- Common Settings
Anyone using a broadband Internet connection should be aware of the risks and hazards of having an always-on Internet connection. You may not realize it, but your computer is open to hackers and prying eyes as long as it is turned on if you have a high-speed Internet connection.
Should I be worried about my computers security?
In one word, yes. Security of your system means that it will not be used to hack/attack other people's computer, spread viruses, or inadvertently share pirated content. It also means that your credit card information and any other personal information on your computer stays safe. Think of computer security in this way - would you leave your house unlocked all day, every day, even if you were out of town? Most people would answer no. If you wouldn't leave your house unprotected like that, why would you leave your computer vulnerable to attack or spying? Most people's computers contain sensitive information in the form of personal emails, and possibly credit card numbers left over from online purchases. With this in mind, most people would want this information under lock and key. Read on about how to protect your computer on the Internet.
Home PC's which are the only computer connected to the Internet
Personal firewalls like McAffe firewall, Zonealarm, or BlackIce Defender are a good start. These programs block any attempts to communicate with your computer that were not initiated by the user. This can include hacking attempts, some popup ads, worms, and a variety of other things that you don't want on your computer. The best thing about these programs though, is that they allow you to identify the address of the person attempting to gain access to your computer. This allows you to contact our abuse department and report them, as many attacks are simply other users like you, who accidentally got infected with a virus.
Another way to protect your computer is to make sure it is always up-to-date with the latest security patches from Microsoft. Security holes exist in every Operating System, and most manufacturers provide intermittent updates. The latest security issues that you've probably heard about (MS Blaster, Welchia) have been related to security updates. In both cases, the patches were released a month before the worms hit the Internet. Anyone that had patched their systems before that would not have been vulnerable. This is another example of how something small can save you a lot of hassle.
Home PC's with multiple systems connected to a Hub
A hub is a simple sharing device that allows several computers to access the Internet at once. It is not intelligent, and functions identically to having a single computer on the Internet. This may or may not work with all high-speed services. All of the precautions listed for single computers need to be taken into consideration if you are sharing your Internet connection with a hub.
Home PC's with multiple systems connected to a Router
A router is an intelligent piece of hardware that allows multiple systems to connect to the Internet at once. Many routers have a built-in firewall. This will normally protect your computer from most attacks, but you still need to take care to keep your computer up-to-date with the latest security patches and virus software.
Most routers, as soon as you purchase them, need what is called a "firmware upgrade". This is just a simple piece of software, normally downloaded from the manufacturer, that enables new features or patches security risks. If you get a router, or have a router, it is suggested that you go to the manufacturers website to check for updated firmware on a regular basis.
Another thing becoming prevalent on routers is the ability for wireless connectivity. This is both good and bad. It is good because it allows you to connect your computers to the Internet without having to run wires to them. It is bad because you can't control how far the signal goes. If you have a router with wireless access, it is suggested that you set the router to only allow connections from computers you have told it to allow using WEP and MAC address filtering. This prevents people from so-called "war driving", or getting free access to your Internet connection. A good resource for help with this is Broadband reports.