Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Personal Firewall

My security was breached recently. In fact, our entire home wireless network was affected. We've taken the appropriate steps to rebuild our defenses, but it wasn't without cost. Each time something goes wrong with my computer I learn something new. Then I tweak how I do what I do to compensate hoping to prevent future disaster.

This time I learned alot about security and how to protect my machine and our family network. Since my husband and I both work out of the house, it's crucial that this network is secure. We've learned that even when you do everything the experts say to do, there's still a chance that an unforeseen virus will infiltrate your system and wreak havoc.

Viruses, spyware, adware, phishing, all seem to find a way into our network and sabotage our systems. Sometimes it's because we didn't update our virus protection. Other times it's because an innocent visit to a what appeared to be an equally innocent website opened up a gaping hole in our carefully planted hedges of protection. I thought some precious files were lost, but the IT guys found a way to save my work.

Just when I think we're safe, something else goes wrong. Something else always goes wrong.

So now I've upgraded to a protection software that promises to do the job right. We've fortified our personal firewalls, and placed parental controls on our children's computer use. Now I save my precious writing files to an external hard drive and back up the system every night.

I've gotten other recommendations over time by those in the know, but they don't always work out. They say only open email from people you know. Well, there are times that even my best friend may pass on a virus without knowing it. They say to add layer upon layer of protection - build bigger and higher hedges. Sometimes when I do that, the programs conflict and cause even more problems.

I could take drastic measures. I could block all email and just check the spam folder for anything of consequence. I could turn off my wireless network when I'm not actively online (which would be on and off all day long!). I could cancel my internet access all together. What I've realized is that these measures may actually be necessary short term. Now if I could just relinquish my attachment to instant communication long enough to let it all go.

But I don't want to overreact and become a technology hermit. But I have to find a way to live in this new world just the same in a way that is safe and doesn't open my family network up to unseen, and sometimes malicious, intrusion.

How can I filter out the benign from the malignant? Do I need to cut it all out just in case? Like cancer, I wonder if what now appears benign has enough cancerous cells in it to grow into a malignant tumor.

At this point I think I have all the external protection it's advised that I have, but I need to monitor my own online activity better. That's all I can control at this point. Isn't that all any of us can really do?

Our families are much like our home network. They need protection - boundaries - hedges - to keep them safe and intact. Little by little we learn, usually when things go wrong, how to better protect ourselves, our families, and our marriages.

Here's a recommendation for external protection. After that, well, when you've built the densest and highest hedges around, look inside to monitor your own activity. And when something gets through and messes up the works, go back and look for where the hole is. It takes constant maintenance and updates. At least that's what the folks at Microsoft tell me.