Always-on means always at risk

You might think you've got security of your always-on connection covered if you have a firewall and antivirus software installed. But don't count on it. The first you might know of breaches of your connection is when you receive a bill for unexplained data volume charges.

You might think you’ve got security of your always-on connection covered if you have a firewall and antivirus software installed. But don’t count on it. The first you might know of breaches of your connection is when you receive a bill for unexplained data volume charges.

Stories began circulating last year about subscribers to Telecom’s JetStream DSL service being hit with massive charges for data they had no idea they were consuming. The most common explanation was that their PC was serving files via a peer-to-peer network like Morpheus.

In one instance, Auckland IT consultant Iain McTavish didn’t even know Morpheus was installed on the PC in his home office. But he learnt all about it when his JetStream bill reached a five-figure sum. McTavish and Telecom negotiated settlement of the bill, which was the result of his children joining the music file swapping service.

Wellington DSL user John MacGibbon also managed to negotiate his way out of having to pay for data charges that neither he nor Telecom could explain. MacGibbon says the mysterious data uploads and downloads appeared on Telecom’s logs, but not his.

Telecom’s explanation was that they represented denial of service attacks, but MacGibbon says his ZoneAlarm firewall failed to show any intrusion attempt.

“Telecom’s logs showed I was downloading megabyte after megabyte but there was no evidence of it it on my hard drive.

“I decided it was just too damned dangerous,” says MacGibbon, whose answer was to switch to an all-you-can-eat, lower-speed DSL service.

DSL users should heed the security warning on ISP Xtra’s website. In response to the question “does JetStream provide any security features”, the blunt answer is “no”.

“As a general rule you should always ensure that you have appropriate measures in place for protecting data transferred using JetStream, or data stored on your computer, from unauthorised access and viruses or other harmful things,” Xtra advises.

“You can take steps to protect your business information by purchasing software to create a firewall. A firewall creates a barrier between your computer and the internet. Firewall programs have filters that block or allow connections, and help prevent attacks from malicious users. Contact your IT reseller for more information on security products.”

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