To quote "Net Prophet" Sean M. Dugan:
"The privacy debate really boils down to two essentials. First, privacy and convenience are inversely proportional. We trade one for the other. Second, reasonable people recognize there's no right to absolute privacy, and reasonable will also agree there's some expectation that not everything be public.
Privacy is a balance of competing interests. Where we draw the line is the bone of contention." (click here to read Sean's complete article)
Mr. Dugan has hit the proverbial nail on the
head. At least where public access is concerned. Since my
computers are inter-connected, what I'm most
worried about is the online world's access to my system. Attaching your computer
to an "Always-On" internet connection is a sure way to leave your
front door, not only unlocked, but, wide open with a sign out front inviting
them all in!
There are steps that you can take to secure your system from the opportunistic thieves of the digital world and these options are what I'll be discussing here. Most of them, in fact, can be applied to any system that's online.
One of the first things you should do in Windows 9x (that's 95a, 95b, 95c, 98 and 98 Second Edition) is to open Control Panel > Network and see if you have an icon in the white box that is called "File and printer sharing for Microsoft Networks." If you do, then you should know that you're giving other permission to access the files and printer(s) on your computer. If you want to disable this, click on the button marked "File and Print Sharing" and uncheck the appropriate box(es).
Driven by the rising awareness of online security issues, we are seeing many firewall programs enter the market. Some of the best are BlackIce Defender (~$39.95), ZoneAlarm (FREE), Personal Firewall and Internet Security 2000.
Network Ice's BlackIce Defender is software for home users that watches for unauthorized or suspicious network activity and can disable hacker attacks on the fly.
Zone Labs' Zone Alarm is a dynamic firewall with intrusion-detection capability.
McAfee's Personal Firewall monitors Internet traffic and blocks all unauthorized actions.
Norton's Internet Security 2000 stops all sorts of viruses(sic), malicious Java™ applets and ActiveX controls, and even hackers-before they can access your valuable data.
Note: if you have multiple computers on the internet, you'll have to put a firewall on each.
With a broadband internet connection to share across my network I felt that I needed a more robust answer. Several manufacturers make firewall, proxy, NAT software, but they all needed a dedicated server to run on. My little network didn't need this level of resource, so I looked for an all-in-one solution. What I found was an amazing new product that not only was the answer to my dreams, but it was as close to Plug-N-Play as you could get!
"The Linksys Instant Broadband EtherFast Cable/DSL Router is the perfect option to connect multiple PCs to a high-speed Broadband Internet connection or to an Ethernet back-bone. Allowing up to 253 users, the built-in NAT technology acts as a firewall protecting your internal network.
Configurable as a DHCP server, the EtherFast Cable/DSL Router acts as the only externally recognized Internet device on your local area network (LAN). The router can also be configured to block internal users' access to the Internet. A typical router relies on a hub or a switch to share its Internet connection, but the Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL Router channels this connection through the blazing, full duplex speed of its built-in EtherFast 10/100 4-Port Switch.
This cutting-edge combination of router and switch technology eliminates the need to buy an additional hub or switch and serves your network as a completely dedicated, full duplex backbone. Now your entire network will enjoy blazing Broadband Internet connections supported by its robust switched backbone. With the dual-function speed and power of the EtherFast Cable/DSL Router, your network will take off at speeds faster than you ever imagined possible.
Note: This unit requires an external cable or dsl modem with an Ethernet RJ-45 interface.
After I installed and configured my Linksys router, the first thing I did was to test it's security at the GRC Shield's Up! web site. I was pleased to see this response:
Yea! I then re-instated the File And Printer Sharing across my network and (after testing and receiving the same results) I've been sleeping much better now, thank you.
Here's an article about the Linksys solution for broadband users