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Battlefield Home - Network Security
Author: Brian Anderson, CISSP
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Battlefield Home - Network Security
October 08, 2006

Operating System:

As with all problems, you first have to start at the bottom and work your way up. At the bottom of this problem is the Operating System (OS); the most pervasive of which is some version of Microsoft Windows. From Windows 95 to Windows XP, and all things in between, Microsoft's OSes are the prime target for attack. Until recently it didn't appear that Microsoft took security very seriously, and only time will tell if their current attitude is sufficient. However, Microsoft does appear very willing and able to release updates and patches to their OSes to help combat major security flaws. Unfortunately, they have to help corporate IT (Information Technology) staff manage upgrades, and they have gone to a once a month update process known as "Black Tuesday" because it's the 1st Tuesday of every month. While this has helped IT manage their patch schedule, it has also allowed malware writers to release their exploits the day after Microsoft releases their updates. This generally gives these "bad guys" more time to exploit all but the most alert computer user's systems. So it is therefore very important that you apply these patches whenever Microsoft releases them.

If you have a more recent OS such as Windows 2000 or XP, Microsoft has an auto-update feature that will alert you when a critical update is available. You can also set it to auto apply the update as well, which I highly recommend you do. In XP it can be done many times with out a reboot, but in 2000 you will normally have to reboot, so having it auto install is really up to you. Of course, if you don't have those OSes you can always go to the Windows Update website and do it there. Even if you have XP or 2000 I'd still suggest going there once in a while to get updated software (such as DirectX, Windows Media Player, etc...) and drivers. If you are running Windows XP I would also suggest you make sure you have Service Pack 2 (SP2) installed.

For more information on how to configure Auto Update, take a look at these How To's:

How to configure and use Automatic Updates in Windows XP
How to configure and use Automatic Updates in Windows 2000

A good general Security information from Microsoft for home users:

Microsoft Security

Other popular OSes include Apple's MAC OS. While they do not have quite the range of security issues, nor quite the proliferation of people "out to get them" as does Microsoft, they still have their security issues. So again, it is very important that when they release an update, especially a security update, that you apply it as soon as possible. Unfortunately I am not much of an Apple guy, so my direct knowledge on the best way to protect yourself on a Apple OS is limited. Fortunately, Apple does provide you with the information you need to apply these patches and upgrades.

For more information on Apple OS security updated please go to:

Apple Security Updates

An OS gaining popularity in the home is Linux. Linux is a very unique OS, to say the least. Most versions of Linux are free, and are either partially or completely built, designed, and distributed by hobbyist and the "Linux community" using the General Public License (GPL). While this represents both a great leap forward in software, it also causes a lot of confusion and a LOT of different versions. You also never really know how good the person developing part of the OS is, and how many flaws might be in that particular module, either by accident or design. The good thing is that the Linux community is really good about finding and fixing problems, but again this means applying updates and patches to your OS frequently. Because of the many different versions and flavors of Linux, it's impossible for me to point you in the right direction on how and where to find all these updates. One of the best places to start is at the web site of the distribution you are using.

Some good Linux security resources are:
Linux Security HOWTO
NSA: Security-Enhanced Linux

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