November 15, 2010

This recent article got me thinking a little bit about internet security. It’s actually quite sad that I don’t think about it more often, considering I’m an electrical and computer engineer and I  work 8-12 hours a day in front of a computer connected to the net.

I think when people think about internet security, most think of things like viruses, or trojans, or some hacker out there trying to get access to your files. But chances are, these things will almost never happen to you as long as you 1.) don’t open questionable emails/attachments and 2.) don’t visit questionable websites.

Considering that firewall and spyware removal is included as part of Windows and the abundance of anti-viruses out there, it it actually pretty difficult to get malicious software installed on your computer. I think the last time I got an actual virus was in high school.

So no, the type of internet security people should actually be thinking about are the small stuff, the stuff that aren’t really intuitive. Things like that described in the article.

I think most people just don’t realize that when they’re using a public hotspot, they are essentially broadcasting everything they’re doing on the internet to whoever else is in the area. And let’s be honest, if someone can pretend to be you to your email provider, how long would it take them to access every other account you own? This is also why you should encrypt your home wireless, not just so your neighbors can’t use it to torrent movies.

The other thing I’ve noticed that people don’t do is tiering their access information. i.e. Having passwords and email accounts with different level of security. This one should really be common sense. Don’t use the same password for your bank account as you do for the free account you have to make to play that super cool flash game. Likewise, don’t use your main email when signing up for that neat new media site that all your friends are talking about.

The truth of the matter is that the strength of your password is almost never going to come into question. Unless you’re some high profile person, or have access to high profile information, the chance of someone actually trying to brute force your password is virtually non-existent. The time and resources it would take to brute force the password for my bank account probably costs more than what I have in that account.

Okay, let’s end with a mildly related xkcd comic.

One Response to “Security”

  1. Eric Mesa Says:

    That’s why someone I was listening to (on a podcast) was advocating abandonment of the wifi because, let’s face it, almost everything interesting to do on the internet requires you to be signed in. Instead use cellular network cards for laptops, PDAs, netbooks, etc. They aren’t crack-proof, but they’re a lot harder to spoof

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