Security on the Internet

July 1, 1993

Security on the Internet

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Security on the Internet

When you are connected to the Internet, you can connect with millions of other computers. The problem is, they can connect to your computer also. Unless you have some type of barrier program or firewall installed on your computer, you can leave your computer open to hacker attacks, trojans, viruses and offensive web-sites. With a high speed connection such as cable modem or DSL, your computer is connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, giving unlimited opportunity for others to access your computer.

Firewall programs act as filters that can allow or block connections or data transmissions on the Internet, protecting you from malicious content. The firewall program monitors everything that leaves or enters your computer while online, and, by using rules, determines whether or not to allow the information to be exchanged.

If you were looking at a web-site about dogs, there would be little reason for the site to look for confidential information such as credit card or phone numbers unless you were purchasing a product from the site. The firewall program would block this information until you gave it permission to send it.

Cookies are small files that a web-site places on your computer and are used to track how many times you visit a web-site or other information, such as e-mail addresses, that identifies you to their computer system. A firewall will allow you to block this information.

Another function that a firewall can offer is ad blocking. Banner ads, pop-up windows and other graphics slow down the loading of web pages. The firewall program can make your web-browsing faster by preventing these items from being loaded and displayed.

A firewall program will also create a log of your Internet activities, which can be helpful if you believe that some family member is abusing their Internet access.

Firewall programs are available from Symantec (Norton Internet Security), McAfee (Guarddog), and Network Ice (BlackIce Defender) and vary in price from $30-$80, depending on the features and level of protection. Some of the packages include an anti-virus program.

Zone Labs (www.zonelabs.com) offers a free firewall program called ZoneAlarm. To quote from their Web site “ZoneAlarm is essential for DSL and Cable modem users, providing rock-solid protection against Internet thieves, vandals and hackers–stopping them dead in their tracks. If you can’t be seen, you can’t be attacked! More than 6 million PC users have downloaded ZoneAlarm.”

ZoneAlarm and some of the other firewall programs have a feature that makes your computer appear invisible while you are online. When other computers search for computers that are online the firewall “stealths” your computer by ignoring requests from programs that attempt to access your computer through “backdoors” or other hacker methods.

As you spend more time online, or if you have a high-speed connection, it is important to protect yourself by having a firewall program running on your computer. There are hackers out there attempting to access your computer whenever you are connected to the Internet. With cable or DSL service, you are always connected; therefore, a firewall program is a necessity.

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