DSL or 56k Modem?

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DSL or 56k Modem?
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Mindblower
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February 7, 2012 - 6:22 pm
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This is just to give me some closure on a what I consider a silly view. There is an individual what had a bad experience (bug entered the computer - too many quick clicks without looking imo), and thus decided to drop the DSL and retreat back to the primitive dial-up 56k modem route. Believes that this slow approach will ensure for a safer ventu, as the bug should not get past the protective software as quickly. Hog wash imo, but I'm no expert on such a silly notion (just have common sense on my part).

So, I've exposed my position (am hoping sanity exists), and now I welcome advice (more than an opinion) for someone knowable in this field, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Jim Hillier
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February 7, 2012 - 7:31 pm
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Had a chuckle at that one MB. Of course you are correct, internet speed has very little to do with it. I would say quite the contrary; most modern routers provide an extra layer of protection, plus security patches/updates will be downloaded and applied more quickly and more frequently via DSL.

There is an old school opinion that DSL is less secure because it's always connected. And while that may have some credence, I believe it is so unlikely for a machine to become infected without any user interaction it is not really worthy of consideration. In fact, I've never heard of a machine becoming infected in this way, every infection I have come across has been initiated in some way by the user. Yes, a seemingly benign download can then create an outgoing connection and download malicious script, which will be quicker and easier via DSL. But it's still going to happen on dial--up as well, sooner or later.

Another theory as to why dial-up may be more secure is that 'large' malicious files take much longer to download and thus allow more time for intervention. Again, there's some credence in that argument but; malware sourced via downloading large files is just one way for a machine to become infected. There are literally dozens of alternative methods, many of which involve a simple click and tiny scripts that take nigh on immediate affect. Plus, of course, any AV worth it's salt will identify the malware almost instantaneously, so file size and speed are not really contributing factors.

Overall, the benefits provided by DSL, security-wise, far outweigh any minor negatives. I've said it many times over MB; security starts between the ears and if that area is vacant, there's very little anyone or anything can do to help.

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Chad Johnson
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February 7, 2012 - 7:40 pm
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Dial up is safer. But that's only because you give up on the Internet before you can do anything stupid as it takes too long!!

An unprotected computer can be hacked in minutes sitting naked out on the Internet. Dial up offers protection via a) slower speeds and b) less exposure. A computer always on the Internet is more likely to be found than one that is on intermittently.

However, a sufficiently...stubborn...user who persists in not practicing good computing will likely re-infect their machine, even on dial up.

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Jim Hillier
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February 7, 2012 - 7:48 pm
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Chad - Can you please give an example of how a computer can be hacked while connected to DSL, and with no browser running nor any other user initiated software running?

Also, you say "unprotected" computer. I was assuming we are talking about a machine here that has all normal security measures/software installed and running. Any "unprotected" computer is bound to get infected regardless of what system is used to connect to the net. Yes, DSL will likely speed up the process but a system on dial-up will also eventually be similarly affected - it's simply a matter of timing.

Do you not think that the extra protection afforded by modern routers plus the ability to maintain security updates/patches much more efficiently makes DSL the safer option overall?

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Mindblower
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February 8, 2012 - 10:28 am
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A can of worms were open and released. Fantastic. I remember my days with the 56k modem. I clicked one site, and my slow computer started filling up pop-ups. That was before I had pop-up protection, even from the browser.

When it comes to getting infected, I always believed (still do), that the file size of the bug is often very small. Modem speed should have no impact. The protection software responds in lighting speed, so again modem speed has no impact. I read that it's best to d/l (save), than run a program immediately (prior to saving), giving the protection software added time to discover any bugs. Fussy area at best.

Believe I require more feedback from more informed sources, before I can put this puppy to rest, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Chad Johnson
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February 8, 2012 - 9:17 pm
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Jim Hillier said

Chad - Can you please give an example of how a computer can be hacked while connected to DSL, and with no browser running nor any other user initiated software running?

Hm - I thought we were talking about unprotected computers. Properly protected computers are a tough nut to crack - but not impossible.

Given a) time b) motivation c) experience and d) more time any computer can be hacked without user intervention. But that's the paranoia speaking, most computers just aren't that interesting.

A few examples come to mind though:
a) Sony - I have no doubt Sony had lots of protections on their servers, yet that didn't stop someone from hacking in and grabbing by the fistfuls passwords and credit card information.
b) Worms - many worms can propagate without user intervention. If my wife actively gets one on her computer, my computer will likely end up with it because they share a network connection. Avast will try to stop it, but it will see it as trusted software.
c) Symantec (I will be posting about this soon (I hope)) - Hackers broke into their machines and stole their secure code and is now extorting Symantec for money (Link)
d) Drive by downloads - a hacked site can install malware without the user being aware.

Those are just a few examples. Dial up will protect you from targeted attacks - you simply aren't online long enough or in the same location (IP Address) every time to be that trackable. An always on connection is constantly being hammered by all sorts of scripts that people are running (either knowingly or unknowingly) that
are attempting to infiltrate your defenses.

And in many cases (not sure about these days, but in the past certainly) - when you dialed in you almost always went through a proxy device of some kind, which was already filtering your content for you before it ever got to you.

