This is a subject that comes up a lot with my clients. The answer is not as straight forward as it may seem. There are a lot of factors that can effect this. Some of them are as follows:
If you signed up for Verizon DSL in the last year, you probably received a little grey box in the mail that is a Westell Wireless router. Verizon ships these routers with the wireless portion turned on. This allows anyone within about 300 feet to get access to your DSL connection and then the internet, while you pay for the bill. Worse yet, this bypasses the cheap firewall feature that is built into the router, meaning that unless your computers are properly protected, anyone with a laptop that is 300 feet, or less, from your home could potentially access all of the files on your computer. Comcast, to my knowledge, is not yet shipping routers to customers that have built-in wireless features. That does not mean you are safe though. Many people purchase routers with wireless features as an add-on after their broadband is installed. If they do not know how to secure these devices, they are just as vulnerable as the rest of us.
Your AntiVirus Software:
If the first thing you think is “What’s that?”, then you need to be nervous. Not only should EVERY computer have AntiVirus software installed, but it needs to be updated regularly. Most new computers come with with a 90-day or 6-month trial of some kind of AntiVirus software. What most people don’t know is that this software “expires” unless they pay a subscription or maintenance fee after the trial period ends. If your AntiVirus software is out of date and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a subscription service, there are free AntiVirus solutions that do a good job (sometimes better then the “pay” software) of keeping your system safe. You do need to make sure that the “scheduled updates” feature is turned on and set to check at least once a day for updates.
Your Personal Firewall:
Not many people think about this one, especially those who are still using Windows 95, Windows 98 or Windows 2000. Windows XP has a firewall feature built-in, but if you are still using the original version and have not upgraded to Service Pack 2, then your firewall feature may not be turned on. My suggestion? TURN IT ON! This will help keep a lot of potential threats out, including many of the worms that have been ripping around the internet in the last couple of years. If you are still running Windows 98 or Windows 2000, there are free and inexpensive firewalls that you can download and install that will be a great job of protecting you. In fact, even if you have Windows XP, it is often worth the effort of installing a replacement firewall if you want to better chance of staying protected. Again, this is an item that you want to update regularly. Windows XP updates the firewall by using the Windows Update feature. The third party firewalls usually have an “update” feature that can be scheduled. Make sure this feature is set to update at least twice a week.
This barely scratches the surface of how to keep you computer(s) that are on a broadband connection safe. Some of these things you may be able to implement on your own, while others may need help with their security.