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Computer Privacy Annoyances by Dan Tynan

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SPOOKS AND SNOOPS

G-Man Spam

The Annoyance:

I recently got an email purportedly from the FBI saying that my IP address “had been logged” and that I’d been caught illegally sharing files. Is this some idiot’s idea of a joke?

The Fix:

Yes, it’s a hoax. But it’s much worse than a joke, because some copies of this message contained a variant of the Sober worm. If you’ve gotten one of these, the FBI urges you to forward it to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (http://www.ifccfbi.gov/index.asp) and to delete the original. Of course, this doesn’t mean the FBI isn’t watching you—the feds are actively investigating file swappers and purveyors and consumers of child pornography, along with terrorists—but if they were, they wouldn’t send you an email warning you about it.

Are the Feds Tapping Your Phone?

The Annoyance:

Call me paranoid, but I swear the FBI is tapping my phone. How can I find out? Can I kill the tap by switching to a voice over IP phone (VoIP)?

The Fix:

It’s possible your line is bugged, but unless you’re a drug kingpin or a terrorist mastermind, it’s not very likely. If a private entity is tapping your phone—say your spouse or a business competitor hired someone to spy on you—you can ask the phone company to examine your line for illegal listening devices. But if the cops or the Feds have you wired, there’s no legal way to find out. Unlike in the movies, they don’t need to break into your home and install a bug in your phone—they can tap the line at the phone company’s central office, ...

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