?
  • Online dating is not very safe. There is always the chance that someone is being dishonest, and our trust defenses usually go down with time.
  • To become more informed also see the Chat Safety page and the Web Site Safety page
Is it safe to chat with strange people?
  • It is only safe if you do not give any personal information.
  • To become more informed also see the Chat Safety page and the Web Site Safety page
Is Instant Messaging safer than Chat Rooms?
  • Instant messaging is only seen by you and the other people you are messaging with. That still does not mean they are who they say they are
  • People can Instant Message you without knowing who you are
  •   become more informed also see the Chat Safety page and the Web Site Safety page
When I was chatting with my sister in Instant Messaging someone tapped into her window and was talking to her. How could that happen?
  • It would depend on the Instant Messaging program she was using. There are programs now such as GAIM and Trillium that allow all of the IM programs to be combined in one window. In GAIM if you are chatting individually with several people you have one chat window with a different tab for each person. It is also possible to conference with more than two people in some of the programs.
Who else is listening?
  • In chat rooms everyone can see what everyone else types unless there is an "ignore option". Also in chat the dialogue is usually logged by an administrator program in the background and is available to the administrators and owners of the site.
  • In IM each user has the ability to log their chats.
  • Anything that happens on the Internet is recorded somewhere. Retrieving information though can take more time than is affordable.
  • Some information may only be held for a short time, other information may be logged indefinitely.
  •   become more informed also see the Chat Safety page and the Web Site Safety page
In government consultations what data is being collected how will it be used?
  • All information that is transmitted via email or the Internet can be collected.
  • It would depend on the privacy policy of the consultation, and department.
  • The Canadian Privacy Act gives you the right to know any information that is collected about you.
When I was playing games and chatting how could someone follow me from game to game?
  • Often when you play games you sign up or register and get a nickname. Game sites may have an option to find specific nicknames on it's site because some people like to play against people they know. Sometimes instead of nicknames your IP will be traced. If you are playing a game online your IP is used to track your play and make the game interactive.
  • To become more informed also see the Chat Safety page and the Web Site Safety page
What do I do about unwanted contact in chat rooms?
  • Many chat sites have monitors, or at the least a contact email where your can report abuse.
  • Report predators to the RCMP. Also report stalking, harassment, Internet fraud, physical threats, hate crimes, hacking, any illegal activity. (Media Awareness Network)
  • In Canada you can report the online sexual exploitation of children at
  • You would have to provide the date, time, the specific chat room if there is more than one, the nicknames of the person or people involved, the names of some of the other people in the room.
  • To become more informed also see the Chat Safety page and the Web Site Safety page
List Services
A list server (mailing list server) is a program that handles subscription requests for a mailing list and distributes new messages, newsletters, or other postings from the list's members to the entire list of subscribers as they occur or are scheduled.
Can people infiltrate a list service?
  • Yes. Some list services allow anyone to be added. others may have a registration process. Even a registration process will not stop someone who is going to disguise the truth.
How can I be safe using a list service?
  • Don't give out any personal and identifying information in email on a list service.
Why can't you surf list services?
  • List services are communications through email that goes to each members mailbox. To be able to surf list services you would have to be able to access other people mailbox!
  • Some list services do publish their messages for public viewing. (See wikipedia information about Deja News)
Web Sites
Why am I receiving pop ups from porn sites?
  • This is malware... where a web site has set a cookie or clear gif that triggers these pop ups to occur.
  • If you surfed across a porn site the malware may have been set.
  • If you surfed a site affiliated with the porn site malware may have been set.
  • If you received Porn Spam and looked at it malware may have been set.
  • You may have clicked on a button that set the malware.
  •   become more informed also see the the Web Site Safety page
How can I stop getting pop ups?
Why does the browser now start with a porn site?
  • It is possible to reset the "home page" or "start up page" of a browser by clicking on a link in a web site.
  • Some web sites are affiliated with porn sites and although you didn't visit a porn site you browsers "start page" may be reset to a porn site.
