Not too many years ago, getting on the Internet meant dialing into an Internet provider's system and disconnecting when it was no longer needed. The connection was awfully slow when compared to today's standards, and tied up the phone line while it was in use.
Today, although many people still use dial-up, more and more people are enjoying the speed and convenience of high-speed Internet access. Here are several common high-speed Internet technologies:
1) Cable - Internet via your cable TV provider
2) DSL - Internet via your phone company
3) Satellite - Internet via your satellite TV provider
Each technology has its benefits and disadvantages. None of these technologies are technically superior in every situation. Capacity (speed) and availability vary with each provider. However, all types share several common features:
1) 24x7 availability. You're connected to the Internet 'round the clock.
2) Increased bandwidth. Web pages are viewed and e-mail is downloaded in much faster time.
3) Less intrusive than traditional dial-up. The connection doesn't conflict or interfere with your phone line, cable or satellite service.
Unfortunately, these features also create some security concerns. Not only does it make the Internet more available to you, it also makes you more available to the Internet. In other words, it makes a breach of security (breaking into your computer) by a hacker much easier.
So what are some things that you can do to keep your computer safe?
1) Buy a DSL/Cable Router even if you only have one computer connected to the Internet. This device, often called a DSL Router, creates a special kind of firewall (often called a NAT or IP masquerade) between you and the Internet that helps keep people out of your computer. Although labeled as a DSL router, it works with all high speed Internet connections).
2) Install or enable firewall software on your PC, especially if you cannot afford a DSL router. Many can be purchased online or at retail stores.
Windows XP users that have Service Pack 2 installed can enable the built-in firewall (check your Windows Control Panel for a "Windows Firewall" icon).
3) Run Windows Update regularly and install all related security patches.
Many people have purchased wireless DSL routers which easily share an Internet connection with multiple PCs in addition to all the things normal DSL routers will do. These devices are highly convenient, but pose some major security issues.
By default, most DSL routers (a type of 'wifi' access point) advertise their presence to other wireless users in the area. If others in your neighborhood pick up the wireless signal, and your router isn't properly secured, these users will have access to your PCs and your Internet connection. In other words, you could be providing free Internet to your neighborhood without your knowledge.
There are several things that you can do to prevent such an intrusion (check your router's manual for specific procedures or instructions):
1) If you're not using the wireless, turn the wireless features off.
2) Change the default administrative password to your router (usually a password protected web page)
3) Enable MAC filtering & add your wireless PCs to its exception list. This way, if an illegitimate PC's MAC address (a unique hardware address given to the computer by the manufacturer) isn't on the router's OK list, they are denied access.
4) Turn off wireless advertising (often called "SSID broadcasting")
5) Rename your wireless access point ("SSID name")
6) Set up mandatory WEP or similar encryption
Taking Internet security is very important, especially with today's high-speed connection technologies. With some security precautions in place, you are bound to have a safer and more enjoyable Internet experience.
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