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Home » Hacking News » Half of U.S. Broadband Users Unprotected

Half of U.S. Broadband Users Unprotected

by phiber on July 17th, 2001 Up to half of U.S. broadband users are leaving themselves wide open to attack byI nternet thieves and hackers. Why? Because subscribers to "always on" Netc onnections aren't using any protection like a firewall or antivirus software to keep the black hats from gaining access to their PCs.


A survey of 1000 families reveals 50 percent of U.S. broadband
subscribers (including digital subscriber line, cable, and satellite services)
do not have intrusion protection, says digital communications researcher at Cahners In-Stat
Group
.



"I think a lot of it is they don't realize there is a problem,
especially more of the novice users," says Jaclynn Bumback, research analyst
for In-Stat's enterprise and residential communications group. "They don't realize that even when theirb rowser is not open, they are vulnerable to attacks. Since they don't realize they are vulnerable, they don't pay the money
for the software and hardware that can protect them." Patti Dock, vice president of corporate development for security software company McAfee.com, isn't surprised by the big percentage of
unprotected broadband users. She says many people seem to have a blind faith when they get Net access, especially high-speed access.



"They forget to take the same common sense precautions they would with
their auto and home," Dock says. "It's like going on vacation and not locking
the front door. You just wouldn't do that, and that's what people do when they
don't put firewall protection on their computers."





Build a Wall


Firewall
programs
help keep intruders from entering your PC through the
Internet or another network, and prevent unauthorized data from entering or
leaving your system. Companies have used them for years, but personal firewalls
are increasingly appropriate for home users. The need is exacerbated by the" always-on" nature of broadband
services.


"It's connected all the time, and that leaves them open to people trying
to break into their computer or trying to plant something that will harm them,"
Dock says.

Firewalls aren't an expensive precaution, and a variety of options are
available. PC World has reviewed
personal firewalls from McAfee, Norton, and Zone Alarm, and
evaluated several more business oriented
options
such as Biodata Information Technology's Sphinx PC
Firewall and SonicWall's Tele2 Internet Security Appliance.



Assessing Risks

"The principle threat to you is that your machine gets used in a way
that you don't want it to get used," says Alan Paller, head of research for the
System Administration Networking and Security (SANS) Institute, a cooperative
research and education association in Washington.


Personal digital information like credit card and bank account
numbers is often stored in PCs, which makes it a good target if it lacks
protection.

"These things are easy to find," Paller says. "They have a shape, and
that's one of the things people can pick up on."


Paller says an even greater risk is that your broadband-enabled PC will
be commandeered for
use by third parties in attacks that disable personal and
commercial Web sites, much like the distributed denial of service (DDoS)
attacks on Yahoo and EBay last year.
"The number of scanners is increasing every day. We have reason to believe there are 2000 to 3000 programs actively on the Internet at all times,
looking for people who are silly enough to leave their computer on," Paller says.



Getting Protection


Protecting yourself isn't difficult. The SANS Web site offers ongoing suggestions and alerts about the latest virus sightings.

Firewalls alone won't protect you from viruses, Paller notes. Several
recent viruses have been widely spread as e-mail attachments. The widely
reported Anna Kournikova virus, for example, spread
as an e-mail attachment that was purportedly a picture of the
tennis star. Likewise, the NakedWife virus was also
spread as an e-mail message, sporting a subject line offering a
tantalizing come-on.


Antivirus software is available from a variety of security companies,
including McAfee.com and Symantec.
Antivirus software vendors urge customers to update the virus definitions
frequently, because hackers are always coming up with new tactics to frustrate
unsuspecting computer owners. The antivirus vendors are usually quick to add
protection from new viruses as they emerge.


"Up-to-date virus protection ... that's the first line of defense," says
Paller. "The second line of defense, that lets you stop the people who are
looking around for those open windows, is what the firewall does."



Broadband Grows, Risk Grows


In-Stat estimates U.S. broadband subscribers will pass 8.3 million this
year (up 82 percent from 2000) and then grow to 14.1 million in 2002.
Researchers say it will hit 22.9 million in 2003, 32.7 million in 2004, and
39.4 million in 2005. Climbing alongside the user population will be the business of providing
security to the broadband community. In-Stat expects consumers with high-speed
Net access will be buying $800 million worth of security products and services
by 2005, up from just $74 million last year. Microsoft's Windows XP will reportedly
include some rudimentary Internet security features, but most current Net users must rely on outside vendors to sell them, or in some cases
give them, online security protection. For example, Zone Labs offers a free downloadable version of its popular ZoneAlarm firewall.


Some Internet service providers are taking on responsibility as well.
McAfee has a deal with SBC Communications to offer firewall and antivirus
software to the telecommunications company's online customers, including
broadband users. Symantec offers its Norton Internet security, firewall, and antivirus software through promotions for BellSouth and EarthLink
customers.


Other ISPs include security warnings in their communications with new
customers, and several recommend specific products.



by Frank Thorsberg, PcWorld


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