There is in fact entire legions of hackers out there, some of them collaborating to take down hardened targets. A lot of them are rebellious souls and the majority not particularly skilled at coding their own exploits. The vast majority of hackers use software written by the really talented hard core coders who live on the bleeding edge of software corruption and manipulation. These talented folk perhaps make up 1-2% of the total hacker population and their release of hacking software to the millions who'd like to try their hand at it serves a few purposes.

1. It allows their activities to be lost in a sea of hacker "noise" out there on the net thus masking their specific exploits.

2. They often love the concept of anarchy and see the release of underground world class tools as kicking the system in the balls.

3. It exposes the world of hacking to a whole new generation, some of which will take up the torch of cutting edge hacking after they learn their trade, thus promoting perpetuation.

Judging from the statistics then, if you concluded that its the people using software not the people coding it that you should be worried about then you are correct. The really talented league don't bother with peoples home PC's, they have bigger fish to fry.

So how do I protect my home PC from the software brigade?

The simple answer is by being smart.

Hacks on home PC's tend to come in either of two flavours;

1. There's the outright hack that beats your ISP, your modem and then your operating system (pretty talented hackers)

2. Then there's the trojan horse type hack that tricks users into running concealed software on their PC's. This malicious software does all the hard work disabling security settings and opening a direct line of stealth communication to the hackers PC. This is by far the most common form of hack because its easy and it doesn't require any great skill.

To prevent this happening you need a good firewall and they too come in several types.

Hardware firewall: If you have a stand alone (lives in its own box) broadband internet modem or modem/router then you already have a damn good hardware firewall. This kind of firewall will stop the full frontal attack associated with the really talented hackers but will leave you defenceless against something like a trojan horse.

Software firewall (incoming filtering): This type of firewall is pretty basic and only stops inbound attacks. The standard firewall built into Windows XP is one of this type and is useful for anyone using a basic internet connection. It fails to cope with the trojan horse type attack however as that kind of hack is run behind the firewall on your pc and the web traffic shoots outwards. Often a trojan horse will easily disable the windows firewall anyway.

Software firewall (incoming/outgoing filtering): This kind of firewall monitors internet traffic both inwards and outwards from your PC and will catch any kind of dubious activity attempting to run on or attack your PC. Definitely the better of the two software types and only available as a third party program that runs on your computer.

The ideal scenario therefore would be a combination of a stand alone broadband modem and a good software firewall (this is what I run at home).

But arenít good firewalls expensive ?

They can be, but on all my windows machines I use a free alternative that has not let me down in years. They update their software semi-regularly and its free to upgrade to the latest version. The one I use is called Zonealarm and if you donít like it for some reason then there is another excellent free alternative called Sygate Personal Firewall.

Another way to protect yourself is to be smart with your email.

Most people get nailed by a trojan or a virus through their emails and protecting yourself is really easy;

1. Immediately delete any email from someone you don't recognise.
2. Scan every attachment with your anti-virus software before you open it.
3. Consider changing from the standard email setup that came with your Internet Service Provider's account over to one of the excellent free web based email accounts. The web based accounts will automatically scan all your attachments for you with industrial strength anti-virus software and save you a lot of time and effort.

Hotmail sucks as they disable your email account after a short period of inactivity (30 days).
Yahoo is way better, sporting much longer account deactivation times (90 days).
Gmail (by Google) in my opinion is far and away the best of the big three, a huge amount of storage and fast response times equates to the winner!

Protecting yourself is easy and its free if you know where to look (and now you do!)

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