As more of the world’s telecommunications move to the broadband capabilities of DSL and cable modems, the job of the network administrator becomes more difficult. And cracking—once the domain of a few socially challenged, self-proclaimed rebels—has become a simple exercise of obtaining software and learning a few tricks. The collective scruples of computer users with broadband connections have thus far prevented online anarchy. However, network professionals can’t afford to rely on those scruples exclusively. Admins who must protect their systems from potential hacks are faced with a daunting task.
One of the most effective ways to protect a computer network is to arm yourself with information. A known cracker is an ineffective cracker. Anonymity is the key to their existence. Enter DShield.org—a Web site that attempts to thwart crackers by providing a central location where network administrators can share information. The database of cracking activity is built from packet filter logs that are now available for most network operating systems. The idea is that this information can be used to discover trends and prepare better firewall rules.
The Web site's design is a testimony to the community-building ideals it espouses. All that’s displayed are a simple list of pertinent links, a concise statement of purpose, and an update on current cracking activity. The instructions for submitting reports of attacks are technical but presented clearly and with little fanfare. To the non-network-savvy, the techno-speak may be hard to follow, but for an IT professional there’s just the right amount of information.
DShield.org is to be commended for its aspirations. The design of the site complements the serious nature of its stated mission. The amount of time and effort required to submit network attack information to the site is negligible compared to the potential good that can be accomplished if destructive cracking activity is exposed.
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Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.