SymQuest's Keene, NH based Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO), Mark Woodford, tells us what he uses to secure his home network. Here are a few zero cost consumer IT security software applications he recommends:
A number of popular websites, including Twitter and Netflix, were unavailable to some users on October 21st. The distruption of service was part of a massive cyberattack with international reach. I found myself wondering how to protect myself, my household, and perhaps by extension the reputation of my personal network.
The attack was determined to be a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. A DDoS attack is an attempt to make an online service unavailable by overwhelming that service with traffic from multiple sources. DDoS attacks target a wide variety of important resources, including banks and news media websites, and present a major challenge for people seeking to publish and access important information.
Traditionally weak security from newly marketed consumer devices provides an attractive target for hackers. These hackers leverage the bandwidth and processing power of millions of devices, many of them with few privacy or security measures, to swamp internet sites and servers with an overwhelming volume of traffic. The new (and legacy) connected devices are considered by most experts to be the key contributing factor to the attack that took Netflix, Twitter, Spotify and others popular sites offline.
This attack was partially due to a disregard for best practices during consumer setup. Consider how many connected devices may be reaching out to the internet from a typical home network and you can understand the vulnerabilities. After giving some thought to the implications of a massive DDoS attack, coupled with the recent escalation of ransomware, I decided to shop around for ways that I could ensure I’m taking the necessary steps to self-protect.
A few SymQuest partners have products that are available at no cost to the general public. These products, along with some helpful tips, are listed below:
Make sure known vulnerabilities are patched in a timely manner.
Windows Update (WU), a service offered by Microsoft, provides updates for Windows components. It can be replaced with Microsoft Update, an expanded version of the service which provides updates for other Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office. This tool is available at: http://www.update.microsoft.com/
Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.
Sophos Home protects every Mac and PC in your home from malware, viruses, ransomware, and inappropriate websites. It uses the same award-winning technology that IT professionals trust to protect their businesses. Best of all, you can manage security settings for the whole family from any browser. The tool offers free endpoint protection for up to 10 different Windows or Apple endpoint systems. This tool is available at: https://www.sophos.com/lp/sophos-home.aspx
Backup your information at home. No patch or antivirus product is perfect.
Veeam® Endpoint Backup™ FREE provides a simple solution for backing up Windows-based desktops and laptops. With Veeam Endpoint Backup FREE, you can easily back up your PC to an external hard drive, NAS (network-attached storage) share or a Veeam Backup & Replication™ repository. And if your system crashes, hard drive fails, or a file gets corrupted or accidentally deleted, you can recover what you need in minutes — like it never even happened. This tool is available at: https://www.veeam.com/endpoint-backup-free.html
Key feature: CryptoLocker protection. Protect backup files residing on USB-based backup storage from potential CryptoLocker-type threats by automatically ejecting the USB backup storage media immediately after a successful backup is completed.
Use a firewall.
A firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls the incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. A firewall typically establishes a barrier between a trusted, secure internal network and another outside network, such as the Internet.
Free Home Use Firewall is a fully equipped software version of the Sophos UTM firewall, available at no cost for home users – no strings attached. It features full Network, Web, Mail and Web Application Security with VPN functionality and protects up to 50 IP addresses. The Sophos UTM Free Home Use firewall contains its own operating system and will overwrite all data on the computer during the installation process. Therefore, a separate, dedicated computer is needed, which will change into a fully functional security appliance. Just right for the spare PC you have sitting in the corner! This tool is available at: https://www.sophos.com/en-us/products/free-tools/sophos-utm-home-edition.aspx
Bonus Content: Bitdefender Box (not free). The Bitdefender Box is a small sleek, futuristic white box that hooks up to your network router. Its job is to provide an Internet connection completely free of malware and phishing attempts. If you don’t want to build your own home firewall this product is for you. Bitdefender Box is not a firewall but will add visibility to any current vulnerabilities, and help to defend your home network and all the devices on that network. This tool is available at: http://www.bitdefender.com/box/