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Question about Internet Connection Security

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Question about Internet Connection Security

Old 10-17-09, 10:31 AM
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Question about Internet Connection Security

My father and stepmother got into a spirted discussion about this, and when they dragged me into it, I didn't have a good enough answer to satisfy them. And that bothered me.

My stepmom (queen of paranoia land) sez: ALL you need is an open connection to the web for someone/somewhere to sneak into your computer and read any open document or spreadsheet. NO trojan/spyware/keylogger needed. NO open browser/email/IM windows or other connections... JUST an open web connection. She won't even open her private diary without first closing all other apps & windows and slapping the standby key on the cable modem.

My dad sez: Sure it's possible, but it would have to be an EXTREMELY opportunistic event. He admits that if someone was "staking the computer out" and had the right trojans in place, sure, it could and would happen.

Last time I checked, he keeps the AV & malware scanners up-to-date, but they don't have any firewall beyond Windows XP, and they plug directly into the modem, no router.

I tended to side with Dad, but I wonder just how much of her paranoia is warranted. So... the next time she slips up and opens her diary without slapping down the modem, is some guy in Eastern Europe going to be reading over her shoulder?

Thanks for any input.
Old 10-17-09, 12:25 PM
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Re: Question about Internet Connection Security

Depends what is running on the pc and the patch level. With no hardware firewall you are open to grep and other sniffers that scan which ports you have running and then try to attack based on that. there was another popular ^nix tool that I played with but don't remember the name
Old 10-17-09, 02:59 PM
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Re: Question about Internet Connection Security

Originally Posted by unclezippy View Post
My stepmom (queen of paranoia land) sez: ALL you need is an open connection to the web for someone/somewhere to sneak into your computer and read any open document or spreadsheet. NO trojan/spyware/keylogger needed. NO open browser/email/IM windows or other connections... JUST an open web connection. She won't even open her private diary without first closing all other apps & windows and slapping the standby key on the cable modem.
The Windows Firewall on XP SP2 blocks incoming connections by default. However, ports can be opened by various programs. A port that's open to incoming connections is vulnerable to outside attack, but just because a port is open doesn't mean your PC is compromised. The hacker would have to be able to compromise whatever program/service is "listening" on that port. Open incoming ports can also be a sign of malware, since once it's infected your PC they may open up a port so they can listen for more commands from their creator.

Here's a site that offers a free check of the open ports on your PC:
https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2

I would note that unless your mom's diary is a password-protected encrypted file, it really doesn't matter if she only opens it when the PC's not connected to the internet (the internet is more than just the web, port 80). If someone has access to your PC, they'll typically have access to all your files, whether they're currently open or not.
Old 10-17-09, 04:52 PM
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Re: Question about Internet Connection Security

Neither your stepmom or dad are fully correct Will that help settle it?

What is considered secure depends on who is securing what. The only machine that can not be easily compromised is one that is turned off. Tell your stepmom to turn the computer off if she wants it to be secure, otherwise its open to whatever.
Old 10-17-09, 06:47 PM
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Re: Question about Internet Connection Security

Jay G: That free check is pretty cool - I am VERY SECURE!! I expect that a lot of it is due to my FTTH Modem.

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