"The stuff on my computer is pretty boring. I don't consider
any of the information 'top secret.' Nobody would want to break into
my computer system."
Fact: Most computer break-ins do not occur because the cracker wants
your information. Crackers attack home computer systems in order to
have anonymous platforms from which to launch attacks on more interesting
targets. In short, when a cracker uses your system to attack other
computers, it will look like YOU are the person responsible. As for
your personal information: some crackers will certainly be on the lookout
for credit card numbers. You may unwittingly have copies of card numbers
on your system. A cracker may not use the number himself, but he can sell it.
Myth #2: "I have a dial-up line, so I should be totally safe from crackers."
Fact: Dial-up lines are safer than DSL or cable modem connections, but
they are not totally secure. This is especially true if you stay online for
long periods. If a cracker can get into your computer once, he can install
a tiny program to report your configuration to him whenever you go online, or
one that will leave a connection open. These are called "back door" programs.
Once the back door is in place, a cracker can access your computer every time
you go online.
Myth #2b: "I have a DSL line, which is a direct connection to the internet, and therefore safe."
Fact: Many DSL companies have been telling their customers that a DSL
connection is a "direct" internet connection. I hate to pop your balloon,
but the truth is, your little PC is not tapped directly into the internet
backbone. What has been said about dial up lines also can be said about DSL,
only more so. DSL connections still end up in the phone company's network.
Traditionally, these networks are pretty safe, but they can still be
compromised from the outside, and the threat of "back doors" finding their
way on your system is still there.
Myth #2c: "My (DSL; cable; whatever) connection uses DHCP.
That makes it safe from crackers, right?"
Fact: Wrong. A DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) connection
does not guarantee different settings each time you log on. ISP's use DHCP
connections because they are easier for users to configure, and because there
are not enough individual internet addresses to let every customer have his own.
Because DHCP settings change from time to time, they can make your connection
more anonymous. However, in reality, DHCP connections don't always change that
often. Some will change every two weeks or so. Others will change every month
or so. I have a DHCP connection, and my settings haven't changed in four years!
Myth #3: "I have antivirus software. This will protect me."
Fact: Antivirus software is your only your first defense against crackers
who distribute their back-door programs via email. But antivirus software is only
one piece of the computer security puzzle. Antivirus software does nothing to
protect you from crackers who are actively trying to compromise your computer.
It also is important to keep your antivirus software up to date.