Cable/DSL Modems and Shared Internet Access
If you are interested in this area, you probably already have a computer and you use a telephone line to dial up your ISP (Internet Service Provider like AOL or RCN or Earthlink). You use a telephone line modem to do this but the actual modem is probably inside your computer box so you just plug a phone line into the back. The cable/DSL modem is a standalone box. It plugs into a wall outlet for power and into a television drop to connect to the cable system or a normal telephone drop for DSL. The connection to your computer is via a network connection – either standard Ethernet or USB (Universal Serial Bus). Most current computers support one or both of these connections. If not, you will have to add the appropriate hardware to connect the cable/DSL modem. The software to support the modem comes with it.
There are two areas of computer security that you need to consider in the use of any cable/DSL modem system. The first is antivirus protection for the computer itself. Any computer system connected to the Internet should have one of the standard antivirus programs installed. The virus definition files used by these programs are constantly being updated – at least once per day. It is essential you have your antivirus program set to do automatic updates. The cost of this level of protection is about $30 per year and well worth it. Just having a god antivirus product is no longer a compelte solution. You also need an antispyware package as spyware is currently a significant part of the problems caused by a broadband connection. the ideal product provides protection against both spyware and virus programs. This is a critical but complex area. Let WHBK be your guide to complete protection in this area.
A cable/DSL modem Internet connection is “always on”. This is a great benefit to you as it provides instant access without waiting for the system to dial up. However, it also makes your system more of a target for anyone wishing to obtain access to your computer. The two current greatest threats are gaining access to data on your hard drive and using your system as a base to launch attacks on other systems. The standard solution here is a device called a firewall. It is either a separate system or software added to your existing computer that watches over all Internet traffic on a specific connection. Many of the antivirus programs now include a software firewall as part of the standard system or as a separate product. The newer systems are starting to include such capabilities. For example, Windows XP Home Edition has a built-in firewall.
The simplest way to add a firewall is to use a standalone hardware version. It is a small box that is connected between your cable/DSL modem and your computer. They are readily available for under $100 and also provide the capability to connect more that one computer (see next section).
Several of you probably have more than one computer system in your house. In the past you may have just shared a phone line and dialed up the Internet as needed on a shared basis. Small home networks have become popular in the past few years. All the systems are connected to a network hub/switch and this allows files, printers, and an Internet connection to be shared by all systems. This is the best way to share a cable/DSL modem connection. The systems can be connected by wires (CAT 6 cables) or by use of wireless links. The cable/DSL modem is plugged into a small box called a router that will make the Internet connection available to all the systems.
There are a wide variety of routers available for the home that combine the cable/DSL modem interface, a hardwired network interconnect (usually a 4 port switch), a firewall, and may also incorporate wireless capability. There are just starting to be units that also incorporate the cable/DSL modem itself. In addition to wired and wireless networks, it is now possible to use your home power lines to build a home network. The wireless and power line systems are useful if you do not want to string CAT6 cable around your house.
There are some additional security considerations for home networks. Wired networks are quite secure. The signals from wireless networks can be detected throughout your neighborhood and those from power-line networks by any other house on the same side of the power transformer. Be sure to enable security and encryption on any wireless or power-line network. Also, Never use the default settings for things like passwords.