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Safe Surfing

Computer Security

The Internet is an unregulated conglomerate of computers. There is no central authority or set of rules for behaviour on the Internet. As a result of this environment there are a lot of dubious activites which occur on the Internet. It is important that you have a good knowledge of what is out there and the methods that will be used to compromise your system.

An unfortunate result of this unregulated nature, is that it is quite easy for a Website to trick you into installing software that is not needed. This is usually done by using FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (i.e. Displaying large ads on pages telling you that your computer is unsecure etc)

A usual trick that nefarious companies will use is to show an advertisment on the webpage telling you that the computer is "broadcasting an IP address" or something similar. This is not a cause for concern. Every computer that is connected to the Internet will have an IP address assigned to it. This address is your computers unique identifier on the Internet, and it is sent/used by every single webpage you visit, and in every email that you send. It is a trivial excercise for a person to get your IP address as it is not intended to be hidden. Software that "hides" your IP is known as Firewall software. Some common firewall programs include Zone-Alarm and Black Ice.

A firewall is a useful tool to use to protect your computer, but it is not the be-all-end-all of computer security. While it is good to have a firewall installed, they are next to useless if your computer is not up to date with security patches or compromised by a virus or Trojan. You can get the latest patches for all Windows computer by visiting the Windows Update webpage. You should visit this page once a month or so, to make sure that your computer is up-to-date.

To make sure that your computer is protected against Trojans and Viruses, it is recommended that you run an Anti-Virus program. For more information on Viruses and how to avoid them, please read the Shoalnet guide to Viruses. All the usual rules also apply to Spyware - these programs are notorious for handing out your personal detail to companies/websites - for more information on Spyware, it is highly suggested that you read the Shoalnet guide to Spyware

Personal firewalls often have a habit of reporting a lot of normal "background" Internet traffic as being malicious. When you are connected to the Internet, your computer WILL be scanned. It is a quite trivial exercise to scan a large number of computers for security holes. You do not need to report such scans, as they are quite common and are usually not malicous. Dial-Up Internet users are not a very good target either, due to the slower speed and usually short connection times - each time you disconnect/reconnect, you will be given a new IP address from Shoalnet's IP range, and hence any attacker will then need to find you again, break in again etc etc. For the average home user, it is very unlikely that your system will be a target. If you are a business user, or store vital information on your computer, it is recommended that you run a firewall - possibly even use a dedicated computer to run the Internet connection.

Inappropriate Content.

As the Internet is a global network, laws regarding pornography and other illicit content are very easily circumnavigated, by simply hosting the webpage/site in a country with relaxed laws, or simply by hosting the page in an area that does not have the resources to enforce the law (i.e. The "nigerian" money laundering scams). It is quite easy to find this content, often unintentionally - Many webpages will have "banner ads" which are not directly hosted on the same server. These banner ads are randomly generated (some pages will track your usage through cookies, and try and "customise" the ads you see depending on the Webpages you visit), and hence it is not unusual that ads will be displayed that are inappropriate for the content of the actual webpage. Other pages will use tricks in the Webpage code to show up in the results of searches for normal content (for example, click the following link for a Google search for "Bambi" - Some of the results are not exactly related to Disney). There are several programs available on the Internet which will try and filter out, or report, inappropriate content/pages. For more information on blocking such content, a webpage has been setup by the Australian Federal Government. Go to for some very good information on Safe Surfing.

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