Saturday, March 01, 2003

Online protection for the safe surfer

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Hacking used to be a sport that required a lot of technical knowledge. With the influx of freely available, idiot-proof mischief-makers such as 'Back Orifice' and 'Net Bus' this is regrettably no longer the case. You could be under attack from a hacker each time you go on-line and you wouldn't even know about it. If a hacker gains access to your computer, he or she can do anything they want to it, including deleting your important documents, turning on your web cam and stealing your data.

One way you could expose yourself to such an attack would be to become infected with a Trojan; a tiny file with virus-like qualities that can be embedded into seemingly harmless executable files. Using Back Orifice a hacker could scan all the ports of the computers currently online; if your computer contains a Trojan and is detected, a message is sent to the hacker containing your IP address. The hacker can then enter your computer through a security hole referred to as a 'back door' and wreak havoc.

In order to combat such attacks (and a myriad of other malevolent internet exploits) you will need to install what is known as a personal firewall. These reside in your system tray and inform you whenever a hacker attempts to scan your ports while preventing the 'phone-home message', necessary to gain access to your system, from being returned to the hacker.

As usual there are a plethora of software options all vying for your attention - some work better than others, and some firewalls are actually Trojan delivery systems posing as malicious traffic filters! If you want to cut through all the confusion and start protecting yourself immediately, you may like to give the free version of Zone Alarm a whirl. Online security really doesn't get any simpler than this. Other commendable solutions include Outpost Firewall, eTrust Intrusion Detection, McAfee Personal Firewall and Norton Firewall.

If your computer is behaving irrationally (even more irrationally than usual I should say considering the fiasco that is Windows) it may be wise to check if your system has already been infected with a Trojan virus using 'The Cleaner', available from www.moosoft.com.

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