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Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"   I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".  
Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.  
Old Chinese Proverb

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Today's post was inspired by the paranoia some people have about computers and the information they send.

The basic thrust of today's posting is this:

Unless you happen to be the Department of Defense, a Multi-National Bank with zillions of dollars in assets, or a company of some note that might be a target for Industrial Espionage, the chances of anyone giving a hoot about you, or your information, are slim to none.

Of course, you do need to take sensible precautions.  You would not go to the local super-mall, and leave your car unlocked; you lock your house when you leave and you don't leave expensive and valuable items just laying around to tempt fate.

To put this in perspective, if someone REALLY wants your butt, they're going to have it, no matter what you do.

In other words, if determined people can hack into sites like the Department of Defense, Citibank, or the New York Times - with their multi-layered defenses - there's not much you can do to make your computer more secure than that.

The other side of that statement is this:
These are high profile targets.  Hackers get a lot of "street-cred" by being able to hack a secure installation.  Crooks can use this to transfer millions of dollars to numbered off-shore bank accounts, or steal sensitive military secrets.

Think about it.  How much respect is a hacker going to get by saying "Oooh! I just hacked Mrs. Johnson's Linksys router!!"  It's virtually a lead-pipe cinch that Mrs. Johnson doesn't have millions of dollars laying around to wire to an off-shore bank either.  So, by and large, the hackers and script-kiddies really could care less about you.

What you should do is take reasonable and sane precautions, the same as you'd do with your home or car.
  • You don't connect a computer DIRECTLY to the Internet without a hardware firewall between you and it.
  • You don't send potentially sensitive information such as passwords, SSN's, credit card numbers, etc. in clear-text.  If you absolutely MUST send sensitive information by e-mail, you can exchange public keys with the recipient and send encrypted mail.
  • You make sure any wireless routers you have use strong encryption and a strong passphrase.
  • You make sure your computer is up-to-date with the latest security updates.
  • If you have a laptop, and you use it in public places, you make sure you have a good software firewall installed.
  • And you make sure your anti-virus and anti-slimeware software automatically update themselves so they remain up-to-date..
If you are the typical  computer user, this should be enough and more than enough to keep you and your sensitive information safe.

Remember; you need to view all these recommendations as just that, recommendations and you should apply them to your specific situation.

You don't have wireless?  Then that part doesn't apply to you.

You don't use public WiFi hotspots?  Then you don't have to worry about a rogue hotspot trashing your computer.

Just like the automobile advertisements say - Your Mileage May Vary.  Adopt what you need to adopt and don't worry about the rest.

If you really want a belt-and-suspenders security plan, you don't store sensitive information, (such as electronic copies of your tax returns), on your local computer - you write them to disk and file them away.

Of course, there are other things you can do as well.  You can virus-check incoming e-mail.  You can check for attacks from rogue web-sites and you can check for suspected spyware.

Bottom line:  Take reasonable and sensible precautions.  Don't be stupid, but don't get hyper about every little thing either.

Above all, enjoy the technology that lets you see and talk to your darling kids/grandkids who are 8,000 miles away, in real time.

What say ye?


1 comment:

  1. I may not represent a major player in the tech game, but my systems are still under constant attack from the script kiddies. Not only is someone trying to break into my house, they're doing it from Brazil with an attack script they downloaded from China, and my house just happens to be one of the 10,000 random addresses they chose.


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