RTOD 23JAN2008: Stupid Disconnects

REPRINT NOTE: I noticed some text glitches in my transfers.  I’ll be working to correct these in the future.

Today, I almost did not have a random thought. None. Nothing struck me as thought-worthy. I almost had to fall back on a prior thought which I kinda have on stand-by. Then, I tried to log in to my HaloGrid account to give myself a spiffy new signature for the first time and BOOM! I couldn’t log in. I tried and tried and tried and tried and tried, but it wouldn’t let me. Notice that I used five tries. Their server has a security disconnect which disallows your IP from trying to log in for 15 minutes if you use the incorrect information more than 5 times. So now, I have to wait fifteen minutes before I can try again. What!?

If you’ve read this far, odds are this sounds like a gripe-fest. Keep reading, it gets better!

The reason for me bringing this up is for one simple thought: How far does internet security really go? We’ve all heard of phishing, viruses and the ever-demonized hackers/crackers, but, what are they? I mean really? And how do I self-protect?

With HaloGrid, the security is probably decent, with hard and soft firewalls, password secures, and other security measures which, since I am more than a little rusty with it, I can’t really name. Although it isn’t “unhackable,” the average Joe wouldn’t even know where to begin with the whole data attack thing. But, at home, what do we really have?

If you are a dial-up person, part of your protection is probably the one thing you loathe – the speed of connection. With many computers connecting to the internet at much faster speeds than 33.6Kbps or 56Kbps, the odds that someone would want to use your computer for anything other than a self-disconnecting hard drive is almost nil. Even that would be up for debate, because what kind of connection speed would you get versus someone on DSL or cable? Would it truly be worth the time? Probably not.

Cable, DSL, FiOS, and other high-speed connections would probably be your target. And then, where would your protection lie? For my home network, we are running an ADSL router with a built-in firewall. We are also running a big-name software firewall. Sounds pretty basic, which it is. So, what would keep someone out of my computer? If someone really wanted to, I’m certain that the router could be hacked, and once you are on the computer, software firewalls can only really do so much. So, in reality, from my internet provider to my PC, I have one thing really working in my favor! Sounds kinda scary when you break it down like that, doesn’t it? Good news is that most hackers don’t really care too much about the average personal PC, they tend to aim at bigger business. Whew! And, the ones that do will usually use a slaving software to allow access to the system as a zombie unit, which can (usually) be picked up by a good anti-virus or anti-malware software. While it is always good to be protected from this kind of attack, usually a hacker/cracker needs a reason to go for your computer specifically.

Next concern is malware. Malware, for those who don’t know, is any software designed to specifically damage or change your computer or its data. You have probably heard of them as Trojans, Viruses, and Worms. For these types of security breaches to work, they have to get into your system, which means that a hacker would have to load it, or you would have to load it, either through internet downloads or the old-fashioned way, plugging in a contaminated disk. Most computers come equipped with anti-virus software nowadays, but a lot of people let it lapse because it costs money. Obviously it’s a bad idea. Same goes for the anti-spyware software, which protects against another type of malware, what most people recognize, spyware. Spyware is usually as simple as something that logs your clicks, but can be very dangerous since they can also log your keystrokes, web connections, stored data, anything you do, and send it somewhere, and you DON’T EVEN KNOW IT! Spyware has become the most common form of malware simply because the internet is far more prominent. Keeping a good anti-malware software up-to-date will prevent too much concern. And, there is a completely free anti-malware software too!

The last one, which is probably the most preventable, is phishing. You have probably all seen it, messages or e-mails that say something along the lines of : We at Suchandsuch, Inc, need you to log in to your account to make corrections. Please click on this link to correct it. If you click on the link, you will be taken to a website that looks like Suchandsuch, Inc’s website, but is completely bogus! By plugging in ANY information, you are sending it to a person who does not have your best interest at heart. MySpace, AOL, eBay, PayPal, CitiGroup. All these, and many more, have seen ill-intended people use a phishing scam to try and steal information, money, or accounts. A moment ago, I said it is the most preventable. It is. If you get e-mail that says, Suchandsuch needs you to fix it, there are a few tests. First, simply hold the pointer over the link. If you have a status bar turned on, you should see the link’s target. Try it on any link on this page. If the link is bad, it won’t point to where it says it is, or it will be masked to say something in plain text. Another option is to simply go to the site that the message claims. Instead of clicking it, use your browser and go straight there. If you really needed to do something, it’ll be there, right? A little thinking helps a lot!

Okay, I think it’s been more than fifteen minutes. Time to try again! 🙂 Stay safe, everyone!

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