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Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites

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Saturday, June 05, 2004

 

Connectivity Follies

Within the last twenty-four hours, my Internet connection has stopped working altogether, then worked only by bypassing my DSL router, and then -- after several twists and turns that I shall omit for the sake of brevity -- worked at least as well as before, and with all of the original pieces in place.

Suffice it to say that the process afforded me a fine opportunity to test my patience and equanimity, along with my ability to communicate regarding technical matters with non-native speakers of English. But I won’t bore you with the details.

It’s the part in the middle – the period when the router was bypassed – that concerns me. As it happens, it proved to be a lovely illustration of just how hazardous it can be to run a “fully exposed” exposed Internet connection.

That router, you see, performs a very useful security function, called Network Address Translation. The effect of NAT is to hide the computer from unfriendly outsiders.

I had always thought this was a good idea, but hadn’t really tested the theory until yesterday, when circumstances turned my computer into a little test lab.

What happened was startling.

Only minutes after establishing my “exposed” connection, little alarm boxes were popping up, courtesy of my virus scan software, informing me that it had identified and removed a couple of worms – both apparently of the variety that can insinuate themselves onto your computer without the necessity of doing something incredibly stupid, such as opening an e-mail attachment from a complete stranger with a “.exe.” file extension. Lovely.

I quickly set up a trial version of McAfee’s “personal firewall” – and was even more amazed. Within a couple of hours, it had intercepted literally hundreds of “events” – unwelcome probes from all over the Internet. Yikes.

Needless to say, I got my router back up – quickly – which put an end to the inbound crud. But it was a lesson, nonetheless. Which I share with you -- just in case there’s anyone out there without current virus software and something (NAT or a firewall of some sort) protecting their connection.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.


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