Broadband Internet access is now available to most users and web sites are developing into complex constructs that a short time ago few would believe possible. Cable Internet service is one of the prime drivers in this fast paced growth. With an existing network in place, it was a simple matter to configure the network to handle Internet packets and get users flying down the information superhighway.

The new blazing speeds come with new dangers as well. With "always on" cable internet connections, intruders have more opportunity to access or damage your computer. This means your address is always the same, and you are easier to find. With this in mind, we will look at three products that can make your cable Internet experience a much safer one; NAT, Firewalls, and Anti-Virus Software.

Anti-Virus Software:

Anti-virus software is an application that runs on an individual computer that scans files for threats. How this scanning process works depends on the software you are using, but most can be set to check every file as it arrives on your computer, allowing possible threats to be stopped before they infect your computer.

This software can also be used to scan existing files, as well as boot disks and memory. It is s good idea to schedule your software to check your system periodically in case something got through.

NAT (Network Address Translation):

NAT offers an elegant solution to cable Internet's static IP issue. Network Address Translation is a process in which IP addresses on a private network are kept hidden. Home users frequently use a method referred to as "masquerading", and it is an effective method of protecting yourself from anyone attempting to access your computer.

Masquerading allows more than one device to share an IP on a network, and has several uses. Multiple computers can share an Internet connection without purchasing multiple IP addresses from your provider, individual firewalls can be set up in series, and this also keeps the IP of your computer hidden behind the IP of another device such as a modem or router.

Firewalls:

A firewall is a system that imposes access controls between two networks. The purpose of this is too keep out hackers, worms, viruses and other harmful traffic. The name is derived from a very literal process that prevents the spread of actual fires. When a fire begins to spread through a forest area, firefighters dig trenches and saturate areas with water. These areas are called firewalls.

Firewalls that protect computers work in much the same fashion. They sit between the computer and the Internet and monitor activity that crosses them. They can be configured in many different ways, offering very little to iron clad protection. The two types of firewalls readily available to home users are software firewalls and hardware firewalls.

Software firewalls run on individual computers in a network, and only protect the computer that it is installed on. An example is the firewall that comes with Windows XP. Although it is an extremely simplistic firewall, it offers a general protection with ease of use.

Hardware firewalls are devices that sit on your network between all computers and the Internet. These firewalls are very diverse, and offer a myriad of configurations. Though more complicated than traditional software firewalls, it is generally understood that hardware firewalls afford a greater level of protection.

The three security measures discussed here are not the only methods available to secure your cable connection, and nothing is totally secure. Hackers are finding new ways to exploit weaknesses in security everyday; therefore new measure must be used daily to defend against this. When deciding on what security measures to take, it is usually best to use more than one. A firewall and anti-virus software used together is greatly more effective than if just one or the other is alone. When it comes to security as with many things, more is better.
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