Internet Safety is More than a Technical Challenge; It’s a World Wide Assault on Our Hearts and Homes…
The tools we will discuss here are tools that I have used in the past. They are not endorsements of the product, but suggestions of tools that have worked for me.
Other tools are available that do similar functions. Educate yourself by reading the reviews and consulting with knowledgeable people. Often the tools used in your workplace are a good place to start.
When it comes to protecting your computer, the main threats are: Viruses; Trojan Horses; Spyware; and Rootkits.
A VIRUS is a program or piece of code, typically malicious, that embeds itself into the software of a computer in order to take some control of the software or hardware. The best protection is an anti-virus program. Norton Anti Virus is the most popular (www.symantec.com). McAfee is also very popular (www.McAfee.com). Avast is what I use at home. It is free for home use. (www.Avast.com).
When it comes to protecting your computer from viruses, you should:
— Have an antivirus program that is active all the time.
— Keep definitions up-to-date.
— Do a weekly scan.
— Make sure users do not to open email with executables (.exe, .bat, .com) and pictures unless they are from known senders AND you are expecting them.
— Make sure your computer is firewall protected (more about this momentarily).
— Stay informed about the latest technological developments. A new class of antivirus software coming out that uses algorithms that profile viruses instead of having definitions for each virus.
A TROJAN HORSE is a program that appears to be legitimate but is designed to have destructive effects, as to data residing in the computer onto which the program was loaded. (American Heritage Dictionary)
— The best protection is antivirus software and a firewall program. Microsoft Windows firewall (MS Windows SP2) is good.
— Zone Alarm has a free version for home use (www.zonelabs.com).
— Symantec has an all-in-one package to protect. (www.symantec.com).
— Symantec is also working on an algorithm based firewall
SPYWARE is any software that covertly gathers information about a user while he/she navigates the Internet and transmits the information to an individual or company that uses it for marketing or other purposes (Websters New Millennium Dictionary)
The best protection is:
— Change your browser
— Change your instant messenger client
— Use Antispyware software
— Stay away form questionable web sites
Why should you consider changing your browser? Your web browser is the single biggest entry point into your computer. Internet Explorer on Windows is integrated deep into the operating system and so it makes it an easy entry point. Only use IE when it is absolutely necessary. You should use a browser that is not integrated into the operating system.
A couple of browser options are:
— Firefox (www.mozilla.com/firefox)
— Opera (www.opera.com)
— There are many others. Just be careful in your selection. Some, like Netscape, some like Netscape, will use the IE engine and that is the same as using IE.
What are the options? There are many things to consider with respect to Instant Messenger clients. First, the AIM client is known to be a port of entry for spyware. Second, there are many better alternatives are available that still let you use the AIM (ICQ) protocol. Some of these are:
— Trillian (http://www.ceruleanstudios.com/). The basic version is free.
— GAIM (http://gaim.sourceforge.net)
— opensource (www.meebo.com)
— There are also several Web based Instant Messaging services.
When it comes to ANTISPYWARE, there are lots of options:
— Adaware (www.adaware.com) Free for home use.
— Spyware Search and Destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html) A free version for is available for home use.
— Symantec has a version in their all-and-one product
— As with Instant Messaging clients, there many additional Antispyware options available.
A ROOTKIT is a set of software tools intended to conceal running processes, files or system data, thereby helping an intruder to maintain access to a system whilst avoiding detection. Rootkits are known to exist for a variety of operating systems such as Linux, Solaris and versions of Microsoft Windows. (Wikipedia)
When it comes to protecting your computer against a rootkit antivirus programs and firewalls will help. The best defence is:
— Never install any software that you were not expecting.
— Only install software from reliable sources.
Sony/BMG had a rootkit that made the press. It came on their CD’s and installed if you tried to play the CD on your computer. They got into hot water in the press for several different reasons.
Now, let’s turn to protecting your network. You should get a Name Address Translation router/firewall. Some of these are:
— Linksys (www.linksys.com)
— D-Link (www.dlink.com)
— Netgear (www.netgear.com)
— Belkin (www.belkin.com)
You should make sure you change the default password on the box when you set it up. Also, make sure you turn off remote administration.
Protecting your wireless network involves:
— Turning off SSID broadcast
— Using MAC address filtering. Some routers do this for the entire network if you set this up.
— Using encryption. WPA with TKIP is the best. WEP with 128 bit encryption is better than nothing. If you have these in place, most bandwidth thieves will move on to an easier target than hack your network.
General thoughts about being safe on the Internet:
(1) Remember that the Internet is a bad neighborhood
(2) Don’t trust messages even from your friends.
(3) If something looks suspicious, it is.
(4) Do not give any personal information over the Internet unless it is a transaction that you have initiated.
(5) When you do initiate a transaction on the web, look for the lock icon on your browser. If it is not there, don’t give them your information and shop some place else!
Being Safe on the Internet – Protecting yourself from Phishing…
People try to get personal information out of you by sending you an email saying they are from your bank, credit card company, Pay Pal, etc and that there is a problem with your account and they need you to send them information. Remember:
— Some will do this over the phone.
— Don’t give them any information at all and call the company directly yourself!
— If you don’t initiate the conversation (e.g. Make the call), it is not legitimate!!
— A new phishing method is people setting up look-alike sites and sending you email directing you to them with and email suggesting a problem with your account. They ask you to go to the site and update or correct the information there. Again, if you did not initiate the conversation, it is not legitimate! Go to the known web site by typing the correct address it into the browser yourself to check on your account. Most of the sites where you have accounts have a place to report this type of activity.
Now, a few words about keeping your kids safe on the Internet…
— Use Parental Control Programs
— Filter content
— Block sites with questionable content
— If possible, filter IM and incoming mail.
When shopping for a filter, some things you should look for are:
— It should installs on your computer
— It should have different control levels per account
— It should “update” frequently
— It should let you control web, IM, and Mail
There are many parental control programs available. Some of these are:
— CYBERsitter (www.cybersitter.com)
— SafeEyes (www.safeeyes.com)
— CyberPatrol (www.cyberpatrol.com)
I do not have personal experience with any of these tools. Most come with an annual subscription fee of about $40. There are many others available; read the reviews and consult with others, especially other parents who share your concerns.
A few additional thoughts:
— Have the computers in open areas in your house
— Do not allow children have computers in their room
— Know where they are surfing and who they are talking to!
— Remember: It is your house; you have a right to control what enters it!
— With IM, use a client that allows them to change the name of their buddies to real names and insist that they do it!
— Limit their time on the computer when not doing homework
— Make a rule that they cannot delete their browser history! Check it daily.
— Most of the ISPs have child version of email accounts that let you set them up so that they can only send and receive to certain addresses
— Read the IM logs
— Be open with your kids and tell them that you are going to do this, because “A watched pot, never boils!!!”
— Make sure the kids know up-front, what you expect of them.
— Maintain vigilance; keep lines of communication open with your children.
— Talk candidly with them about predators and how they work on the Internet.
— Explain to them what content is out there and why you don’t want them exposed to it.