Necessity Of Network Protection
Protecting Your Computer
Twenty years ago, there were few people who owned a personal computer (PC). It
was a luxury to have one, and even then there wasn't much you could do on it.
There were one or two great games, and maybe dad could do some work at home
instead of spending night after night at work.
Ten years ago the revolution was well under way. Having a home computer was
rather like having a microwave oven, pretty much every had one, and if you did,
you were looking to upgrade to a newer model. But that was only the beginning.
Microwave ovens cannot be hobbled by virii that seek to cause mischief, send
pornography to everyone on your mail address list, or generally cause so much
havoc you have to reinstall the operating system.
Fast forward to today. I liken computers to newborn babies, well, newborn babies
born in the middle of nowhere. With no human contact a baby can grow up pretty
much normally, experience life with joy and happiness, maybe have a family, and
not experience the horrific nature of disease we constantly battle. However,
babies are NOT born in the middle of nowhere, they are usually born in hospitals
or in the case of third world countries, in villages, or with extended families.
So what do hospitals/doctors do now? They insist on your children having shots
after shots, to protect them from a myriad of diseases. This is a safety issue
of course, and a sensible bit of prevention to ensure your children grow up
disease-free, to have their own children. You wouldn't want your children to
die prematurely would you? So why would you not take the same precautions with
something else you value (although not as much as a life)?
Assuming you don't construct your own from spare parts, and that you buy one
from a chain store, you will get a complicated piece of hardware that has all
the operating system software installed on it. It is "ready to go". Well, almost.
The vast majority of the computers sold now have the latest Microsoft operating
system on them, usually XP. This has some rudimentary protection systems on it,
but honestly that's all they are - rudimentary.
XP does come with a simple firewall which you can turn on or off, but if you
are serious about protecting your computer and what it contains you should give
some thought to getting a commercial protection suite. And, not just one. There
are two things you really need, we'll take a look at them.
Anti-virus software is just that, it protects your computer from virii. Most
often, this software scans your incoming emails, comparing any attachments
with an internal database of virii. If it finds one, it usually "quarantines"
the offending email and prevents you from looking at it or opening the
attachment. Also, many modern anti-virus softwares also look at any web pages
you are viewing, checking those as well. These databases of virii are constantly
updated, because so many virii emerge every day - you can set your software up
to download new versions to keep updated.
There are so many anti-virus software packages available that you can become
easily confused as to which is the "best". Generally speaking they are all
good, and they all keep an up-to-date virus database. Differences in cost are
down to small differences in the package, auto-updates, hard drive backups,
and a multitude of small but sometimes helpful ancillary uses.
Malware, Spyware, Adware
These nasty pieces of programming are the result of marketing genius gone bad.
Many years ago marketers used to send out surveys to find out the habits of
the general public, but now they don't even need to expend that energy. Now,
a small program can be deposited on your computer and sit there quietly observing
your online habits, where you shop, the sites you visit, the people you mail, the
ads you click on, and then mail it all back to the marketing companies.
You wouldn't EVER consent to downloading one of these would you? No? Wrong. You
probably already have. It's in one of those bits of fine print that the VAST
majority of us never read, that permits a site to upload the offending software
onto your computer.
Ok so what is so bad about these spies? Well they don't overtly do anything to
your computer but they DO steal a bit of memory and CPU time, and if you have
a lot of them on your computer you will see a noticeable decrease in the speed
and responsiveness of your silicon servant. It's not much to those of us who
have fast computers but to the average computer user it can actually be a real
How can you fix this invasion of privacy? Well there are computer programs that
rid you of these pesky invaders, temporarily at least. If you don't change your
browsing habits you will get more of them. This link will lead you to one of
the best free anti-spyware programs available:
Firewalls are pieces of software designed to prevent unauthorized access to or
from a network. Generally speaking if you use a personal firewall on your
computer you can tailor what sites do and don't get into your computer, or on
the other side of the coin, what sites you can and can't get to (useful for
Like the anti-virus software selection there is a wide variety of firewalls to
choose from. This author has tried several and now uses just one exlusively to
protect his network, ProtoWall.
Many of the early versions of firewalls were resource hogs - in that they used
nearly all of the computer's resources (memory and cpu) to protect the computer.
This is clearly unacceptable as it prevents the user from actually using the
computer! Modern firewalls however are far more efficient and ProtoWall's use
can barely be felt. You can download ProtoWall from this site:
You should be aware however, that the use of this requires some knowledge of
computers, and how to operate them competently. More importantly this is one
piece of software that does require manual updates, as the nature of hackers,
computers, networks, are that they change frequently. You need an accompanying
software program called the Blocklist Manager to download newer IP ranges to
use in conjunction with ProtoWall. The site cited above has that software as
well, and there are extensive help files and message forums to help you get it