Computer Security and the Internet
How Secure is your Computer...

Computer Security Introduction
It used to be that you were pretty safe dialing up to the Internet either with a standard modem or something faster, however with today's technology and the ever increasing threat of computer viruses and worms that's not the case anymore.

Standard dial-ups are still pretty safe if you're running an up-to-date virus protection program, however an encounter last week reminded me of other threats that might be lurking as well. The VBS.Netlog worm is a good example (although harmless) of a virus/worm that can invade your system while online. Another virus that gained wide spread fame was the 911 Virus that invaded systems, formatted the hard drives (destroying any data on them) and even dialed 911 through the modem. Both of these worms or viruses spread through the Internet not via email but through accessible shared drives on computer connected to the Internet.

Windows 95/98/NT/2000 have built-in networking abilities making it easy to connect computers together to share files, printers, and other devices. However, many times when a home network is setup, file and printer sharing will   leave these computers open to attack from computer viruses and worms that propegate through this security breach.

To correct this breach in security, follow the steps below:

1) Open Control Panel and Double-click on Network
2) In the case of a Dial-up connection with a modem, find the TCP/IP protocol pointing to the Dial-Up Adapter and Click on Properties.
3) Click on  the Bindings tab, and UNCHECK the File and Printer Sharing option

For other devices such as cable modems and such, find the correct TCP/IP option pointing to the device and follow the procedure above to uncheck the File and Printer sharing capabilities of the device.

The change will take affect upon rebooting the computer. For a more through explanation of the dangers of File and Printer Sharing visit PC Help's page.

Connecting Via Modem or Cable/DSL is there a Difference in Security?

Connecting to the Internet via a modem is still pretty safe since your computer is only at risk while you are connected, but with Cable modems, DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines), and other high-speed connections you are connected to the Internet as long as the device like the cable modem is turned on. This means you could essentially be connected to the Internet and vulnerable to attack 24 hours a day with these fast connections to the Internet.

How Secure is My Computer?

The easiest way to find out if your particular computer is secure is to visit a great site by Gibson Research Corporation called Shields UP!. It may surprise you how much information can be extracted from your computer while online.

Click Here to Visit Shields UP!

How Can I Protect Myself from These Problems?

The easiest solution for protecting your computer from outside access by an intruder is by the use of a firewall. A firewall is a piece of software that isolates your computer from the Internet. It inspects each packet of data that enters or leaves your computer and determines whether is should be allowed to pass through or should be blocked.

Once a firewall is installed, your computer will seem almost invisible to the outside world, thus preventing worms or hackers from finding your computer and trying to gain entry into it. To read more about personal firewalls and their importance, visit Gibson Research's excellent article on the subject.

 

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