They silenced Yahoo, closed shop at EBay, and put Amazon.com on the shelf. They've made the FBI list of Most Wanted Hackers... and it's possible that they were unwittingly abetted by many of us.
The much publicized hack attacks that occurred in February were the result of a "distributed denial of service attack." This is one way to describe a process where a website is overwhelmed by a massive number of requests for service.
The perpetrators of the attack are thought to have used a program that gave them control over entire networks of workstations. Evidence of this was found on computers at UCLA, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara.
This does not indicate that the website saboteurs were California students -- merely that they were able to gain access to computers at these universities, which is surprisingly easy to do.
Software developer (and InfoWorld editor) Steve Gibson was shocked when he found out how easy it is for others to access most desktop PC's. As a public service, Gibson has created ShieldsUp, a free online utility that now takes up a big chunk of his Gibson Research Corporation website.
According to Gibson, one reason Windows PCs are especially vulnerable to tampering is that the Windows operating system installs with all its networking options turned on by default.
If your Windows PC is always on and has a perpetual Internet connection (via a network, DSL or cable modem), it could be a sitting duck for mischief makers who scan for open ports through your IP address... and can gain access to all kinds of personal information, including what's on your hard drive.
As high-speed Internet access like DSL becomes more widely available, Macintosh systems -- once considered very secure -- are also in danger of being tampered with by ill-intentioned strangers.
Experts say that the very openness of the Internet -- which is its greatest appeal -- makes total security an impossibility. However, there are steps you can take to "deadbolt" your system from cyber-intruders:
For more detailed advice on this problem and its solutions, go to Gibson's website, where you will be guided step-by-step through the process of making your system more secure. http://www.grc.com It's worth the time and effort to make it tougher for cyber-vandals to strike.
Donna Schwartz Mills is the editor of the NOBOSS ParentPreneur Club http://www.parentpreneurclub.com/siteman/a6.html, an online resource for moms and dads with home-based businesses and those who are thinking of starting a home-based business. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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