The Dangers of Broadband Internet
Broadband brings high speed surfing to the home, with the ability to download large files of music and videos.
But Broadband brings with it hidden dangers:-
No longer is your PC connected to the internet when you choose to dial up, but now, with many Internet Providers, your PC is connected to the internet 24×7. This means that unless you take care you become vulnerable to:-
Over 150,000 PC a month are being compromised and turned into Zombies by Hackers
Viruses – A Program loaded onto your PC without your knowledge or permission which causes damage or allows your PC to be remotely controlled and / or your personal information to be transferred to someone else.
Hacker – A person who attempts to remotely access your PC across the Internet. To achieve this they normally use a Virus Program to compromise your computer first. There are computers on the Internet constantly searching for PC’s they can compromise with a virus.
Typically if you connect a PC to Broadband Internet without Virus Protection or a Firewall (more about that later) it will be compromised within 15 Minutes by a remote control virus.
CAUTION AVOID – Special Offers that give a Free (Broadband) Modem.
Many ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) now offer a free Broadband Modem with their package. Beware this just connects your PC to the Internet but does not provide any protection from Hackers or Viruses.
Thousands of computers around the world connected by such ISP’s, are now under the control of Hackers and Spammers. Criminal syndicates, managing these hackers, use these compromised PC’s (known as Netbots), to their illegal ends. These Netbots send out Spam Emails with new virsuses to control more PC’s or Phishing Emails claiming to come from a financial institution but designed to steal funds from your bank account.
To prevent access from the Internet to your computer by hackers with compromising software, you need a firewall.
Firewalls are available in two versions. A Software Firewall which is a program that you load on your PC or a Hardware Firewall, an external box that sits between your PC and the Internet and often includes a broadband modem within it.
a) Hardware Firewall
This is the most secure option. It is not dependant on any Operating System security vulnerablities because it physically prevents all external access to your PC.
It acts like a security guard at the entrance to a secure office block. Anyone already within the premises is permitted to leave without any questions e.g. all outbound traffic to the internet travels from your PC to the internet unimpeded. However, any traffic wishing to access the premises first has to get past the security guard and unless they have the correct permission they will not be allowed in. Similariy all traffic from the internet is checked by the firewall to ensure that the information is what was requested by your PC. If it is not, it is blocked by the Firewall as an unauthorised attempt to compromise your computer. In this way Hackers are stopped from remotely connecting to your PC.
Hardware Firewalls are available from:-
Netgear, Dlink, Linksys and Buffalo among others.
b) Software Firewall
Similar to a Hardware Firewall, a Software Firewall stops remote access. However, with a software Firewall any hacking attempt is already taking place on your PC. If there is some security vulnerability within your Operating System which you have not fixed with an update, there is the potential that the hacker could compromise your computer by exploiting this flaw in the Operating System. So for real security it is recommended that you use an external Hardware Firewall.
Software Firewalls are available from:-
Windows XP (Service Pack 2) Includes a Software Firewall but be aware there have been flaws in this and you must keep up todate with microsoft Updates.
Antivirus Programs vendors like McAfee, Kaspersky and Norton offer Firewall Versions. Plus there are stand-alone firewall software products from Kerio and ZoneAlarm of Zone Labs.
Viruses are a constant plague with new ones being released most days. To ensure that your PC is not compromised or damaged by one of these viruses, it is necessary to have an up-to-date Anti-Virus Program running on your PC, in addition to having a Firewall.