Securing your home network for $100 or less

How to secure your home network for $100 or less.

Modern organizations often invest thousands of dollars in maintaining the security of their computing networks. You can walk into almost any bookstore and find many books that walk you through the process of implementing layered protection mechanisms using devices like border routers, firewalls, enterprise antivirus packages and other costly solutions.

With the advent of affordable broadband Internet connections in the home, many users now have the same high-speed Internet access at home that they have at work. This situation subjects them to the same security risks facing large organizations, but without a six-figure security budget to protect against hackers, malicious code and other nasties. What's a home user to do?

Indeed, it's possible to implement a fairly robust security program sufficient for a home network on a shoestring budget. In fact, if you shop carefully, you should be able to obtain everything you need for less than $100! Let's take a look at a few of the essential components that you might want to implement:

  • Perimeter protection – Large organizations protect their network perimeters with firewalls and border routers. The systems designed to protect large-scale networks run into the thousands of dollars. However, you can purchase a hardware or software solution for your home for around $60. If you're using a single computer attached to a broadband connection, you may wish to consider a software solution like Norton Internet Security or BlackICE PC Protection. If your home network consists of several computers, you might want to opt for a hardware solution instead by placing a broadband router with firewall capabilities between your network and the Internet.

  • Malicious code protection – Almost every computer shipped today comes with antivirus software installed by the manufacturer. Check your configuration; chances are you already have a package in place. However, these packages typically come with one year of free updates. If you're beyond that year of free coverage, it's time to renew your subscription. Consider it the electronic equivalent of changing the batteries in your smoke detector. This essential purchase should run you about $30.

  • Operating System updates – One of the most important moves you can make from a security perspective is keeping your operating system up-to-date. Download the latest patches from your OS vendor on a regular basis (many have automated services to assist you in this process). The best part about OS updates is the price – typically security updates are free of charge!

  • Backup protection – Don't forget to backup your data! In the event something does happen to your system, you'll definitely want a backup to retrieve your critical data. Most modern operating systems include some sort of backup software, so this is another step you should be able to take without spending a cent.

That's it! You now have four easy steps that you can take to help secure your home network while only spending around ninety bucks!

About the author
Mike Chapple, CISSP, currently serves as Chief Information Officer of the Brand Institute, a Miami-based marketing consultancy. He previously worked as an information security researcher for the U.S. National Security Agency. His publishing credits include the TICSA Training Guide from Que Publishing, the CISSP Study Guide from Sybex and the upcoming SANS GSEC Prep Guide from John Wiley. He's also the About.com Guide to Databases.


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This was first published in June 2003

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