|Internet Connection Security for Windows Users|
|by Steve Gibson, Gibson Research Corporation|
You have probably encountered the term "LAN", which stands for Local Area Network. The operative term here is LOCAL because the networking technology incorporated into Windows called "NetBIOS" and "NetBEUI" and first designed more than fourteen years ago by IBM received its first broad exposure in Microsoft's "MS-Net" product and then more widely in "Windows for Workgroups." NetBIOS and NetBEUI were designed to run on small LOCAL area networks. It was created way back before the Internet "happened" and it was meant to be used within corporations, small "workgroups", and homes where everyone with access to the computers on the LAN is playing on the same team.
As Microsoft's own Windows for Workgroups Resource Kit says:
Well, I couldn't have said that better myself. Windows networking technology is based upon NetBIOS and NetBEUI, which were NEVER designed to "go global". It wasn't ever meant to cope with foreign agents, competitors, pissed off ex-employees, previously significant others, or malicious teenage computer vandals with too much time on their hands. But when you hook your Windows-based computer to the Internet, this is precisely who has access to your machine! (For some background on NetBIOS/NetBEUI and why they aren't designed for the Internet click the "TechZone" link below.)
Truth & Consequences . . .
The problem is that file and printer sharing services function by turning any PC wanting to share its files into a file and printer server. When this trusting and sharing computer is connected to a network, this "service" is naturally extended and made available to the all the other computers which are also connected to the network. But when that network is THE INTERNET, suddenly your computer is literally offering its files to every other computer in the world!
How Did This Happen?. . .
Windows NetBIOS networking technology does not require any sort of authorization to ask for and receive any computer's private "networking" names, including the name of the current logged-on user, the computer's own name and its workgroup. Such information is considered highly valuable to anyone preparing a break-in and is often used as a starting point by computer vandals planning an attack.
Secondly, it's much easier for most users if everything is turned on and "just works" on a PC. So most options are automatically set ON until you turn them OFF even if you don't need them.
As you will see on the "Network Bondage" page here, it's easy to discipline the Client for Microsoft Networks to greatly enhance the security of your computer's connection to the Internet.
While Microsoft's networking client is installed, a default setting which would have protected many millions of computers if it were normally set to OFF instead of ON is TCP/IP File and Printer Sharing. We already know how useful it is to share files and printers among the machines on our LOCAL networks. But "binding" the NetBIOS protocol to the TCP/IP protocol with this setting automatically extends your computer's file sharing services out across the entire Internet. (The "Network Bondage" page also provides a clear explanation of changing this setting if you need or wish to retain the Client for Microsoft Networks but want to prevent Internet intruders from gaining access to your computer.)
So the happy and casual home computing user, who has never had much to worry about, and who never bothered with password protecting his own personal computer's logon or shared resources, simply connects his machines up to the Internet . . .
Yes . . . But now anyone who happens to be passing by on the Information Superhighway can take a pit stop at your machine to wreak any havoc they choose!
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|Last Edit: Oct 06, 2003 at 14:29 (4,770.77 days ago)||Viewed 39 times per day|