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Upgrade Report [Hardware Tips: Keep Your PC Hidden - 12/21/2004]

Discussion in 'PC Hardware' started by Ablang, Dec 22, 2004.

  1. Ablang

    Ablang Guest

    Hardware Tips: Keep Your PC Hidden

    by Contributing Editor Kirk Steers

    A new PC fresh out of the box is like Swiss cheese: It's filled with

    holes that make it vulnerable to viruses and information thieves. Just

    what's out there? Read "Threat Assessment" for a good scare:


    Firewalls, operating system updates, and antivirus software can plug

    many holes, but hackers are always looking for--and

    finding--weaknesses in Windows and other software. For best

    protection, hide your PC behind a router's hardware firewall. Routers

    with firewalls are cheaper and easier to install than ever.

    For background, read "What You Should Know About Firewalls":


    Hackers find a computer by connecting to its IP address, four numbers

    (each from 0 to 255) separated by periods, that identifies each device

    on the Internet. A router allows several PCs to share a single

    Internet connection--and to hide behind a single IP address. The

    router displays the public IP address that is issued by your ISP and

    seen by everyone on the Net. It uses the Network Address Translation

    (NAT) standard to assign a private, temporary address to each computer

    on your network. The router directs inbound and outbound Internet

    traffic so it appears to outsiders that each of your networked

    machines is using the router's public IP address.

    When hackers make contact with your public IP address, they don't go

    to your computer, but instead to a "dumb" router that lacks the

    vulnerability of a Windows-controlled PC. When you put all your

    computers behind a hardware firewall, you'll likely see a dramatic

    drop in the number of intrusion alerts that your software firewall

    registers. (You'll certainly want to continue to use that security

    program in addition to your router, though.)

    Get Your Own Router

    Entry-level four-port routers, sufficient for most home and

    small-office networks, are cheap; for example, the RP614 from Netgear

    costs around $40 online. If you're planning a wireless network, get a

    wireless router instead of an access point; they are priced about the

    same. And if you're shopping for a new ISP, don't buy a router just

    yet. Most of the cable and DSL modems that broadband ISPs provide come

    with firewalls.

    With the explosion of networks in homes and small offices, vendors

    such as Netgear, Linksys, and D-Link provide reasonably simple

    configuration screens and, most important, telephone support, usually

    free for the first 30 days. For more buying advice and how-to

    information, go to PC World's Home Networking page:


    Whether you're buying your own router or installing one from your ISP,

    you're likely to come across a lot of new acronyms. Here are the ones

    you need to know.

    UPnP: The Universal Plug and Play standard simplifies the installation

    of any networked device--from routers to home appliances. Just plug it

    in, and it shows up in Windows Explorer. Most routers now come with

    UPnP, which Windows XP and Me support. One of the early security flaws

    in Windows XP involved UPnP, but Windows XP Service Pack 2 corrects

    the problem. UPnP is still too new to be trusted, though, so leave it

    disabled unless you are running software that requires it.

    VPN: A virtual private network creates a secure channel between two

    computers over the Internet. Many businesses use a VPN to link remote

    workers to the company network. Your IT department can tell you

    whether your router needs to support IP Security (IPSec), the Point to

    Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), or some other network-security


    SPI: Stateful Packet Inspection examines each incoming data packet and

    rejects unsolicited packets. Packets containing an inbound Web page,

    for example, have been solicited by a local computer and hence are

    ushered through the firewall.

    DMZ: A Demilitarized Zone allows you to partially or fully expose a

    computer to the Internet. Online gamers and people maintaining Web

    servers and FTP sites will find this feature useful.

    Read Kirk Steers' regularly published "Hardware Tips" columns:

    Ablang, Dec 22, 2004
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