Internet security is a very important issue these days to many people, and it has become a multi-billion dollar industry. From online-banking, gaming, regular browsing, to online chat, anybody who is connected to the internet should have a basic understanding of the importance imvolved in having a secure system.
Internet Security consists of these main components:
- Client-side Security
- Server-side security
- Third-party security
First, i will begin with the explanations of important security terminology
Client-side SecurityClient-side security refers to any security that is set up on your system. It is the user's (your) full responsibility to have a secure system. However, this is often easier said than done. Many security companies market several good and bad quality security products, such as firewalls, virus scanners, and operating system (OS) enhancements. Most of these cost money, however many also are free of charge, and are developed mainly by generous people donating their time to enhance the overall security of the internet. You can learn more about client-side security at my System Security page.
Server-side securityMany people seem to think that server-side security is 100% up to the website, or internet service provider (ISP). However, this is not completely true, the user (you) are the biggest factor in keeping sensitive data such as your credit card numbers, various passwords, personal information, and your computer systems information away from malicious exploits of security holes, or lack of security in some cases. This page will teach you how to keep your system and online/offline data safe.
Third-party securityThird-parties can include any programs installed on your computer that are not provided by the manufacturer, virus software, or malicious hackers who may attempt to infiltrate your private information, for various and seldom personal reasons. Almost all software you likely use on your computer on a daily basis is third party, so it is crucial what software you can trust and what software you cannot. Most security utilities are third-party applications, and will often server to enhance your client-side data's security. These programs include firewalls, anti-virus scanners, and are most user's best protection against malicious hackers or crackers.
Hackers and crackers are a misunderstood group of individuals, who are either curious about the inner workings of computer systems, find pleasure in other people's misfortunes (such as having your hard-drive wiped out), and some have other motives, such as personal grudges, or potential financial gain. The term "hacker" is a crude term, and is now used to describe destructive annoying persons who destroy or steal sensitive data, or take control of systems for personal benefit. The term used to merely describe curious individuals who like to get "under the hoods" of their technology and wish to learn how it works, or how to use it for other purposes.
A cracker however, is a great danger to user's security, and are often able to thwart complicated security systems in order to do great damage or take serious financial gain in disrupting corporate or even personal computer systems.
"What can I do to keep my computer secure?"
Most internet users are at least in some way computer-illiterate, or too impatient to properly maintain their home computer. Script-kiddies, a group of malicious hackers who usually attack home users for their entertainment love to exploit these people's computers. Also, many people become interested in hacking to benefit them in online games, etc.
There are several levels of home security one can implement in order to keep their personal data safe on or off the internet. Most of these only apply broadband users, DSL, cable, or orther high-speed service:
- Set up a personal Firewall
- Use "strong" passwords online/online
- Other system-related security measures, found on my System Security page
- Don't give out your personal information online
Set up a personal FirewallFirewalls are the first laye of defense that a malicious hacker or program will have to get through, provided you have one. This is the best way to keep yourself safe from outside attacks, however, it will not keep a malicious program from broadcasting your personal data to somebody across the internet, but since these often prevent this from happening in the first place, you would have to actually request the malicious file in order for this to happen to you, provided the attacker does not exploit an OS-level security hole on your system. There are however, very few functional and customizable free firewall programs out there. Some include Norton Personal Firewall, ZoneAlarm, BlackIce Defender, Tiny Personal Firewall, etc. etc. However I have not found any third-party firewalls that I like, they all seem to limit functionality or slow internet performance drastically. Personally i rely on Microsoft's Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) which is somewhat more customizable than ZA and NPF, and does not restrict my internet performance noticably.
Use "strong" passwords online/onlineSee my Password Security article in addition to this article if you really want to learn to make safe passwords!
Passwords are very important, and although are mainly used to protect online intellectual property and finances, are also used on home networks, and user-based login systems. On a standard keyboard, the possibilities of anybody randomly guessing your passwords are much higher than you may think. Many readily available programs online can try to guess a password at millions of passwords per second, so since there are only some 500,000 words in the english language, be them in a dictionary or not, merely using a word is not sufficient protection. there are only 10 number keys on your keyboard, but there are 26 lower-case letters plus 26 upper-case letters, and many symbols, why not put them to use? Some examples of "weak passwords" are: password, abc123, qwerty, computer, secret, doctor, blowfish, and any other readable words. Some examples of "strong passwords" are: g4j8FGe22, hjemmvwkcwk, firstname.lastname@example.org,e?, and other combinations containing various symbols, letters-cases, numbers, etc. Although most people advise you to use different passwords for everything, if you have alot of very strong passwords it is unlikely you will remember them all, and one strong password will be all that you need. Taking a "weak password" such as "password", adding numbers, and changing letter case can turn it into an easy to remember, yet fairly strong password, like "9pASswoRd87". Most cracking utilities either cannot handle upper-lower case combos, or letter-number combos, and so this will often be enough to stay safe, although some programs and websites are not case-sensitive, so upper-lowercase combos alone are often not enough, be sure you add some numbers or symbols, and not necessarily at the beginning or end of the password.
Don't give out your personal information onlineThe above title says it all. Only give out your information to secured websites who can guarantee that your information is going to be kept confidential, and even so, some companies use loopholes or long boring terms and conditions to get around their own privacy guarantees, so try and limit the amount of personal information you give out to ANYONE, and if possible, give out fake information, unless it is a website such as an online banking, or other online financial website, or a website that you wish to make a money transaction on for their services. A good alternative to giving out this information across the internet would be by using a fax-machine, telephone, or the mail system to avoid having such information as your home address or credit card numbers/codes fall into the wrong hands. Some client websites allow you to be sure of their client-side security by having 128-bit encryption, or secure http services, or even "certificates" (although some can be fake) to guarantee the security and privacy of your infomation. As a general rule, if you wouldn't trust the company with your wallet, don't trust their online security.
So now that you know how to secure your computer from the internet, perhaps you could pass this info onto a buddy, there are alot of people who should be aware of the value of a strong security setup on their computer.See my System Security page for more security information.