of Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology for Internet access is taking off. Finally,
there are reasonably priced, widely available, high-speed, permanent Internet connections
for home and business use.
Unfortunately, most DSL providers do not
explain the inherent security risks. This article describes DSL security problems and
provides some simple, inexpensive solutions to those problems.
Every stand-alone computer and network with a full-time Internet
connection is at risk. (Dial-up users dont have a problem because they spend
relatively little time on-line and because they generally receive a new Internet address
every time they log on.)
Older full-time connection technologies, such as ISDN and T-1, raise
the same risks as DSL. However, because these technologies are more expensive, they
typically have been used by firms that have Information Technology staff available to
ensure that sufficient protection has been put in place.
DSL security problems thus end up falling on individuals and
businesses that have stand-alone computers and small networks the so-called small
office/home office (SOHO) market.
You probably are not storing credit card numbers, inter-bank
financial transactions or military secrets on your computer system, so we can assume that
hackers will not actively seek you out. Nevertheless, you are at risk.
Hackers often use software that sequentially runs through all
possible Internet addresses, learning which addresses are in use. When they encounter such
an address, they snoop around to see what they can find.
The bottom line: If you have a DSL connection, it is almost
guaranteed that hackers eventually will find you. If you leave your electronic front door
open, you are inviting the hackers to come in, look around, take what they want and trash
What to do
You dont have to be a technical genius, and you dont have
to spend thousands of dollars, to protect yourself. There are two actions you should take
(the following instructions assume you have a PC running Windows 98).
First, to remove the easiest entry to your computer, turn off file
and printer sharing (if you are using the peer-to-peer networking capabilities of Windows
98, you will need to ignore this step and leave sharing turned on):
Select Start | Settings |
Run the Network utility;
On the Configuration tab, click
on File and Print Sharing; then
Make sure both boxes are
Second, install a low-cost hardware or software firewall to keep
hackers out. BlackICE Defender, a $39.95 software product from NetworkICE Corp. (http://www.networkice.com), is a best buy.
BlackICE Defender comes pre-programmed, so non-technical personnel
can use it immediately. (Technical users who want to can add their own firewall rules.)
Most impressively, BlackICE Defender automatically detects and blocks attempted
intrusions, then tells the user what happened.
For more information
Extensive information about DSL is available at Everything DSL, http://www.everythingdsl.com/.
For an informative article about using BlackICE Defender to track
down a hacker, go to the ZDNet Computer Magazine Archive at http://cma.zdnet.com/ and search for In Pursuit of
If you want to learn more about the hacker philosophy, check out
2600: The Hacker Quarterly at http://www.2600.com/.
Dana Shultz is an
Oakland-based certified management consultant, speaker and coach specializing in office
technology. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
and on the Web at www.ds-a.com.