alan little’s weblog

alan and computer security

9th August 2003 permanent link

I was having some trouble getting iSync to talk to my phone, so I posted a message on Apple’s help forums and sure enough, a couple of hours later a helpful guy called Paul Jones pointed out the cause of the problem. But he suggested that I needed to turn my firewall off. Turn my firewall off? Is he insane? Or is he waiting round the corner with some kind of Bluetooth intrusion device just waiting to get into my Mac? Fortunately, I then remembered having read somewhere else that iSync needs ports 3000 to 3004 open, so rather than turning the firewall off I just opened those.

But wait. Now all three readers of my weblog know that I have ports 3000 to 3004 open.

Which led me to some musings about Computer Security The Alan Way. At home my PCs live behind a NAT router so they should be fairly safe. Except that they talk to the router via unsecured WiFi. I tried switching WEP on once, at which point the iBook couldn’t talk to the router any more. I didn’t have time to investigate at the time so I just (hooked up to the router with an ethernet cable and) switched WEP off again. And off it has stayed ever since. WEP is useless anyway. At least I don’t broadcast my network name.

In any case, I live in a leafy Munich suburb full off law-abiding German pensioners, where teenage crackers with WiFi antennae are few and far between. Unlike at work, where I had connection requests from three of my new colleagues within minutes of switching bluetooth on on the phone. (And in fact there’ a high school two hundred yards away from home, so I may be being a little overoptimistic there too). Whatever. Given no security on the WiFi, having firewalls on the Macs even though they live behind a NAT router seems like a good idea.

This may be a good time to also confess that I haven’t changed the admin password on for three years, and it’s only one character different from the password on my late unlamented hotmail account. Not to mention the unobfuscated mailto links that are still all over my older web pages. I’ll tidy them up one day though. After I’ve got WEP working and changed the admin password on

The scary thing is, I suspect I’m probably more careful than most. After all, I do backups at least every third month, to an external drive that lives in a secure offsite location several feet away from the main PC.

(Paul Jones also kindly pointed me to a Nokia website where I can get about six different versions of Tetris. What a nice man. Goodbye life.)

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