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  PC-Net's PC News - March, 2001
 
Don Watkins

Tweaking Broadband: Faster and Safer (Part 2)

By Don Watkins

 
 
 

 

March 2001óLast month we took a look at possible improvements to your broadband connection and hopefully theyíve garnered some improvement for you. Tweaking can lead to itís own kind of madness trying different things attempting to squeeze the last byte out of your connection so recognize that and donít forget to go out and enjoy no earthquakes.

To make a short story long, no damage at my shop north of Seattle. This is my third big earthquake (LA in í69, SF in í89) but the first time I was out and about (trying to find my way around the grocery store for something to eat that didnít require cooking skills as my wife was out of town) and I recognized it for what it was so I scurried (the image of a cockroach with the light on comes to mind) to the back of the store away from the shelves and drop ceiling.

The product breakage was impressive. Catsup, mustard, salad dressing, et al, everywhere. Literally a clean up on every aisle.

But the hardware survived just fine. Nary a power glitch. So thanks for all your emails of concern, everything is fine in my neck of the woods.

Persistent Connection Issues

Unlike a dial up connection a full time connection offers an always on target for those that go around rattling locks to see if the door is unlocked. Is there great exposure? I canít judge that for you, but after installing software to detect such things you may be surprised at the number of people who come poking around seeing what they can find. Probably better to be safe than sorry.

Checking Your Security

Two sites that provide security testing are dslreports and Steve Gibsonís "Shields Up" service.

Thereís no harm to using both and they will both give you a pretty good idea of where your current security stands. I feel that the dslreports test is a bit more comprehensive but again, youíll want to try both.

Types of Security

If youíre not running anything other than standard Windows security youíll probably want to consider some extra security. Usually referred to as a "firewall" it can be either hardware or software. For most home applications software is far less expensive.

Hardware

Hardware security is typically fairly expensive. Iíve installed firewall appliances for clients that run into thousands of dollars but a relatively recent product on the market is the Linksys connection sharing router. Not only does it provide an outstanding hardware solution to sharing a connection between multiple networked computers but it also includes an excellent firewall. If you need connection sharing I highly recommend the Linksys device.

Software

Because I prefer hardware solutions in my setup I havenít tested all the software solutions on the market. Among those I have are Signal 9, BlackIce, Conceal and ZoneAlarm. Itís been a while since Iíve used these and they all had their quirks, but drop by the Gibson Research Site and check out their ratings as they are current.

Bottom Line

You probably donít have anything to worry about, but with your always on connection youíll want to take some extra care and make sure that you havenít left the front door open for just anyone to wander in. An ounce of prevention and all that.

Until next month stay connected.

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