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  • OT: Safe to leave PC connected to web?

    SWMBO & I have a small argument going on. I've Goggled around a bit but have had no luck.

    She plays Mah Jong online and when she has to do something else, she pauses the game and leaves it 'til whenever...couple hours, overnite, a day, a week, whatever.

    I think it's unsafe from a computer security standpoint; she says oh baloney, I worry too much. We aren't very web savvy and I don't have a suite of protective programs in place.

    Is there a good reason not to stay hooked up like that?
    Milton

    "Accuracy is the sum total of your compensating mistakes."

    "The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion." G. K. Chesterton

  • #2
    If you have a hardware firewall, yes, it's safe. My machines are connected 24/7.

    However, hackers are constantly scanning the 'Net for unprotected machines to hijack. There are several freeware programs which will dynamically display the logs from your firewall, and a PC connected directly to the Internet will be port scanned literally every couple of minutes. Hackers probing your machine for weaknesses.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

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    • #3
      Other than using a little more power, no harm.

      The single best thing you can do to improve your security is to have a hardware router. This does a few things, including:

      1. Creates a private network inside your house. Your computers can not be directly addresed from outside this network.
      2. Includes firewall protection

      The firewall stops many attacks and probes while having a non-routable network stops black hats from accessing your computers directly.

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      • #4
        Thanks guys. I have to admit my web ignorance and ask another question. When you say "hardware router" is my wireless router reasonably safe or do I need a seperate gizmo.? I have a Comcast cable modem and a MS wireless router with the 128 bit WEP security setting. Is that OK?

        Tol' you I was stoopid.
        Milton

        "Accuracy is the sum total of your compensating mistakes."

        "The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion." G. K. Chesterton

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        • #5
          I'd have to read the documentation on your wireless router, but you are almost certainly in good hands. If you check your computer's IP address, it will likely begin with a 10.0.0.x where x is some number. The way TCP/IP works is that if your router isn't responsible for an IP address, it asks an upstream router if it knows, and so forth. Eventually a router out there is found that is responsible for the IP and routes the data accordingly. With a non-routeable IP, the routers won't look upstream.

          Make sure the encryption on the wireless is turned on and you have a non-trivial password. The last thing you need is someone sitting outside your house and using your network to send threatening emails to the President.

          Even better is when you configure your hardware router to not broadcast its presence.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by DICKEYBIRD
            When you say "hardware router" is my wireless router reasonably safe or do I need a seperate gizmo.? I have a Comcast cable modem and a MS wireless router with the 128 bit WEP security setting. Is that OK?
            Just about any modern (as in, the last 5 years) wireless router will have firewall functionality. If yours is that old, check the manual.

            But a firewall or wireless router is around $30 - $50 at your local electronics outlet these days.

            By the way, not a stupid question at all -- the vast majority of consumer PC's are directly connected to the Internet, and they have no idea that hackers are poking or scrounging around in their PC's.

            I was trying to convince my folks to buy a firewall last year while we were at Disney World in Orlando. They brought their laptop, and I opened up a MS broadcast file share connected to the hotel's WiFI network, and showed them several dozen PC's from visitors at the hotel. Their personal pictures, resume, tax filings, etc were all completely open. I didn't go poking around in their stuff, of course, but my Dad bought a firewall as soon as we returned
            Last edited by lazlo; 11-14-2009, 08:24 PM.
            "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

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            • #7
              Lazlo, I had an instructor in an MS course do the same thing at the beginning of class. I've stuck with wire so far.

              http://www.grc.com/intro.htm

              Go there and run the various "Shields up!" tests and you'll find out about many of the vulnerabilities that you might have. Or you might find that your system is actually pretty secure. You never know until you check.

              cheers,
              Michael

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              • #8
                It isn't safe. It's like the H1N1 flu. Some are more sensitive to it than others. Some are immune, but until a new exploit shows up that gets around their defenses. Any infection is uncomfortable but leaving a computer running attached to the Internet can be a killer (of PC's).

                And you would be surprised at how chatty a computer can be when everyone's away. Windows by default checks in to the time server at Microsoft. Web browsers ask Google if a web page is safe and some web pages, news sites like to do this, put page refresh code in the html so your browser will reload it all night long. Some PC's like to tell everyone nearby they will act as a print or file server, etc. Email clients can send your login and password once each minute over the internet in plain text if you've configured it wrong.

                I'm aware of a very large Seattle web site that went completely off the net last week for about 15 minutes. What chance does an unattended PC at home have? None.

