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Privacy and Security
Hackers, crackers & firewalls

HACKERS is the name incorrectly given to people (by journalists and writers) who gain access to information stored on computers that are connected to the internet.
In actual fact a Hacker is a highly trained programmer who solves problems. They resent the term being used by people who break into computers. Hackers call these people crackers. It is also the term we shall use.

Contrary to popular belief Crackers are not super intelligent 'computer whiz kids', they use relatively simple procedures, and the vast majority of them do it for 'fun', because they can do it, rather than malicious reasons.

Access is gained through open ports on your computer. Ports are usually probed first, by software to assess the computers level of security. Successful probes are followed by an attack. Those with more malicious intent often use viruses or a hacking tool to open specific ports first, then look for computers with those ports open.

YOU WILL NOT EVEN KNOW THEY ARE THERE

Once someone has access into your computer, they can just sit and watch everything you do, but the more malicious ones can view, add or remove programmes or files and use your pc to distribute viruses, trojans or spam

The answer is called a firewall, some are included in anti virus software but generally they are a separate programme. This software lets you know when any person or programme attempts to get in or out of your computer.
You have the ability to block or allow whoever it is trying to access your computer, or any programme in your computer that is trying to make a connection out. These could be malicious (see our Spyware and Viruses sections). Some will even allow you to trace where the attack came from!

Software which is automatically updated by its manufacturer will also be blocked, so you set permission for your firewall to allow certain programmes to access the internet without asking you each time, it will even ask for permission to allow your ISP access.

If your firewall asks you for permission to allow a programme in your computer to access the internet, you can find out what the programme is and does by typing its name into a search engine, or use a programme like Wintask5. For a direct download of a Free trial version Click here

Once you have decided to allow a programme to access the internet, you can tick a box so you do not get the message each time. Until you set all your permissions, the alerts can be a little annoying. but you will be surprised how often either a programme in your computer tries to call out and how many times someone tries to get in.

How secure are your ports ?

Port explorer is one of the few 'port to process mappers' available in the world, and the only one that does not cost hundreds of pounds. It allows you to see (amongst other things) which ports are open and what programme owns them, get a free trial Here.

You can also run several online tests on your ports, to check the level of security you currently have from Shield up.

You can get your firewall from any of the sites below

Firewalls
Product Description Free version Free trial Full version Cost
Zone alarm A popular and trusted firewall £27.51
Black Ice Affordable, reliable protection     £22.02
efirewall Award winning protection   £27.51
Kaspersky Detect and prevent hackers and port scans     £21.52
Kerio easy-to-use personal security technology   £27.00
The shield 2004 Firewall and anti virus combined     £27.56
Outpost firewall Preventing privacy violations £22.04
Please note : where a price is quoted from a U.S. based company, It is subject to conversion rates at the time of ordering


Test your firewall with Leaktest, a free downloadable test to make sure your firewall is doing what it should be.

Crackers also use a variety of viruses, RAT,s (Remote Access Trojans,) or other hacking tools to automatically open ports in your computer, some will then scan the web for computers with those ports open, so it important to keep good anti-trojan software fully updated.

Their applications can also be programmed to change your security software, so it is not detected during scans, prevents you from updating or disabling it altogether. Process Guard is a unique product which allows you to protect the software that protects you.

The next page looks at the detection and removal of RAT's.

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