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Last reviewed: June 30 2008

Computer and Network Security

Whether you are a home user or corporate user, computer and network security is important. Home users on cable modems, DSL, and dial-up may think they are safe from the prying eyes of crackers (sometimes called hackers), but chances are they are more vulnerable. Most large companies will have employees responsible for the security of their servers, desktops, and networks. Home users obviously have no such employees and not everyone can be a security expert.

Home Computer Users
Corporate Computer Users

Home Computer Users

At this point you may be thinking, "Why would someone bother with my computer?" And rightly so! Chances are you don't have much information on your computer that others would find valuable. But, the majority of home computers have so little protection that the minimal effort required to cause you grief is justifiable to a cracker. Another reason for snooping around home computers is to gain experience and practice cracking techniques with very little risk. What are the chances a home user will have enough logging turned on to catch and prosecute a cracker?

If your computer is connected to the Internet you are vulnerable to attack from another computer on the Internet. You may think that "attack" is a strong word, but it is appropriate. There are other people on the Internet, a lot of them! Any time you bring so many people together you will have conflicts. Some of these people are curious, they snoop around other people's computers just to see what they can see. Some are looking to cause trouble. I relate these people to children who think vandalizing someone else's property is an enjoyable pastime.

This article is not meant to scare you. You simply need to be aware of the dangers so that you can protect yourself as best you can. Much like driving a car, there are dangers. You can minimize the risk of driving by wearing a safety belt, purchasing equipment with safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes, and keeping your vehicle in good working order. Likewise, you can prepare your computer, purchase hardware and software with security features, and maintain your equipment to minimize the risk associated with attaching it to a huge public network.

Network security is a huge topic. We can not even begin to scratch the surface of it in this article. If you are interested in testing your system to see how vulnerable you are, there are a few free methods. DSL Reports Tools provides a security scan as well as other interesting tests about your connection. Steve Gibson also offers a free test as well as a wealth of other interesting information. If you are interested in learning more about computer security, this is an excellent place to start.

There are two basic ways to protect your computer when you are connected to the Internet, hardware and software. Some cable and DSL routers have built-in firewalls. Assuming these are set up correctly they can be a good deterrent to the majority of casual crackers. Unfortunately, most home broadband systems are attached to the Internet with either a cable modem or DSL modem which generally have less security related capabilities. In addition to good hardware, another layer of security can be created in software running on your system. Products like Zone Alarm will help detect and block intrusion attempts.

Another important aspect of your online security is maintaining your privacy. This means, don't give out personal information about yourself to just anyone. No addresses, no phone numbers, not even email addresses, and especially not credit card numbers! Don't buy things from websites if you have the slightest bit of doubt about their legitimacy. The Better Business Bureau might be a good place to look before you purchase from a website.

If you have questions about computer and network security or would like to make an appointment for a personalized security audit please contact Starbeam. We can help you secure your computer by using hardware, software, or a combination of the two.

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Corporate Computer Users

Most large businesses are well aware of their security risks. Most even employ System Administrators to handle the day-to-day operation and security of their computer systems. Since most large businesses are already aware of security, this article will concentrate on small businesses that have not yet found the need to hire a full-time System Administrator.

Small businesses making use of the many broadband options available to them today are in a particularly vulnerable position. Since you don't have someone looking after your computer/network security full-time chances are good that your security is not up-to-date. This could allow crackers to steal information, corrupt information, and possibly cause real (monetary) damage to your business. If your customer data is important to you, if your financial information is critical to your business, then you need to be thinking about securing your computers from unwanted access.

There are countless ways crackers could gain access to your information, not all of them even involve a computer. Here are a few questions every business person should ask themselves:

Training employees in security is just as (if not more) important than providing security directly on your computers and network. A balance of both techniques will make your business an unattractive target for malicious attack.

If you are having trouble answering any of these security questions or want to talk with someone more about security, please, contact Starbeam and speak with one of our consultants. Starbeam can perfom a personalized security audit and let you know where your security is good and where it needs some work. Starbeam can also offer training sessions to help raise the level of awareness of your employees.

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