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If the hype is right, ASPs are H-O-T
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Dana ShultzUse 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.

Full-time connections

Every stand-alone computer and network with a full-time Internet connection is at risk. (Dial-up users don’t 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.

Random intrusions

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 the rest.

What to do

You don’t have to be a technical genius, and you don’t 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 | Control Panel;

Run the Network utility;

On the Configuration tab, click on File and Print Sharing; then

Make sure both boxes are unchecked.

Second, install a low-cost hardware or software firewall to keep hackers out. BlackICE Defender, a $39.95 software product from NetworkICE Corp. (, 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,

For an informative article about using BlackICE Defender to track down a hacker, go to the ZDNet Computer Magazine Archive at and search for “In Pursuit of Internet Intruders.”

If you want to learn more about the hacker philosophy, check out 2600: The Hacker Quarterly at

Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based certified management consultant, speaker and coach specializing in office technology. He may be reached by e-mail at and on the Web at