Sarah's 5 Easy-as-Pie Privacy Tips

1. Secure Instant Messaging

If you use AIM, have you ever noticed how some of your buddies have little lock icons to the left of their screenname? That means they've installed a free encryption certificate through AIMEncrypt. Once both parties have it, the conversation will be totally encrypted.

If you're not an AIM user, try Trillian Pro (128-bit encryption) or Hush Messenger (a whopping 2,048-bit encryption) for safe chatting.

2. Secure FTP transfer

If your server supports secure FTP transfer (make sure you check because some don't), then consider arming yourself with an FTP client called SecureFTP. I know you wouldn't upload or download anything embarrassing or anything, but still.

3. Text-Only Outlook

Unless you like spam, it's important that you make sure you set Outlook to display messages as text-only. When Outlook downloads an HTML message with embedded images, it often needs to send a request to grab the image data from the originating server. So even if you delete a message right away, you've let the sender know there's a real person on the end of your address.

In Outlook 2003- Tools/Options/Email Options Tab/check "read all standard mail in plain-text"
In Outlook Express- Tools/Options/Read tab/check "read all messages in plain-text"

4. Secure Email Clients

Pocomail- free trial, $35 to buy - comprehensive virus protection, spam filtering, and organization options

Cryptomail- open source encrypted email software- free, but accepting donations

Hushmail-        encrypted web-based email (also a new plugin for Outlook)  free, $30 for premium edition

5. Password-protect MS Office files

Keep all the snoops around your home or office out of your MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files.

From within Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, click on the Tools menu and select Options.
Click on the Security tab.
Under "File encryption options for this document," type in a password.
Click OK.
When you try to open the document, you get a password.

Easy stuff folks! Hope you're feeling just a little bit safer now. Unless of course you already knew about everything I just mentioned, in which case you are very, very cool and deserve a treat.