Tales from the Terminal Room
July/August 2000 Issue No. 12
Please Note: This is an archive copy of the newsletter. The information and links that it contains are not updated.
Tales from the Terminal Room ISSN 1467-338X
July/August 2000 Issue No. 12
Editor: Karen Blakeman
Published by: RBA Information Services
Tales from the Terminal Room (TFTTR) is a monthly newsletter, with the exception of July and August, which are published as a single issue. TFTTR includes reviews and comparisons of information sources and search tools; updates to the RBA Web site Business Sources and other useful resources; dealing with technical and access problems on the Net; and news of RBA's training courses and publications.
In this issue:
Update on Biography Web Sites
We kick off this edition of TFTTR with an update on the Biography sites that were covered in the June 2000 issue, No. 11.
Locating the FT People page from the ft.com home page is becoming more and more difficult. At the time of writing, you could go direct to the People section at URL http://people.ft.com/people/. Where the FT is concerned, I always hesitate giving a direct link to an internal page because they have a nasty habit of regularly restructuring their site; but it is better than having to try out the dozens of links on the cluttered FT.com home page.
Lives, the Biography resource (http://amillionlives.com/)
Miscellaneous Day to Day Essentials (http://www.rba.co.uk/sources/misc.htm)
i-CD's 192.com (http://www.192.com/) has been added to the section on Street Maps and to the new section "UK Electoral Roll". You have to register in order to use the service and you are allowed twenty free searches a month. Databases available for searching include the UK Electoral Roll, BT's Directory Enquiries, 192.com's own residential telephone listing, business directories and street maps. 192's telephone listing is straightforward to use but there has always been a question mark over the sources and quality of the database.
The Street Maps option is a useful alternative to the UK Street Map (http://www.streetmap.co.uk/) and Multimap (http://www.multimap.com/) services. The maps on 192.com look rather sketchy but they are often clearer and less cluttered than those provided by other sites. The Directions section provides you with a map and detailed instructions of how to get from A to B by car. I no longer drive on a regular basis so I cannot judge whether the routes that 192 suggests are sensible ones.
The Electoral Roll database is the service that has been causing most concern amongst individuals. Checking an individual's address is straightforward and is the most obvious use for having access to the Roll in electronic form. But you can also search on an individual house and see who is listed at that address, or obtain a listing of everyone registered in a particular street simply by entering the street name and town or postcode.
The Electoral Roll is available for public view and is sold by Councils to mailing companies and marketing organisations. That it should now be so easily accessible in electronic form to anyone with an Internet connection worries some people. There may be an option on future electoral roll registration forms that will allow people to opt out of the list that is sold on to third parties. In the meantime if you wish to remove your details from i-CD's database, you will have to download a form from http://www.192.com/download/C01.rtf
Once you have filled it in, you can either fax it to i-CD (but it is a GBP 1.50/min premium number) or post it to the address given on the form.
China Market (http://www.chinamarket.com.cn/)
Portuguese Shoes, Components and Leathergoods Directory (http://www.rpl.pt/)
Buscador de Empresas Espaņolas (http://www.elcorredor.com/)
Country Information (http://www.rba.co.uk/sources/country.htm)
Gizmos of the Month
This month we have two Gizmos of the month: A personal firewall called Zone Alarm and a program called ZoneLog Analyser that analyses the logs generated by Zone Alarm.
If you are accessing the Net through an academic or corporate network then you are probably protected from hackers by firewalls on the network. If you are using a stand-alone, dial up PC either at work or at home then you are wide open to attack and you really should consider installing a Personal Firewall program.
Why bother with a Personal Firewall? You are not a megabucks corporation so no hacker is going to be interested in you and, in any case, you are probably using a free or unmetered ISP at home that gives you a different IP address each time you log on. Well, I have bad news for you: you are exactly the sort of victim that a hacker is looking for. More of us are getting connected at home; with free and unmetered access now available in the UK, more of us are staying online for longer; and more of us are using ecommerce and electronic banking, which means that we may be storing detailed financial information about ourselves on our PCs.
(If you are not already paranoid about Net privacy and security then have a look at Steve Gibson's site at http://grc.com/. Privacy.net at http://www.privacy.net/ gives a less over-the-top view of the lack of privacy on the Net.)
The hacker does not need to target a specific Internet address. There are tools that will roam the Net sniffing out connected PCs and scan for unprotected ports. Once in, there are a number of techniques for extracting information from the remote PC, for example by planting a "Trojan" on the PC hard disk. The Trojan then beavers away selecting the juiciest pieces of personal data, which it takes "home" when you next connect to the Net. At best, this could result in you being bombarded with megabytes of junk mail and faxes, or in your identity being hijacked by a spammer: at worst, you could find unauthorised transactions on your credit cards and bank statements.
The good news is that there are several excellent personal firewall programs for dial-up PCs. The June 2000 issue of Internet Magazine reviewed six products with Zone Alarm (http://www.zonelabs.com/) coming out on top. (Play it Safe: Personal Firewalls, Internet Magazine, June 2000, Issue No. 67, pp154-160, ISSN 1355-6428).
At RBA, we use Zone Alarm on all our desktop and laptop PCs and find it effective, easy to install and use. For those on a tight budget, the even better news is that the basic program is free of charge for personal and non-profit use. There is a professional version (USD 39.95) that offers a greater degree of customisation and more control over what and who you let in and out of your PC.
If you want to take things a little further and discover who is doing what behind your back, ZoneLog Analyser at http://www.mcs-online.co.uk/zonelog/ fits the bill (currently in beta and free of charge). It gives the date, time, IP and port addresses of source and destination. The majority of "requests" to your PC are bona fide and part of Internet protocols. For those that are not, further information is sometimes available. For example:
You can try and dig deeper by using the WhoIs button to identify who is nosing around your PC ports. In general, though, you will find only the name of the ISP that has been allocated the block of addresses containing the IP address in question. Of course, any half-competent hacker will be using an anonymizer of some sort.
A personal firewall such as Zone Alarm has become essential for stand-alone, dial-up PCs: ZoneLog Analyser is an optional extra but, if nothing else, a few hours of using both programs will make you more understanding of and sympathetic towards your network support staff at work.
Meetings and Workshops
September 27th, Business Information on the Internet
October 4th, How to Make More Effective Use of the Internet (http://www.rba.co.uk/training/effective.htm)
TFTTR Contact Information
Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services
TFTTR archives: http://www.rba.co.uk/tfttr/archives/index.shtml
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