Recent events have demonstrated that the Internet is vulnerable
to attacks from computer hackers. Large on-line companies have
had their systems breached and information taken. We too, albeit
on a smaller scale, are subject to hacker attacks and to loss
of sensitive information. While it is true that our computers
are only vulnerable while connected to the Internet, we are increasing
our time connected to the Internet. And with the increasing use
of DSL and cable connections the opportunity for attacks increases.
This article addresses the means one can take at home today
to insure the security of your computer and computer data. But
first we need to take a look at our current computer security.
To test your computer system security, just connect to the
Internet and go to the Shields
UP web site. Shields UP provides a free check of the security
of your computer's connection to the Internet. Scroll down the
web page until you see the section that contains two buttons:
Test My Shields! and Probe My Ports! Click on the Test My Shields!
first and wait for the results to appear on your monitor. Shields
UP will show you how secure (or not secure) your computer's connection
is to the Internet. You may want to print out this information.
Next, click on the Test My Ports! button and wait for the results.
Shields UP will show you what ports are open to the Internet
which will allow outside access to your computer. You may want
to print out the results. If Shields UP shows that your computer's
connection to the Internet is not secure, you may want to take
some action to secure it.
Now that you know how secure your system is (or its lack
of security), you are probably ready to invest in some security
means to reduce and even eliminate the security holes. To add
Internet security to your system, you need to install security
software. Internet connection security software is usually called
a "firewall". There are many firewalls available to
install on your system from several popular software manufacturers,
plus some shareware and even some freeware.
Norton® Personal Firewall 2005 is just one example of
firewall software that can be purchased and installed on your
computer. It lists for about $50. Another example is McAfee®
Personal Firewall Plus which sells for about $40. You may want
to check the Tucows web
site for shareware software.
One free firewall that has received very favorable reviews
is Zone Labs ZoneAlarm®. You can read about Zone
Labs' free firewall at their web site. Downloading and installing
ZoneAlarm is easy. After installation just start your Internet
service and whatever program you use for Web access and e-mail.
ZoneAlarm will ask you if you want to allow xxx program to access
the Internet. When you respond "yes" to this question,
ZoneAlarm enters this information into its database that records
what program is allowed to access to the Internet. Programs not
allowed are blocked by the firewall. Also, ports are either blocked
or rendered "stealth" to the Internet.
To test the security of your system after ZoneAlarm (or any
other firewall) is installed, just return to the Shields UP web
site and retest your computer's connection to the Internet. I
think that you will be favorably impressed with the results.
Another free firewall that has received very favorable reviews
is Sygate Personal Firewal 5.6. I have used it for quite a while
and like it. You can begin the download by clicking here.