  • Porn sites are known for pop ups ... clicking on a button in pop up to close the window may reset your "start page" and may set malware on your computer.
  •   become more informed and to reset your "start page" see the the Web Site Safety page and Browser Settings).
Why does my search engine default to a porn site if I "google" women?
  • If you mean why do porn sites come up when you google women it is probably because when someone is looking for porn they include the word "women" in their search and this becomes associated with porn.
  • In many search engines if you include a "minus sign", or "not" in front of a word that you don't want included it wont include that word in the search. For example: -porn, or, not porn or -xxx or not xxx
  • In some search engines you have the option to search safely, for example in Google you can click on "Preferences" and then select Safe Search.
    • Google is a site that will keep track of your search and surfing history. Although it is a popular search engine site it is not one that I personally recommend as it is known for gathering data without informing you, and may invade personal privacy. I prefer, Alta Vista, orYahoo, though they also gather data.
What are the little boxes that come up saying, "You are about to submit information to a site that isn't secure."?
  • These are Secure Socket Layer (SSL) alerts to let you know security status of the site you are submitting information to.
  • The alerts may say:
    • Loading a page that supports encryption
    • Loading a page that supports low grade encryption
    • Leaving a page that supports encryption
    • Sending form data from an un-encrypted page to an un-encrypted page
    • Viewing a page with   encrypted/encrypted mix
How safe is online banking?
  • You should only share financial information if you really are on the web site of the bank, confirm the URL with the business before you share credit card or other sensitive information.
  • Check to make sure is has an unbroken lock or unbroken key in a corner of the browser window.
  • Check to see if the web address of the page you are sharing the information shows https://
  • To become more informed also see the the Web Site Safety page - Browser Settings). 
How safe is it to use credit cards online?
  • You should only share financial information if you really are on the web site of the business, confirm the URL with the business before you share credit card or other sensitive information.
  • Check to make sure is has an unbroken lock or unbroken key in a corner of the browser window.
  • Check to see if the web address of the page you are sharing the information shows https://
  • To become more informed also see the the Web Site Safety page and Browser Settings). 
How safe is ordering online or online billing?
  • See the answers above.
When am I safe to give my personal information? (see also Chat)
  • Protect your privacy. Only give out personal information if you have to. You never know who is looking at the information you give.
  • To become more informed also see the Chat Privacy page, the the Web Site Safety page and Browser Settings). 
How much information do I have to give to sign up for something?
  • Only give as much information as you feel is necessary. For example if you are ordering something you will need to give your mailing address.
    If you are registering for a free email such as yahoo or hotmail you may want to give generic information.
  • To become more informed also see the Chat Privacy page, the the Web Site Safety page and Browser Settings).
How can I tell if a web site is secure?
  • Generally if a web site is secure it will show https:// in the location bar.
  • There will be an unbroken key or a closed padlock in the top or bottom corner of your browser window.
  • A secure site doesn't mean that it isn't a Phishing site. (See Phishing under Email Safety)
If a site guarantees that it is secure, or safe is that good enough?
  • No, see the comment above.
  • If a site is set up for a Phishing scheme it will look like a legitimate site but it will be collecting data for illegal purposes like identity theft
  • Phone the organization to confirm their web address (URL)
How safe is online dating? (see also Chat)
  • You must take the same precautions with online dating that you would for Chat. (See the Chat Safety page)
Who looks at the information that is gathered when I access a web site and have to register for it? Where is that information kept?
  • The administrator of the web site may look at the information that is gathered when you register to access a web. This information may be shared with in the organization that owns the web site. It may also be shared with 3rd parties. Read the web site Privacy Policy.
  • The information can be kept in a data base, or it may be deleted depending on why it is being collected in the first place.
  • An interesting web site to read about this is:
When I was playing games and chatting how could someone follow me from game to game? (see also Chat)
  • If you are playing a game online your IP is used to track your play and make the game interactive. There may be an option in the game site to follow certain players, there should also be an option to block or ignore certain players.
