No. of Recommendations: 2
Here's an interesting article on NetBIOS, the mechanism behind Windows File and Printer Sharing.

http://cable-dsl.home.att.net/netbios.htm

It claims you can be secure against hackers not only without a firewall, but even with File Sharing enabled and folders shared. All you need to do, it says, is not bind "File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networking" or "Client for Microsoft Networking" to TCP, and (most important) to disable "Enable NetBIOS over TCP/IP" in the TCP/IP Properties. (Of course we've often seen the recommendation to disable NetBIOS over TCP/IP.)

The steps for doing this are under http://cable-dsl.home.att.net/index.htm#Security at Security on Cable Modem or DSL for Microsoft Windows.

I think they are overlooking that with older cable modems (before the DOCSIS specifications of 1998, see http://www.cablelabs.com/about_cl/SPECS/September_SPECSTECH/tech.pgs/leadstory.html which also recommends disabling NetBIOS over TCP/IP), you were essentially on an Ethernet LAN with all your neighbors. Therefore File and Printer Sharing could function over NetBEUI even with NetBIOS disabled over TCP/IP. But that is a rather specialized case, and one that is disappearing as older modems are replaced. Cable modems meeting the DOCSIS specification encrypt all the data between you and your ISP, essentially taking all your neighbors off of your network (at least, they can't access your NetBEUI traffic, and the NetBEUI traffic cannot get past your ISP's router to reach the world-wide Internet).

Another interesting article is mentioned, "Accuracy in the Networking Media" http://www.networkmagazine.com/article/NMG20000510S0032 which details the circumstances under which a Windows system is, and is not, vulnerable to hackers.

One more interesting link: www.vulnerabilities.org which is described as being more useful than "Shields up!". They really don't like "Shields up!", primarily because of what they call "dangerous misinformation" there. I've noted before in my posts that the warnings at "Shields up!" are really overblown, so I guess I'd have to agree with them although I think "dangerous misinformation" is a bit harsh.

Anyway, with the additional research I've done lately, I think I'm really getting a handle on what hackers can and can't do to your home Windows system, and in what circumstances you do, and don't, need a software or hardware firewall. The info at the link at the beginning of this post should be of interest to anyone concerned about hackers.

Phil
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