Testing Your Online Security
Being a responsible, security conscious computer user, you have
firewall software protecting your machine from unwanted
intruders right? Well that's great, but how do you know if the
firewall is actually doing its job? Some firewall software is
not all that easy to set up. How can you be sure that you have
the software configured to effectively protect your system?
A good way to find out if your system is really as secure as
you'd like it to be is to request an online security test. A
number of sites offer security tests free of charge. Three
testing sites that I personally know and trust are listed below.
This site is run by Steve Gibson, a well-known and respected
Internet personage. There is a lot of good security information
available on the site as well as the testing procedures and how
to use them. The site resonates with Mr Gibson's unique and
flamboyant communication style.
The scans on the site are labelled "Privacy" and "Security". They
are simple to use and very fast. A good way to get a quick heads
up on the state of your computer's security. The site also has
a lot of information and links about security issues.
Another popular site that allows you to perform a port scan at
the click of a button. After the scan is completed, a click of
the "Results" button opens a page that reports on the health of
your security setup.
All being well, these sites should generate a report that
explains how secure your system is. If there are holes in your
security, the reports will suggest ways of filling them. If I'm
testing a computer's security, I usually take the time to
request tests from at least two of the sites above. A second
opinion is always good to have! The result to aim for is that
your computer is operating in "stealth mode". That is, it is
virtually invisible to intruders looking for an easy mark.
As I mentioned, there are a number of sites that offer security
tests. However, some of these "tests" are completely bogus and
are designed to scare users into purchasing software that they
may not even need. One of the dirty little tricks that these
sites employ is to make you think that the entire contents of
your hard-drive is available for all to see. They do this by
apparently displaying the contents of your hard-drive in your
web browser. In reality, nobody but you can see your files.
This trick is achieved by placing a script in the code of
the website that simply opens your C drive in your browser.
You can do this yourself by simply typing "C:" (without the
quotes) in the address bar of your browser. Try it! It's
actually a quite useful alternative method of manoeuvring
through the files stored on your hard-drive.
Well, hopefully your computer manages to achieve a good report
card. Of course, the scum who try to break into other
peoples' computers are often very canny. No computer security
system can claim to be totally foolproof. However, doing a
little online testing can help you to ensure that your computer
is as secure as possible.
Write-up by Brett M.Christensen