The Million Dollar Question: Should Network Monitoring Tools Be Used To Protect Your Household Information?
The need for home network monitoring tools is at an all time high, yet home users seem to be missing the point. Identify thieves abound throughout the world, yet home network users seem to think that virus software is sufficient protection. They miss the critical truth of how easily personally identifiable information can be lifted from an unmonitored home network system.
Understanding The Nature of Wireless Networks
A home wireless LAN connection has become standard equipment for our modern American society. Most middleclass families, and even many low-income families, have more than one computer in the house. These systems are usually linked through an open-access Internet connection. Only a few home users ever activate the full features of a Local Area Network. As a result, the practice a network monitoring falls to the wayside.
Most Internet providers now install a four-port wireless router. The router will come configured with a control center that can be accessed through the use of a common username and password, usually “Admin” for both fields. When dealing with home users, and also when working with the average small business owner, it is rare to find that this universal router access code has been modified. Furthermore, because the Internet provider often handles the system setup, many users have never entered their router’s control center. For a basic understanding of how this works, take a look at “How To Setup A Gateway Router” on eHow.
Modern routers also include a per-user password code. This prevents someone who is sitting in a nearby car from lifting Internet bandwidth from your wireless router. It also prevents them from intercepting your uploads and downloads.
But many homes, and companies, have a need to extend the range of their internal network connection capacity. As a result, they incorporate a secondary wireless router in the place of a wired hub. This is a perfectly acceptable network solution. However, secondary routers are often installed without applying password controlled, user access rights. This failure creates an unacceptable level of data interception threat.
The see the effects of an unprotected system, try taking a slow drive through your neighborhood with an open laptop in the hands of a passenger. Notice all of the available and unsecured Internet connections that pop up along the route. This same pattern is also visible within any business district.
Why Secure And Monitor A Wireless Network: Common Problems and Dangers
Maybe you discount the risk of an open Internet connection. Perhaps you see no need for a secure network, and perhaps you could care less about learning how to apply network monitoring tools. Here are some common problems and dangers that can be associated with an unsecured network connection.
- This is free Internet access at your expense.
- Any illegal downloads of music, videos, or other protected data will be traced back to YOUR IP address, not theirs.
- You Internet connection speed will flow in relation to the number of users currently online. More connections in use equates to slower individual connections.
- If you are on a metered Internet service in which you are paying by the bandwidth usage, this freeloader is costing you money.
Cover-up of Criminal Activities
- If a bandwidth thief uses your Internet connection for the purpose of hacking into the local Wachovia Bank, whom do you think the authorities will seek for answers?
- This holds true for any form of hacking, distribution of illegal material, or disruptive and abusive “public” behavior. If an unauthorized user abuses your connection by distributing pornography, illegal or not, your assigned IP address will bear the association.
- Internet scams, identity theft, and an endless array of other criminal activities can be performed on an uncontrolled and unmonitored network connection. Any of them that are performed over your Internet connection will leave a trail that points back to your IP address.
Easy Access to Personal and Private Information
Maybe you do not actively use the file sharing features of your home LAN. This is not evidence that your computers are protected from data sharing. An open, wireless router permits backdoor access into your home LAN. Even if you never use file sharing, an intruder may have free and easy access to your personal and private information.
For an information thief, the possibilities are limitless ranging from sniffing out your email transactions to keystroke captures of your financial records, including tax reports and unemployment transactions. Furthermore, backdoor access into your LAN may even enable a piggyback access into your corporate connections. Intruders can easily ride any Virtual Private Network tunnel that is established through your open access, wireless router connection.
For an in-depth report on wireless network threats, read “Proximity Breeds Danger:
Emerging Threats in Metro-areaWireless Networks.” Give particular attention to the section marked as “Defense Strategy,” and put these things into practice.
Why Apply Network, Monitoring Tools
Ok. So you have now secured your home network. The primary router’s control center now sports a splendid new username and password, and any secondary wireless sharing devices are also protected by username and password controls. Why do you still need to apply network monitoring tools?
Because the complications of network monitoring can be reduced by the application of competent network features, we began this article with the concepts of network security. Yet network monitoring is not merely another means of intruder detection and prevention. The features of a good network monitoring system extend into network performance analysis. Here are some ways that network monitoring tools are applied:
- As a means for improving system speed
- To track down and eliminate data-sharing bottlenecks
- To aid in system connectivity and system configuration
- To strengthen system security and system access controls
- To monitor device usage, including Internet bandwidth and downtime
- For troubleshooting general network functionality and speed issues.
The Most Common Types of Network Monitoring Tools In Use
- Built-in Operating System Network Monitoring Tools: By default, built-in OS tools are the most common means of network monitoring. These are applied for three reasons: 1) No additional software requirements, 2) Lack of knowledge concerning other types of network monitoring tools, and 3) Less expensive than third party tools.
- Built-in Router Network Monitoring Tools: Like OS tools, the build-in router network monitoring tools gain a primary position of usage due to the same three basic reasons.
- Vendor Utilities: Though often used for security defenses, vendor supplied network monitoring tools can provide great improvements over the built-in features of Windows and routers. Many are provided free of charge.
- Websites: Modern computing has presented users with an easy method of linking into the skills and tools of professional network monitoring web sites. This is a growing application.
Though the number of available networking monitoring tools grows daily, most users continue to apply the build-in features of the Windows operating system. This is fine, thought these tools can be difficult to learn. For those with sufficient time and energy, start here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc723623.aspx.
For other users, Microsoft’s Network Monitor may be overkill for their purposes. The tools that are built into the OS and into routers tend to demand a technical knowledge of networking and computers. Rather that running a large and sophisticated network monitoring tool, the average home or small business user may be better off applying a collection of simple, one-task network monitoring tools. Here is a starting place: http://www.netmon.org/tools.htm.