Conference, Web helping computers stay secure

By Gwen Davis
Enquirer contributor

Computers are a security risk. Many computer owners and network administrators do not take computer security seriously. Security is seen as an inconvenience, too much trouble to enact and too costly. However, when the computer is down or files are missing or information has been compromised, security becomes important.

Last week I attended Comdex in Chicago. Comdex is a convention that puts computer professionals in touch with the latest technology and training in the industry.

Comdex has three shows per year. The next are in Atlanta in September and Las Vegas in November.

In Chicago, the emphasis was on network and Internet security and wireless connections. Protection of vital information has become more important since the threat of terrorist attacks has become more real.

Hackers make it their mission to get into networks just to see how far they can get. Some are malicious; others just hack for fun. It is the computer owner or administrator`s job to protect their systems from such attacks.

Computer systems are vulnerable in the following ways:

  • Misconfigured systems.
  • Flawed software.
  • Password sharing.
  • Identity spoofing.
  • Unauthorized file transfers.
  • Internet/firewall/Web site misconfiguration — meaning open ports.

These are just a few ways that open doors for malicious attacks.

“Many computer owners do not keep on top of software updates,” says Brent Cooper of C-Forward Inc., a networking solutions company in Newport. “Security holes are found all the time in existing software.

“Software companies publish updates to block the holes, but people don`t install them at all or right away.

“Also, viruses are the biggest issue with productivity. They can shut down an entire company in a matter of minutes,”

Small businesses — just like larger businesses — are vulnerable.

Since smaller businesses are accessing the Internet with Web-based businesses, it opens them up to attack. Also, small businesses feel they do not need to have increased security because of the closeness of their colleagues. Don`t forget after you leave the office, anyone can access your files especially if passwords are non-existent.

Here are a few things to check:

  • It is important to test internally and externally.
  • Make sure virus protection is installed.
  • Don`t use blank passwords or ones that are easy to guess.
  • Do not install unnecessary applications.
  • Identify Internet connections and do not remain online when you have finished surfing or retrieving e-mail.
  • Do not run operating systems like Windows NT 4.0 Professional or Server nor Windows 2000 Professional or Server as the Administrator. This gives viruses and Trojan horses the leeway to take over the entire system.
  • Check the users in the organization and make sure they do not have unnecessary additional permissions.

Security is up to you and the organization. If you want to test your network with free software, try these sites: