The appropriately-named FirewallLeakTester.com has a great interview with the respected security expert (and former ABA TECHSHOW keynote speaker), Steve Gibson, known to many for his Shields Up security testing web application.
The interview gives a large amount of useful information about the present world of computer security and a realistic assessment of personal firewall software, Windows XP Service Pack 2 and if we will ever be able to feel hopeful about computer security.
The interview is uniformly excellent and sobering. However, there’s one part of the interview I got a bit of a chuckle about. Steve says:
“My main advice to parents of younger Internet-using kids is never to try sharing a computer with their children. There is no safe way to share a computer with someone who will opens eMail attachments, downloads software and �gizmos’ from the Internet, shares unknown software with their school friends and uses peer-to-peer file sharing programs. In any household with kids, the parents should have a computer that is permanently and forever off-limits to the children, and the children should have their own machine(s). Computers are inexpensive enough now that �giving the kids their own’ is definitely the best security policy.”
I thought Steve was leading up to a comment on how using a separate computer was the best way kids could protect themselves from their parents’ mistakes. Instead, Steve said, “Then the parents can have some reasonable chance of using their own computer safely and reliably. And when the kids’ machine collapses under the weight of hundreds of viruses and Trojans and spyware fighting each other for control of the machine, as will certainly result from the kids’ inherently unsafe use of the Internet, their machine(s) can be reformatted from scratch, be setup fresh, and then repeat the process of dying from unsafe exposure to the Internet.”
I guess Steve’s experiences with the habits of parents (especially lawyers) on the Internet is different from mine. In all seriousness, though, Steve’s message would definitely include making the effort to teach your children safe computing. I like a book called Always Use Protection: A Teen’s Guide to Safe Computing and made reading it a requirement for my daughter.
Gibson’s interview is required reading for anyone who wants to get a good working knowledge of Internet security and safe computing practices. I hope that means everyone.
The message continues to be: “Let’s be careful out there.”