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                • #9
                  Just read a well publicized article (AP I believe) about child porn being downloaded, stored and shipped out from computers that were left logged onto a gaming site. I don't know enough to advise you, but I would find and read that article. Innocent people are in jail and others have had their lives ruined by this. The prosecutors say that if it is on your computer, you must have put it there. Experts have shown otherwise, but it is a long, expensive, uphill battle, just to stay out of jail.

                  The specific case they focused on was some kind of malicious software that came from a gaming site and looked for inactivity. Exactly what the OP was referring to. I sure hope my defensive software is up to the task.

                  Here's a link to the article:
                  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33778733...ence-security/
                  Last edited by Jim Caudill; 11-15-2009, 01:43 AM.

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                  • #10
                    What I've described is network security. Beyond that, there's 'program security' for lack of a better word. Basically, if you download a program and run it, it can pretty much do anything. Don't run software without fully trusting its source.

                    The gambling site likely required that the players download a special client. And that's probably what burned them.

                    If your paranoia level is high enough, buy a Mac. They are built on more secure OS and there are fewer virus-writers out there.

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                    • #11
                      In short it is safe assuming the machine is clean (no viruses etc). Of course if it did have viruses on it then it isn't safe to ever be on the net. For me I highly recommend that everyone use a router on DSL and cable (Road Runnner) type networks and it will greatly improve security. That said you need to be installing updates on a regular basis (monthly in the case of Windows) and use an antiviral program and keep it updated. If you feel you can't afford A/V then download and install AVG free edition.

                      Now specifically in regards to wireless. Forget everything your neighbor and the kid down the street told you. You absolutely should use encryption on the wireless, everything else is useless. If at all possible you should use WPA encryption as WEP doesn't cut it anymore. Its trivial to break if someone really wants in. That said it's better than nothing as if does require a conscious effort to break. Should you be in a legal dispute you clearly made an effort to keep someone out and they made a clear effort to get in. Right now the laws are still trying to catch up with the internet age and in some cases attorneys are arguing if the 12 year old neighbor boy is using is laptop on your wireless to look at adult content then you're at fault.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jim Caudill
                        Just read a well publicized article (AP I believe) about child porn being downloaded, stored and shipped out from computers that were left logged onto a gaming site. I don't know enough to advise you, but I would find and read that article. Innocent people are in jail and others have had their lives ruined by this. The prosecutors say that if it is on your computer, you must have put it there. Experts have shown otherwise, but it is a long, expensive, uphill battle, just to stay out of jail.

                        The specific case they focused on was some kind of malicious software that came from a gaming site and looked for inactivity. Exactly what the OP was referring to. I sure hope my defensive software is up to the task.

                        Here's a link to the article:
                        http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33778733...ence-security/

                        I understand what people are saying about it being OK to leave one's computer on 24/7. I have never done that, though. I was worried about someone using my computer for a terminal when I read about that problem years ago. Now, with this child pornography problem coming up, I have reafirmed my conviction that it's just not smart to rely on a firewall or some other method of protection.

                        One man that received downloads of that crap from an unwanted outside source was totally destroyed financially, socially and criminally. I understand that it finally got straightened out but he's destitute now with no job and no friends. No thanks. I won't take the chance.

                        JMO
                        Last edited by gnm109; 11-15-2009, 12:50 PM.

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                        • #13
                          The solution:

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ohio Mike
                            In short it is safe assuming the machine is clean (no viruses etc).
                            Two different security issues. It's not safe to connect a computer (regardless of the OS) directly to the Internet, whether it's infected with virii or not, unless it has a firewall, preferably a hardware firewall.

                            Now, with this child pornography problem coming up, I have reafirmed my conviction that it's just not smart to rely on a firewall or some other method of protection.
                            It is possible to hack a hardware firewall. There have been a couple of cases, but it's exceedingly rare. Hacking a dedicated firewall requires a very, very high skill level that's light years beyond your typical "Script Kiddy" -- the teenager who's downloading hacking tools from Internet forums.

                            Bottom line: the only way to be completely safe is to not connect to the Internet at all. But that's no fun
                            "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

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                            • #15
                              Just this morning I read an article about child porn people using a virus to access computers and storing photo's and video on others computers rather than their own. They then use that computer as a storage unit to load and download from with that virus program. That keeps their computer clean and no one can implicate them. It has gotten a lot of innocent people in trouble and the police NEVER believe you when you say you didn't do it. To them your guilty until proven innocent as far as child porn is concerned and you can't prove your innocent without spending thousands of dollars to analyze your hard drive for how it got there. Apparently the courts won't pay to prove your innocent in most cases.
                              It's only ink and paper

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