COMPUTER SECURITY

Computer Security is extremely important now days what with hackers, vandal, etc. who frequent the internet. Fortunately there are many programs available that help protect your computer from attacks by these people. I will discuss several that I use but these are not the only program available.

Background - When you log into the internet you are assigned an IP (Internet Protocol) number, e.g. 216.210.171.99. The first two sets of numbers, 216.210, represent your Internet Service Provider's address, and the last two sets represent you. These last two are either dynamic or static. Dynamic means that each time you log into your ISP, generally through a dial-up connect, you are assigned a different set of these two sets of numbers. Static means you will have the same two sets each time and are generally associated with either a cable on DSL connection. To see what you current IP number is use: START > RUN > winipcfg.


First Line Of Defense

Anti-Virus
First it is absolutely critical that you install and use an anti-virus software package. There are many around such as McAfee and Norton. Get at least one such program and many people install two!

You can get most Anti-Virus (AV) programs online but if you already have certain viruses infecting your PC you may not be able to install them or even a CD version. Check with Symantec.com for latest AV and problems installing their product.

You can check for viruses ONLINE at one of these places:

Firewall
A firewall should protect your PC for others using your PC. I highly recommend the free firewall, ZoneAlarm.


The main threats to your computer are:

All people who use the internet have an INTERNET PROTOCAL (IP) number assigned to them when they log on the web. This number has four sets of digits, e.g. 216.290.23.110. The first two sets of numbers tell what server they are logged into and the second two sets of number identify the user on that server. People who dial in to their ISP (Internet Service Provider) will always have the same first two sets of numbers but the last two sets will change each time they log on the net. A person who has a cable connection, which is always on, will have the same four set of numbers all the time.

You can learn where an IP is by using the servicing provided by WHOIS.

There are several ways you can protect yourself, two of which are:

For a complete list of Free and For-Pay anonymizers go to WEBVEIL.COM.

These sites will show you how to surf the web so no one can learn information about you from your computer. I recommend that you investigate both sites!

COOKIES
Cookies can be stored on your PC's hard drive without you knowing it or without your authorization. If you are worried about cookies, I urge you to visit
CookieCentral.Com to find out everything about cookies.

EMAIL
One of the main threats to your computer is your email. Most attacks come via email and may or may not be an EXE file attached to the email. As a general rule of thumb, I never open any attachment to an email from anyone I don't know and even if I know them I generally don't open an attachment. Why? Because I once had a virus that got into my computer and I had to go through the entire process of reformatting my hard drive and re-installing all my programs and data files, which I did have backed up on zip disks. By the way, it is a good idea to periodically backup your programs and data to either a floppy, zip disk, or a CD-RW (read/write).

Perhaps the best method to protect against attacks via email is by the installation of security software such as the anti-virus software written by Norton - Symantec.com and McAfee. Norton costs about $50 and can be purchased online or picked up at most computer stores. The same with McAfee, which costs about $20/annually. Both these AVs are well worth the expense as they can check your hard drive for known viruses as well as checking incoming email and downloads (more on downloads later on). In addition, most anti-virus programs can automatically update themselves online for new releases on the latest viruses. Please note: there is no guarantee that any software program will catch 100% of the viruses that are "out there". In fact, many people use more than one anti-virus program to increase the probability that a virus will be "caught'.

RECOMMENDATION:

DOWNLOADS
This is a "no brainer"! You simply must not download files from any place except recognized clean sites such as
download.com, Netscape, Microsoft, etc. Any downloads from site such as these are considered safe and virus free. So, if the site is not a major "player" on the web, don't download from it, especially if it is just a person's personal site. In other words, don't trust anyone for a download except the major well-know sites.

HACKERS
Hackers are the worst of the threats to your computer. Now you may think, "With millions of personal computers attached to the web, why would anyone want to hack my computer?". The answer is simple, for the thrill of it!

How can hackers attach my computer? Again, the answer is simple, "They search the web for open ports.". What are ports? They are entrances to your computer that can be used by software to access your computer, generally for valid reasons. How many ports does my computer have? LOTS! - 65,535 to be exact. For a list of most of the ports please CLICK HERE.

How can you tell if your computer has "open" ports that a hacker can gain access to your computer? Easy, just go to Gibson Research or Privacy.Net and let them check to see which ports on your computer are "open". These are the ports that a hacker can access.

If your PC is not protected, a hacker can use your PC as a Zombie! A zombie is a PC that can be used to participate in a Denial Of Service Attack.

ZONEALARM
Fortunately there is free help available. It is the software program, ZONEALARM, provided by
ZONELABS. Please visit this site to find out exactly how to use the program and to download their free software. ZONEALARM will block all unauthorized attempts to access your computer's ports. In addition, ZONEALARM will let you know, when it is running, of any program ON YOUR COMPUTER that tries to access the internet. Why is this important? Because you may have a hacker's program already on your computer and it may be trying to send data back to the hacker's computer. So ZONELALARM tells you that a program is trying to access the internet and you can let it do or not. This graphic shows what programs I currently am letting access the internet:

Backweb is my McAfee Anti-Virus program and Wingate is my home network software. Fortunately, ZONEALARM has not found any hacker's software on my hard drive (crosses my fingers and knocks on wood!).

I have, in the past, installed and used this software with my Windows 98 Operating System. But when my wife and I purchased new PCs running Windows XP I found that ZoneAlarm rendered our network unusable. Therefore, I no longer have ZoneAlarm installed on your Windows XP PCs.

I was amazed when ZONEALARM began notifying me as to attempts to access my computer by various IP, Internet Protocol, locations.

WHOIS
There are two ways to find out information about a web page:

  1. IP Number - a four part number, e.g. 208.128.2321.90
    The IP is a number, e.g. 208.128.231.90, which is a server computer on the web. Every computer attached to the web has this IP. And yes, when you are connected to the web, your computer is assigned an IP. Generally your ISP, Internet Service Provider, has the main number, the 208.128 in the example above which happens to be the number assigned to my computer by my ISP, Carolina Online. NOTE: the last two sets of number, 231.90 is the identification of the computer attached to Carolina Online at that particular time and will change each time the computer is logged into the service. By the way, anyone can look up where an IP is and other information by using WHOIS. Here are the three sites that allow you to look up an IP (start with the North America site and if the IP is not there then go on to the Europe and Asian sites):

    WHOIS can be used to contact an ISP of someone that is bothering you. For example, if someone is emailing you with threats the email will generally have the sender's IP. You can see the entire email information by using the message's properties. In OutLook Express you would

    If you can find it you can use WHOIS to find out their ISP and notify them of the person's abuse. The listing of the IP number will generally have a contact email address.

  2. Domain Name - a web site name, e.g. www.yahoo.com.
    You can look up who owns a particular domain name, e.g. yahoo.com by going to BetterWhois.com. This will tell you if the domain name is taken, and if so, who owns it, where they are located, and more.