Protect yourself from hacking and bandwidth theft

BUSINESS owners have to combat crime on many fronts. While the physical threat of theft of stock is easy to identify, fraud can be more difficult to detect. Even more so when it comes to the theft of an “unseen” commodity such as bandwidth.

By - March 20, 2007

Bandwidth theft is a potential problem for any business with always-on internet, and users who fall victim to this crime will find their data cap being used up by criminals before they have had a chance to use it themselves. This necessitates the purchase of additional bandwidth in order to continue accessing e-mail or the internet.

Internet service providers are aware that the scourge of bandwidth theft is increasing and are constantly working to help eliminate it. For example, task groups including representatives from the South African Police Services have been formed to identify and apprehend criminals who are guilty of bandwidth theft.

While most big corporations have firewalls which prevent unsolicited access to their internet connections, small businesses and home users generally do not.

However, there are several steps that these users can take to protect themselves against bandwidth theft:

Change your router username and password. Most routers come with common user names and passwords, such as “admin” or “password”. Follow the instructions in the user guide for your particular router to change these to your personal choice of user name and password;

Disable remote access to your router. This will prevent external users gaining access to your router, and potentially stealing your bandwidth. Again, follow the instructions in your router’s manual on how to do this;

Protect wireless access to your router by enabling a security “key” or wired equivalent privacy code. Any computer wanting to log onto your wireless network will require this key, eliminating the possibility of unwanted usage of your network;

If your internet service provider offers it, enable ADSL protected access, which will block unsolicited incoming connections on four vulnerable ports on an ADSL router. These four ports are often exploited by criminals targeting victims for bandwidth theft and, if enabled, criminals will find it difficult to gain access to your router;

Install a personal firewall and anti-virus software on your computer. There are special versions of these software packages available for small businesses which are very affordable; and

Change your internet password regularly.

If you take these steps outlined above, you can rest assured that you have done everything in your power to make your internet connection as secure as it can be.

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