Dragonfly Technologies
Dragonfly Technologies
Getting Started with Computer Security

The big question isn't whether or not someone can get to your computer, it's a matter of how hard you will make it for them. Most people who have even thought about attempting to enter computers to which they are not granted access, will give up at the slightest deterrent, such as a simple request for a valid username and password. Those with a little more skill or determination might go further. However, it's really not very difficult to deter all but the most persistent, skilled hackers from getting at your valuable information.

What makes a system vulnerable to hackers?

The closer something is to being in plain view, the more vulnerable it becomes. In computer terms, that means if you're on the internet, make sure you're well protected, and behind a firewall-a hardware or software product that makes you practically invisible on the internet. If you have a high speed internet connection (such as DSL), it is recommended that your IP address (your unique identifier on the internet that allows you to receive the web pages you request from a website, or to download files via the internet) be hidden from plain view using many techniques at the disposal of internet service providers. Among those techniques are Network Address Translation, which lies to the internet about what your real IP address is, thus making it a little harder for hackers, to find you via the internet.

Another technique to ensure to hide you from plain view is to not be at the same address every time you go online. If you can use DHCP (Dynamic Host Control Protocol), it might be a good idea to do so. DHCP assigns you anyone of hundreds or thousands of different IP addresses every time you turn on your internet connection. One of the few good features of cable modem service providers is that they employ DHCP.

If this all just seems like too much techno-babble to remember

Firewalls will help keep your systems secure!

A firewall is a device that sits in front of your computers and your internet connection, making sure that only "authorized" visitors are allowed into your systems. Firewalls can also ensure that only certain types of "traffic" go OUT of your organization and onto the internet.

As a general rule, when there is a hardware solution to a problem and software solution, the hardware solution is usually better.

This definitely applies to firewalls.

A hardware firewall goes between your computers' network and its internet connection to make sure that anything or anyone coming into your office from the Internet is not an attacker. If properly set up, a hardware firewall can ensure that people in your organization who work from home and want to "telecommute" will be allowed in, but that unauthorized visitors will not. Hardware firewalls are available for a wide variety of needs from $350 to over $10,000.

If the hardware firewall seems like "overkill" for your organization, you consider Zone Alarm Pro. Zone Alarm is one of many personal firewall software products. It is, in our experience, one of the better ones. They even have a free version (Zone Alarm). It will warn you of every type of attack it knows of (which is a pretty wide variety of them), and will allow you different levels of protection for different pieces of software that you use (it can be less vigilant with your e-mail than it will be with your web browser or chat software, for example).

Make sure that passwords you use for access to your computer at work, computers at home, or access to the internet are not obvious (never use your name, your spouse's name, your middle name, childrens' names or pets names, or any obvious word people would associate with you.). The best (hardest to crack/guess) passwords are those that are a combination of (upper and lower case) letters, numbers, and special characters (such as ! ^ # |). If you need a little assistance remembering a difficult password, perhaps you could make a wordplay out of it. For example, make your password a little sentence, consisting of very short words. Such as "UnMeRfun2!" (Which would be pronounced "You 'n Me are fun too, exclamation point"). This way, you could remember your password as a short sentence.

Most importantly, don't give your password out to anyone. If someone needs access to your internet connection or your computer on your company's network, offer to type your password in for them, and make sure they can't see you typing.

This may seem a bit paranoid, fearful, or overprotective. However, we believe "better safe than sorry". Typically, the investment in systems safety pays off.

We have really only scratched the surface of all the possibilities for systems security problems in a small business. We can help your business as well. Contact us for details.