We're grateful to Reg reader Stephen Dowse, who pointed us to an important security announcement. A company called PathLock has finally put the kibosh on malicious hackers. Assuming that the only problem you'll ever face is a broad-band connection which lets the knowing and malicious play with your machine while you're catching REMs, they've got a solution for you.
"The broad-band advantage of being 'always on' also means your computer is 'always exposed!' the company rightly remarks. But don't let this frighten you; they've got a product that's absolutely guaranteed to prevent remote compromises, while you're off-line. That's right; thanks to these geniuses there's no longer any need to switch off your cable or DSL modem before you toddle off to bed; PathLock works on a timer and automatically disconnects your rootkit-riddled box from the Net.
We could be snippy about this and point out that most system compromises result from Trojans and rootkits wrapped in the warez and pr0n your kids are trading in IRC and via numerous P2P schemes, but we won't. We could point out that the remaining compromises are largely attributable to the e-mail scripts and worms your co-workers and friends share with you in the innocent guise of jokes and funny screen savers via Outlook, which likes these things, but we won't.
No, we'll leave it to our old friend Steve Gibson, whom the company quotes as saying, "There are good reasons for a personal computer, which is not actively using the Internet, to be disconnected. PathLock's hardware-based device is the only solution that cannot possibly be defeated by malicious hackers."
And we'll agree with part of that. It really isn't a bad idea to switch off that modem when you're not going to be using your computer for a while. Additionally, ISPs using DHCP can be cool since this changes your IP every time you connect -- and let's face it; if you're using a Windoze box you'll be re-booting and re-connecting every couple of days as this is generally therapeutic for that very special sort of machine.
It's just that when you're on line, you're more likely to be victimized. Certainly there are exploits which require no user interaction, but in the majority of cases people using them need to be fairly knowledgable. The teeming millions of script kiddies scanning vast blocks of IP turf and wondering what it all means tend to rely on the curiosity and innocence of victims.
Sadly, our personal computers are probably less safe for all our careful stewardship at the keyboard. Unflattering, but there it is. But now there's an unbeatable device to ensure that they'll be safe when we're not stuffing them up ourselves. It's only forty dollars, and according to expert testimony it works every bit as well as switching off your modem. What's not to like? ®