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Is it useful for me?

Often, people ask "Why should I care about crackers, there's nothing interesting for them on my system?"

Just as often, they will point out they keep their credit card data away from their PC, don't do their banking on it, etc.

Well, that's not really what crackers are looking for anyway!

 Here's a couple of reasons they might be interested in your computer: 

  • Harrassing you. Some people think it's a great idea to scare people like you. There's software out there that let them take over your PC, and allow them to open a new window with threatening text in it. You've got to admit, it's pretty unnerving if your simple working on your computer, and suddenly all kind of messages pop up.
  • Harrassing others. Crackers who like to break into commercial web sites don't like to be traced by law enforcement. One thing they often do to prevent the police from tracing them is doing their crack via several other unreleated computers. They launch their attack from a computer that is not theirs but in their control. Yours could be one of them. You won't notice your system is being abused until the FBI is at your front door. Of course, you won't be arrested for cracking yourself, but it is definately not the sort of thing you'd want to tell about at birthday parties.
  • Sending Spam. There's literaly millions of junk email messages passing around the net every day. Lot's of people know how to read the arcane technical details in message headers and report junk email they receive to the Internet provider that the spam originated from, and those Internet providers often quickly turn off access from the account that was used to send the junk messages. That's why junk emailers never email from their own computers. Your computer, if connected through a fast line for 24 hours a day, would be a great place to send the spam from, if they could get access to your computer. And if your provider disconnects you, they'll simply move on to the next computer they can crack, and leave you with the problems.
  • Storage space. Some people pass on pirated software to others, some others send pirated music around (often in mp3 files), or complete movies. Almost none of them are stupid enough to use their own computers to break the laws in this way, so they need the computers of others to store these files on. If you have a large amount of free disk space, a fast connection to the net that is always available, they are interested in you.

So yes, your credit card information, or your electronic banking information is not the first thing that should come to mind when you want to protect your systems. People who want to break into your system do that because it is connected to the net 24 hours a day, with a fast connection. It's a resource for them to use, and they don't care about you, or your data.


The next questions are, how do they do it, and what does the firewall do to protect you, and more importantly, what does the firewall not do?

  • Protect the standard system. Windows systems are often set up to share some of the things they do over the network. Printers are often shared, but disk space is often easily made available on the network as well. If you don't have it turned on now, a virus or trojan horse may do it for you, without your knowledge. Also, if you have more than one computer at home, there's often very good reasons to turn on file sharing. The Firewall will make sure nobody on the Internet can connect to the file sharing features on your computers.
  • Protect an infected system. Although the firewall will not protect you from a virus you receive through email, or through files you download from floppy or off the net, if that virus or trojan horse turns your computer into a server, or if it turns on features that allow others to fully control your computer remotely, the Firewall will protect your computer from being abused by people on the Internet. Of course, many virii out there are meant to do other things, such as mail themselves around, or wipe your harddisk. The Firewall does not protect you from this kind of virus, so be sure to install adequate virus protection on all your systems.
  • Defective hardware (if only!). The Firewall does not protect your hard disk from breaking down if its time comes, so be sure to make adequate backups of your data as well.

(Oh, and also note that the press often calls them "hackers". We prefer to call them "crackers", since there's some historic reasons why "hackers" is not a negative phrase. If you really want to know, click here)