Top 5 hacking and
virus protection tips
Hacking and viruses. No, it's not cold season. We're
talking about the all-too-common ailments that plague your computers
at home and work. From infected e-mails, to faceless crooks coming
after your private information, it's one technological nightmare
after another. But fear not, there are five simple steps you can
take to protect your computer against a hack attack.
It's hard to believe, but there was a time when hackers
were actually the good guys. In the days when the first systems
were being developed, "good" hackers went into each other's computers
and tested how things worked, according to Paul Millis, education
director of policy development and education at the University of
Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
"There was a ladies and gentlemen's hackers code of
ethics," Millis says. "But as things have gotten easier, we've gotten
cyber-punks that cause problems."
Over time, as young people learn about computers,
a few of them compete with each other by creating malicious viruses,
explains Roger Nebel, executive vice president of iDefense,
an Internet risk management company based in Alexandria, Va. "It's
a club kind of thing," he adds. "Sixteen and 17-year-olds can go
to the meetings and brag to each other about what they did."
Nebel explains that 90 percent of the people causing
these problems are socially disaffected and don't fit the mold of
success, having lost their jobs or being unable to find employment.
They are also clever with math. The other 10 percent are cyber-brats
who don't even need to be smart to cause trouble. Instead, they
download viruses and pass them along. Folks in the computer industry
call them "script kiddies" or "ankle biters."
Of the younger hackers, Nebel says, "It takes far
less technical skill than most realize. "They are like kids that
go to stores and buy spray paint to do graffiti."
So what can the folks with a small business, home
office or just sitting at home surfing the Net do to protect themselves
against these creeps? Try the following five simple steps. If you
are interested in the technical nut-and-bolts behind this computer
stuff, check out Webopedia,
an online dictionary and search engine for computer and Internet
Step 1: Turn off your computer
"More and more users, small business owners and home
offices are using cable hook-ups to get connected to the Internet
at a much faster speed," Nebel says.
Your computer is sitting there just making it available
to hackers. If you turn it off when you're not using it, these punks
can't hack in.
Step 2: Use anti-virus software
Load anti-virus software onto your computer to prevent
a headache later. Anti-virus software can detect if a virus is present
in an e-mail or in a file and even clean up the mess before it causes
problems. Depending on the software you buy, you can get free updates
that will keep you abreast of the latest bugs being sent and squash
them in advance.
Norton Anti-virus, which lists for $34.95, is one
of the more common programs, and you can download McAfee
anti-virus software with updates for $29.95 a year. Other programs
range in price from $35 to $528 on cyber superstores such as Egghead.com.
Step 3: Don't run unknown
executables or programs
Executables are those clever little programs attached
to e-mails, such as the dancing babies or the latest version of
the "Wassssup!" commercial. Unless you know where it came from,
it's best to delete an executable file without opening it. If it's
coming from a friend, you're probably OK.
If you get a rotten e-mail that's got a virus, rather
than opening it and trying to clean it up yourself, get in touch
with the person who sent it to you and have them send you a safe
version of it. If you don't fix the problem, you could pass it along
to your friends through e-mail. Then you look like a creep.
Step 4: Use a personal firewall
If you're constantly connected to the Internet, invest
in personal firewall protection. The bad guys have their computers
scan the Internet to find helpless computers they can hack into
for personal information, such as Social Security numbers and credit
Hackers can also take over your machine as a "zombie"
and use it to attack big companies. Then the hacker is harder to
trace, and your name plays into a breakdown at eBay or E*Trade.
A firewall will prevent inbound connections from occurring
and will keep your computer and your vital information protected.
Nebel says personal firewalls, such as Black
Ice can be downloaded from the Internet for $39.95.
Step 5: Shop around for an Internet
When deciding which company to dial into, ask about
the firewall protections that they have installed to protect you.
Nebel says that most ISPs have firewalls to filter inbound and outbound
problems, so it never hurts to ask what precautions they have taken.
Additionally, if your computer has been hacked, alert
your ISP and they look into it. If they won't take action, find
yourself a new ISP.
-- Posted: April 12, 2000