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Security for Computers with Cable or DSL Online Access

© 2000 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

Recently this column discussed choices in Internet access, including high-speed DSL and cable access. One important characteristic of these high-speed access choices is their always-on feature. That is, if your computer is on, your access to the Internet is enabled. With no dialup and never a busy signal, you can just sit down at the keyboard, use a browser to view sites, and send and check e-mail immediately.

Simple. Easy. There is, of course, a drawback to the always-on access choices in addition to monthly rates higher than dialup. The drawback is that the always-on computer is extremely attractive and relatively accessible to the hacker community, the people dedicated to going where they don't belong.

Many hackers only want to prove that they can get anywhere, while others are ready to damage files or steal information. Because an always-on Internet connection is open to hacking, we must protect our computers from nosy or malicious intruders.

There are many software solutions, yet most are expensive and require a high level of technical expertise. I recently downloaded and tested Netbuster, a free PC software program developed in Sweden.

NetBuster was developed mainly to counteract a hacker program called NetBus, the program which hands control of the attacked computer to the attacker. Not every visiting hacker uses NetBus, but the NetBuster program catches inappropriate visitors anyway, saves their unique address, logs the time of arrival, and sends them away.
How likely is it that someone will try to get into a computer attached to the Internet by an always-on connection? During the day there isn't much activity, but the last time I left my computer on all night, there were four (!) attempts to get into my computer. The attempts occurred at 10:59:43 PM, 2:16:37 AM, 4:46:41 AM, and 6:30:23 AM.

NetBuster caught them all, turned them away, and recorded the IP address for each one! An IP address is a number, and every computer linked to the Internet with an always-on connection has one of these unique numbers. Thus, when you have a person's IP address, you can find out who they are.

So download NetBuster from
After downloading, run the program file to install it on your computer, and NetBuster will start itself whenever you boot your computer. After NetBuster does a quick initial scan, click on the program's Minimize button to drop the screen out of sight while it protects your computer.
NetBuster will not be the best long-term solution to this problem of hackers roaming through the files of computers using always-on Internet access. The author of NetBuster says that the program will not be rewritten. Since everything changes rapidly online, we will soon need either a NetBuster update or a different, up-to-date program.

While I continue reviewing programs created to protect our computers, I suggest that those with always-on connections install NetBuster as the first step in inexpensive defense for the connected computer.

~ Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. Contact her at or visit her Web site at




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