A PC that is connected to the Internet via a cable modem is always vulnerable to a malicious hack attack whenever the PC is on.
A PC that is connected to the Internet via a cable modem (i.e., using a cable television ISP) is always vulnerable to a malicious hack attack whenever the PC is on. Even if a browser is not opened, merely turning on a PC with a cable connection renders the device vulnerable to attack.
Why is this? Because cable ISPs, in providing the Internet access to a user, essentially are creating giant always-connected networks of PCs comprised of all their customers. Cable connections utilize Ethernet cards, which render the user one link in a giant network. Even if a browser is never opened, a cable-connected PC links to the Ethernet-enabled network (i.e., the Internet) as soon as the PC is booted — just as a connection to a LAN or other corporate network renders the device vulnerable to attacks across that network. This gives a hacker access to the user’s hard drive, and opens the door for many kinds of malicious hack attacks.
One way to protect a cable-connected PC from malicious hacks is to disable file-sharing and print-sharing capabilities in the operating system. This is a simple solution for some but for others not a reality as this method basically disables any kind of home networking.
A better method is to install either a hardware or software firewall. A hardware firewall typically is a small device that the cable and the Ethernet card are both connected to. All transmissions pass through the hardware firewall. A software firewall, which is the more common and cheaper of the two methods, is a piece of code that resides on your PC and is always running. The software watches interactions between the PC and the Internet and blocks any suspicious activities.
This article was originally published on August 28, 2003