Is dial up safer? Technically yes. Is it safe enough you should abandon your high speed internet connection? No, not really. Is dial up foolproof? Absolutely not.

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Jim Hillier
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February 9, 2012 - 3:17 am
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Thanks Chad. This is what I know:

I've been running Windows machines for more than 12 years. I do not bulk up with security software, all I ever install is your basic free AV plus one other product, something like Threatfire or more recently Windows Defender - that's it! I always leave my machines on and connected 24/7, except for rare occasions when we are away for an extended period or if storms are around. In all that time none of my machines have ever been hacked or infected while idle. So, if someone were to say to me that leaving a PC permanently connected via DSL is dangerous, my reply would be...'so you're telling me that, after some 100,000 hours of leaving my machine connected and experiencing zero issues, I've just been lucky?' - I don't think so!

Secondly: After reading your first response I clean installed Windows 7 on an older machine I had floating around. I did not install any security software, in fact I did not install any extra software at all. I then connected that machine via DSL and just left it sitting idle. It has now been 30 hours and no sign of any hacking nor infections. I guarantee that situation will not change if I leave it until the end of week, or even the end of the month - any takers?

Sorry Chad, I recognize that you are a pretty smart feller when it comes to computer technology, a lot smarter than I, but I have to disagree with you on this one. Given that a home PC is protected by the normal/accepted level of security software, plus the extra layer of protection afforded by modern routers, plus the fact that security updates and patches are applied more quickly and more frequently - DSL is safer than dial-up - well, in my opinion anyway. Smile

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David Hartsock
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February 9, 2012 - 9:55 am
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Jim Hillier said

I've been running Windows machines for more than 12 years. I do not bulk up with security software, all I ever install is your basic free AV plus one other product, something like Threatfire or more recently Windows Defender - that's it! I always leave my machines on and connected 24/7, except for rare occasions when we are away for an extended period or if storms are around. In all that time none of my machines have ever been hacked or infected while idle. So, if someone were to say to me that leaving a PC permanently connected via DSL is dangerous, my reply would be...'so you're telling me that, after some 100,000 hours of leaving my machine connected and experiencing zero issues, I've just been lucky?' - I don't think so!

It's not good practice. I'll use my server as an example...

My server runs 24/7. It also logs all connections, what they do (or attempt to do), and where they are from. This server has a direct internet connection as certain ports are forwarded directly to it.
Every day I see dozens, and some times hundreds, of attempts to hack this box using various exploits.

My other computers are not "directly" connected to the internet due to NAT of my router.

A dial-up user (and a DSL user without a router) is directly connected to the internet and is susceptible to these scans.

Secondly: After reading your first response I clean installed Windows 7 on an older machine I had floating around. I did not install any security software, in fact I did not install any extra software at all. I then connected that machine via DSL and just left it sitting idle. It has now been 30 hours and no sign of any hacking nor infections. I guarantee that situation will not change if I leave it until the end of week, or even the end of the month - any takers?

Is it connected to the router or directly to your modem and does your modem also include a router? If it's connected to a router it really isn't direct on the internet.

My thought process is that someone on dial-up is very much less likely to download updates and service packs leaving them open to all sorts of security holes. Just think of an XP machine that hasn't had updates in the past 10 years and it won't have a firewall! They may not be connected 24/7, but could be on long enough to catch something, and would be more susceptible from the get go.

Just throwing my .02 cents into the mix. https://davescomputertips.com/wp-content/sp-resources/forum-smileys/sf-surprised.gif

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Jim Hillier
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February 9, 2012 - 1:51 pm
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Just to clarify; what we are talking about here is just a normal home PC with adequate protection - and the simple question is, would that machine be safer connecting via dial-up rather than to DSL via modem/router?

Is it connected to the router or directly to your modem and does your modem also include a router?

All my machines are, and always have been, connected via combination modem/router.

If it's connected to a router it really isn't direct on the internet.

Exactly! I've mentioned a router in every reply to date. Here in Oz, people who use just a modem are as scarce as rocking-horse manure, in fact I've yet to meet one. The vast majority of all DSL users here are connected via combination modem/router. I'm guessing that situation must be different in the U.S.? I wonder why manufacturers even still produce modems and routers as separate items, perhaps you could explain that to me mate?

It's not good practice.

Well it's going to pretty difficult to convince me of that mate. All I can go on is my own personal experience - 100,000+ hours and zero issues is surely proof enough. And that's just my main machine, I didn't even mention June's computer nor my spare which have both been through exactly the same scenario with exactly the same result.