  • To become more informed also see the Chat Safety page and the Web Site Safety page
Who else is listening? (see also Chat)
Why can't you get out of some web sites unless you shut down?
  • Usually this is caused by a poorly designed web site.
Hotmail says it will not remember my password is that true?
  • If you don't click on the option to "remember password" the web site will not set a cookie for your password.
  • If you have your browser set to remember passwords it may still seem like the hotmail password is remembered.
  • To become more informed also see the Browser Settings page and the Web Site Safety page
How do I stop Hotmail solicitation?
  • When you are signed into hotmail, or yahoo, there should be a place to configure options or preferences. You should be able to unclick any marketing that is offered.
  • You may set your Junk Mail options to high.
Someone's picture was posted on a web site to be used in a negative way. What can be done?
  • The same laws apply whether it is online or not. If libel or slander has occurred legal action may be taken.
Information I provided was edited to show a negative and different perspective and posted on a web site. What should I do?
Email falls under copyright information and can't be reproduced without your permission. If incorrect information was attributed to you there may be liability issues.
How was I redirected to a site I didn't want to go to?

(Web site names for example are called domain names or domains.)
  • There is a way of programming a web page so it automatically redirects or send someone who lands on it to a different web site or web page.
  • Domains may be forwarded to point to a different domain
  • (If you are online click here to go to the Wikipedia explanation)
How can I stop my emails from being forwarded?
  • By asking that who ever receives your email doesn't forward it!
  • There
How can I stop my email address from being forwarded?
  • Ask people not to forward your email address unless you give them permission.
  • Educate people you know not to forward your email address.
Why am I receiving email from porn sites?
  • If the computer you are on was used to look at a porn sites (even accidentally) the porn site may have retrieved the default email address on your computer through a cookie.
  • Your email address may have been harvested and put into a data base shared with porn site owners.
How safe is it when I'm checking my email?
  • ?
Can someone else read my email messages?
  • Network administrators may
  • Anyone who has your password and username can access your email
  • If your email has been forwarded to other people it will be read
  • If someone else has access to your computer they will have access to your email. If they are experienced with computers they may even be able to read password protected email.
Can my emails be stored and retrieved later by someone else?
  • Yes, PoP3 and IMAP email is downloaded from a mail server onto your computer. It ends up as a file on your computer. These files can be saved on to a floppy or CD or just moved to a different folder, and read later. They could also be shared with anyone else.
  • Web mail may be visible as a web page in the cache of the computer it was viewed on so it could be saved, stored and read later.
  • Read the answer to the previous question.
How was my name and business email traced back to me personally?
  • Your business email may have a signature file associated with it that is sent with every email. If the signature file gives any indication of your name, phone number, or location you can be traced.
  • Most email accounts whether business or not will have a name that is sent with the email address. You would change this under the "user profile" of your email program.
  • Email has "header information" which contains the IP address of who sent the email. The IP address would give a rough geographical location of where the sender is.
When is it safe to open email attachments?
  • Only open email attachments if you are expecting the attachment and know what is in it.
  • Anti-virus programs can check email attachments, but may not catch the latest viruses if they haven't been programmed for them yet. Always get the latest updates for your Anti-virus program.
Can the police read my emails or monitor my Internet after I put in a complaint about them?
  • Yes, if there is a legal reason for them to do so.
  • You have a right to know what personal information is gathered about you.
  • (See the Privacy Rights page)
Why am I getting emails from unknown sources?
  • Never assume your email address is secret.
    • It may be forwarded in the body of an email
    • It may be listed in an email directory
    • It may be harvested by cookies and shared with 3rd parties (marketing)
What is spam?
  • Spam in the most general of terms is unasked for email.
  • Specifically it is usually email sent to groups of emails addresses for the purpose of marketing or selling a product
What should I do if I get email disguised as a bill?
  • Online you should go to (Report Economic Crime Online)and report it to them.
  • See Phishing on the Email page
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