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The Layered Defense
I’m going to share a secret with you. Ok, so it’s not really a secret… but it certainly qualifies as something many online thieves and computer hackers don’t want you to know: You can defend yourself. Sure, there’s no fool-proof, magical security measure capable of guaranteeing the safety of your personal information, or stopping every computer virus from getting through. But it’s certainly possible to lessen the risk! This three-part series will give you an idea, and some tips, on how to protect your home network and personal computer(s).
First, you need to understand the concept of Layers. I like to use the analogy of cold weather. You can go out and buy a real thick, heavy coat to wear, and it will do an ok job of keeping you warm. Once the cold air manages to get through, however, you’re pretty well stuck staying cold. Your best defense is putting on multiple layers of clothing. Just when the cold wind pushes through that first layer, it finds itself stopped by another. Protecting your home network, and thus your personal computer and private information, should be handled the same way. By building multiple walls around your computer, you make it infinitely more difficult for hackers to get to your system.
The concept of layers is that much more important when one realizes there is only so much you can do per layer. To understand this, I use another analogy: a track meet. Imagine you have 10 runners, but only one lane. Whoever starts in front will stay in front, regardless of which runner is the best. The other runners will just get in each others’ way. The same thing would happen if you tried to install two different virus scanners on the same computer- both Norton AND Mcafee, for example. Both programs are trying to analyze and access each file on your system at the same time, thus stumbling over each other.
If, instead, you were to keep one virus scanner on your computer and run another virus scanner on a separate layer, any file or code being sent from the internet would get scanned twice before being able to affect your system. Better still, one of those scans would happen before the file/code even reached your network. If a virus is stopped before it has access to your computer, then no matter how clever or malicious the code, it will have ZERO chance of causing harm to your computer. (If a thief can’t get into your house, he has absolutely no chance of getting to your stereo… and therefore, no chance of carrying it away.)
Your link to the internet comes from your ISP to your home, via the modem. You then have the choice to send the signal directly from the modem to your PC, or to your switch/router if you have a home network. I strongly advise against this. Thus, your first layer of defense should be placed just after your modem. Then, you have your PC protection: virus scanner, software firewall, etc. We’ll get to these later.
For now, I hope Part I successfully defined for you what a layered defense is, and conveyed the importance of this technique in protecting your home PC and/or network. In the next section I will begin detailing a VERY effective layer to place between the modem and your home network or PC. It’s my secret weapon. The third part of this series will give tips on protecting your computer itself, obviously the last layer of defense.
[Authors note: The software and hardware I suggest in my articles is based on my extensive experience in the computer field. However, as it being my opinion, do not assume that my suggestions are mandatory for your needs or that these measures will guarantee the security of your PC and/or network.]