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Mindblower
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February 9, 2012 - 5:02 pm
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Thanks for all the input. Jim - initially I had separate modem and router. When my router died (failed), I replaced it with a combo modem/router (so someone is smart now, and building them as one unit). As an extra layer of security, I also use a hardware firewall. It has an unique feature, to block / unblock (via buttons) Internet traffic, without affecting reconnects. Handy tool, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Jim Hillier
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February 9, 2012 - 7:36 pm
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You're most welcome MB. I believe you might have guessed by now that I am of the opinion there is no way on God's green earth the near prehistoric dial-up modem could in any way be compared favorably with the safety factor afforded by modern DSL equipment. https://davescomputertips.com/wp-content/sp-resources/forum-smileys/sf-smile.gif

Yes, it's strange that manufacturers still insist on building modems and routers as separate items. Many moons ago, when modems were the norm and routers the new-fangled gadget on the block, it was understandable. These days though it's hard to believe anyone would buy a modem on it's own without a router, so a combination would surely suit most people better. That's certainly the way it is here in Oz anyway, combinations are far and away the predominant choice.

Cheers mate...Jim

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Chad Johnson
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February 9, 2012 - 9:31 pm
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Jim Hillier said

Just to clarify; what we are talking about here is just a normal home PC with adequate protection - and the simple question is, would that machine be safer connecting via dial-up rather than to DSL via modem/router?

I'll start by pointing out that your premise is flawed - a normal home PC doesn't have adequate protection. Let me give you three examples:
1) My mother - bless her heart - has been on DSL / Cable / FiOS for the past 10 years. For many years she lived 2000 miles away from me and lived on her own and supported her own computer. "Don't worry," she'd tell me, "my friend [someone] takes care of my computer needs." I visited some time later and she was plugged directly into the Internet - no router, no nothing - just her computer and her pre XP firewall (disabled). Her computer did not last long.
2) My neighbor (well, my old neighbor) told me his computer had been running slow. He was a cable subscriber, and I knew (oops) that Comcast (cable company) provided a router / modem / all in one device to the homeowners on hookup. I go over to look at his computer and he has set on top of his fancy modem / router combination an old cable modem and had plugged his computer into that. Apparently his combo box died and he had the old one laying around...
3) A friend of mine (similar to your question) upgraded from dial up to DSL. He plugged in his computer and it pretty quickly got infected. He had no idea more protection would be needed.

Jim, you and I and most of the people reading this forum are the exception - we are not the rule - when it comes to computer security. Many people are left on their own (or worse - the ISP tech support) to plug in cables until everything starts working. Maybe it's different down under, but here in the States the norm is not to be protected.

As for why they make separate devices -- modems tend to be very ISP specific, while routers are very general purpose devices. In a lot of use cases, there is a good call for them to be separate devices.

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Jim Hillier
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February 10, 2012 - 12:20 am
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I'll start by pointing out that your premise is flawed – a normal home PC doesn't have adequate protection

Oh boy!! This will be my final comment. Sorry Chad but you are seriously missing the point mate. You have discussed specifically targeted corporate sites/databases, Dave then discussed servers, I merely emphasized "normal home PC" to try and get the message across and keep discussion on track - and "adequate protection" to help set a criteria. In any evaluation there has to be a base set of parameters within which to work, this is a simple hypothetical situation, not relevant to any particular country or set of users, leading to a simple question based on a simple premise - I think it best if we just agree to disagree mate. https://davescomputertips.com/wp-content/sp-resources/forum-smileys/sf-smile.gif

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David Hartsock
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February 10, 2012 - 1:15 am
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I only used my Server as an example as it is on 24/7/365 and it has the ability to log these intrusions. In all reality it is just a computer running Windows 2008 R2 (basically Win 7) and before that 2003.

FWIW, my father (on DSL) had a modem only connection for years until about 6 months ago when his provider was bought out and the new owners gave him a new modem/router combination. I, obviously, didn't let him run without a router, but the ISP would have.

We assume protected computers, but in reality we should always assume unprotected computers. I've seen many missing AV, Firewalls, hundreds of updates - you name it - even for broadband users..

A dial-up user is less likely to have updates, AV, or a native/3rd party firewall. No way in hell is a dial-up user going to spend 24 hours without their phone line while their computer is downloading a 500MB service pack at 3KB.

That said, I'm not saying either dial-up or DSL is safer, but speed is more important. You can change your computer's safety level, but you can not control how much bandwidth is available to you. Both services are vulnerable. The ability to easily add a router to a broadband connection, or the inclusion of a router in the modem, negates that negative for broadband.

In closing, I believe broadband wins every time. More content. Less waiting. More likely to accept updates. More likely to have security software/functionality.

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Jim Hillier
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February 10, 2012 - 3:00 am
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I am going to break my own oath and submit one more comment, in response to yours Dave: https://davescomputertips.com/wp-content/sp-resources/forum-smileys/sf-surprised.gif

I do in fact agree 100% with just about every observation yourself and Chad have put forward, that however is not the point. The question has nothing to do with unprotected computers, novice users, people who use only modems and do not use routers,etc, etc, etc. - it's you guys who are throwing these extraneous elements into the mix.

I am fully aware that there are plenty of users in the World like Dave's Dad and Chad's Mum, I deal with them almost on a daily basis - I could also present multiple examples of user naivety, sites being hacked, under-protected computers, missing AVs, etc. The point is that, by and large, all those sorts of comments are just not germane and only serve to take the discussion off on tangents, deflecting from and obfuscating the original intent.

And that is definitely my last word (or words) on the subject. https://davescomputertips.com/wp-content/sp-resources/forum-smileys/sf-smile.gif

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