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Basic Information That Internet Service Providers Must Give Users

Aug 18, 2007
The wireless networks are now overtaking Ethernet connections; I have to step on my soapbox for a minute. As more and more people become connected by broadband, the internet becomes a bigger mess. Why you ask? Well, the reason is too many computers with always-on access have no firewall or anti-virus protection.

I've got a real problem with a cable or phone company handing someone a high-speed modem and saying here you go. Someone has to be responsible for educating the consumer about the dangers of the web. How do we do that?

If you hadn't heard lately, Spam is out of hand. Even the new CAN-SPAM act has done little to curb the amount of garbage sent to our inbox. Recently, the Anti-Spam Technical Alliance (ASTA), a consortium of companies like America Online, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Earthlink, proposed a radical spam solution. The proposal focuses not on the spammers themselves, but on the hijacked computers known as "Zombies" that spammers use to send e-mails with. It's estimated that 75% of spam is sent through these Zombies. Basically, a virus takes control of an unsuspecting computer and uses it to send spam without the computer's owner knowing it. The only clue a person will usually get is an extremely slow and sluggish computer.

An article highlighted the problem with hijacked computers. The basic idea of the proposal is to cut off your Internet access if your machine is hijacked and used as a spamming tool. While that may be possible band-aid, it is not going to solve the problem.

The first step has to be to educate the consumer on how to protect their machine from being taken over. So whose responsibility is that? Well, my answer is that it has to be the Internet service provider. While these issues can happen with dial-up access, the main focus needs to be on "always on" connects like DSL, Cable, and T1 connections.

In most cases when a new subscriber signs up for high speed Internet, they receive little or no information about the dangers of viruses or other computer hazards. Sometimes the expectation is that if you have a computer, you're savvy to all the hidden dangers. Well, that's not the case for every computer user, nor should it be expected to be. A computer is very much a "learn-as-you-go" adventure and, that being said, experience is the only thing that will usually make a computer user more cautious. The key is to try to educate the computer user as much as possible. That's why the Internet providers should provide basic computer protection information at the time of install and to also have an easy to find computer protection resource section on the provider's homepage. Sure, not everyone will take the time to read and implement those suggestions and tips, but that's where we have to start.
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