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Types of Connections

You can connect your network or computer to the Internet in several ways. These involve plenty of differences, but also some important similarities. First, you must be running TCP/IP as your network protocol.

Why Should You Worry?

During the week of February 9, 2000, several of the biggest and best e-commerce sites (Buy.com, Amazon.com, Yahoo.com, and eBay.com, among others) were taken down in a Denial of Service (DoS) that was the first of its kind to hit so broadly. The DoS was generated in a distributed fashion, originating from literally hundreds of systems across the world and generating massive volumes of traffic. The sites were overwhelmed with the traffic, and eventually servers were unable to answer legitimate requests. Tracking the problem was difficult because the source of the traffic was computers that were unwitting accomplices. People like you and me owned those computers, as did large companies, universities, and many others. The original cracker planted “zombie” code on these boxes when they were unprotected and then later sent a simple command so the computers started sending network requests to the target. It was very effective.

Another example is a program that surfaced a while back called Back Orifice (BO)—supposedly a play on the name of Microsoft’s Back Office. This program is a Trojan horse that allows the owner to do a wide variety of things on any system with this software on it. If I were running BO, I could attach to your system and open the CD tray, record your keystrokes, move your mouse, and more. That is pretty scary, but worse, then BO would publish your Internet address to a place where other hackers could find it and use your system too.

Let’s say you are browsing the Internet and you get an e-mail message. The message appears to be from someone whose name you don’t know, but the subject says “Here’s that file we talked about.” You’re curious, so you open the mail and see that it says, “This one cracked me up, you should check it out.” You figure it’s some humor mail, probably from someone who knows you at the office, so you open the file. It takes you to a Web site and says “Loading . . . One Moment . . .”

At this point you might be perfectly safe, or you could be in big trouble. If this is a malicious hacker’s attempt to compromise your system, they might well have succeeded. The mail was sent with a Trojan-horse program attached, and when you opened the file, it installed the program, possibly in addition to doing what was advertised or promised in the message. Now the hacker can “visit” your system any time you are connected to the Internet. That’s all the time if you’re using DSL, cable, or ISDN, so the hacker has essentially unlimited use of your system. If you’re able to control file access, you might stop some of these activities, but not all. A really tricky hacker can even send an e-mail message to your company as if it came from you, telling your boss you quit or that you want an outrageous raise.



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