To Firewall or Not To Firewall….

September 14, 2010

If you have ever installed a fully featured Antivirus program, or another security program, you may of been presented with an option to install a firewall, thereby disabling the standard firewall built into Windows.

What is a firewall, and should we keep the Windows firewall, or use the 3rd party software firewall?

A firewall is a hardware of software application that blocks unauthorized access to a computer or network.  It also lets the right kind of access in or out, meaning you can still access the internet and applications you need.

For most small businesses and home users, a software firewall application is suitable.  For larger networks, or high security, a robust hardware solution may be the answer.

There are arguments for using or not using the built in firewall in Windows.

  • FOR – The windows firewall is automatically configured and turned on by default.  You don’t have to do anything to start it up.
  • AGAINST – Microsoft Windows is a huge target for hackers.  They are always looking for ways to find ways into the system.  It may be harder to attack a system with another software firewall running.
  • FOR – If you have a hardware firewall application, or the firewall setup on your router, it does not hurt to keep the Windows Firewall running on your individual computers.
  • AGAINST – A company that specifically makes security software is focused on the purpose of security.  A 3rd party firewall application typically provides greater protection, though it does require more interaction and configuration.

Whatever your decision is, having a firewall running on your computer(s) is a good idea.  There are thousands of viruses, worms, and other threats floating around in cyberspace.

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Broadband – Cable vs. DSL – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter

March 30, 2010
Broadband internet service is a part of many people’s daily lives, whether at home, at work, with our phones and even at coffee shops and other public locations.  Many terms are used by advertisers and computer nerds, but what do they mean?

Cable and DSL
  • Cable broadband travels over the standard COAX cable that is usually buried and ran directly to homes.  Cable internet can offer faster speeds than DSL, but the broadband internet for a neighborhood is a shared connection, which may mean that during peak times, the internet may slow down.
  • DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is a broadband internet service that works over regular copper telephone wires.  Most homes in the US have copper phone wires that are run (either underground, or overhead) directly to them.  Those lines run from your home to a DSLAM (a building or box that feeds the internet to homes).  DSL speeds can be slower than cable, however, because of how the network is setup, there is not much variation in that speed.
Bandwidth, Upload and Download

inQuo Computer Repair in Salt Lake City, UT - The Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter

  • Bandwidth refers to the capacity or speed of a connection.  Imagine your internet connection is a pipe.  The diameter of the pipe is your bandwidth.
  • Upload speed means the speed in which your computer or network can send data over the internet.  When sending emails, accessing websites (typing the address), or sending large files over FTP or file sharing networks, you are uploading.
  • Download speed means the speed in which your computer or network can receive files and information over the internet.  When you are viewing a video on a website, you are downloading the stream to your computer, temporarily.  When you open an email and save a file to your hard drive, you are downloading that file.  When you type in a web address, as the page begins to load, it is downloading the information to your computer in the form of text and graphics.
Cable and DSL Broadband are priced differently, and depending on your individual needs, either one can be a good fit for you.  For the average home computer user that is surfing the internet for news and email, DSL is probably a good solution.  For online gaming, downloading large files, and heavy internet streaming (movies and video), cable may be a better solution.  Cable is typically more expensive than DSL.

The Virus Issue Part One of Three – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter Volume 11

December 18, 2009

Anyone who has touched a keyboard has probably heard of computer viruses, spyware, malware, etc.  But do you really understand what those terms mean, and how they can affect you?

This is the first of a three part series on computer viruses.  We will define what different types of viruses are, what they can do, how to remove them,  and how you can prevent future infections.

Definitions

Adware – A small software program, typically installed when visiting certain internet websites, or installing “shareware” or “freeware” software.  Adware can monitor websites that you visit, and transmit that information to marketers for research and targeted advertising.  It can increase the delivery of advertisements in the form of pop-up ads, targeted banners, etc.

Malware – Malicious software that is installed without your knowledge, that is used for sinister purposes, such as gathering information like passwords, installing viruses and trojans, turning a computer into a “Zombie”, and other unwanted actions.

Spyware – Again, software installed on your computer without you knowing.  Spyware can be software installed by an owner of the computer to monitor the activities.  For example, a parent that installs software to log the keystrokes of their kids, or a business owner monitoring their employee’s computer use.  Spyware can monitor internet activity, and can also re-direct users to specific websites.

Trojan (Horse) – One of the more riskier malware programs, a trojan horse virus typically starts out as a small program that seemingly causes no harm, but can give others unauthorized access to your computer system.  They are usually not self replicating, like viruses and worms, and they do require interaction with an outside party, like a hacker.

Virus – A virus is a program or set of scripts that can cause harm to your computer by deleting or corrupting files, disabling security software and other problematic things.  A virus is typically a local program, and can be spread through manual processes, like sharing flash disks or USB drives, as well as email, IM programs, and social networking websites.  The term virus is generally used as a blanketed description for other types of infections, like trojans, spyware and malware.

Worm – A self-replicating program that spreads through networks, e-mail, instant messaging programs and file sharing.  Worms do not usually attach themselves to other programs.  Many worms do not typically cause damage to files or programs, however, they can cause problems with bandwidth because of how they spread and replicate.

Zombie (Computer) – A computer that is connected to the internet, and has been compromised by a trojan, virus or worm.  The computer is then used by someone controlling it, to send out spam e-mails, spread viruses, attack websites, etc.  The owner of the computer does not know their computer is being used in that way.  An estimated 80-90% of all spam e-mails sent worldwide comes from zombie infected computers.