Can one share DSL and keep secrets?

Discussion in 'privacy problems' started by HandsOff, Nov 30, 2003.

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  1. HandsOff

    HandsOff Registered Member

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    A friend of mine is considering networking her computer with other members of the household so that she share their DSL connection and save money. Her one concern is for privacy. She will be a connected to a router, and her concern is that the family members on the the "main" computer will be able to see what sites she has visited and who she is emailing and stuff like that. Her concern is bolstered by the common knowledge that employers do that exact thing to employees, so could it happen at home as well? At this point no particular router has been purchased so if the hardware can make the difference now would be the time to find out. As I have never shared a connection I really don't have an answer. It seems like that kind of monitoring should only take place with the knowledge and consent of the victim. But we live here on planet Earth...
    - Any advice would be welcome
    - I DID search for this topic first! I just keep getting sidetracked when i see an interesting topic....

    -Thanks!
    (i already told her i will consult with the ultimate authorities!)
     
  2. LowWaterMark

    LowWaterMark Administrator

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    This is not really an easy question to answer as there are a lot of factors to consider...

    First, businesses generally monitor network usage through a set of tools that are more advanced than most normal home users would have. Email for example is usually run through a central mail server in a business environment, so the admins of that mail server can track and see all emails passing through it. Internet access generally passes through a central firewall which can log all connections, sites visited, etc. And most business make a point of monitoring and reviewing logs from both of these for security reasons.

    Businesses may also use sniffers (network packet monitors) which can see every byte sent up and down the network wire. (Of course, if the traffic is encrypted by the user, and the business doesn't have the keys to decrypt those packets, then they'll still see them all and know the destination IP addresses, but they won't know what's actually in the packets.)

    Businesses sometimes have management software installed directly on the client PCs which can further monitor, log and limit usage. So, in a Business environment there are a lot of opportunities to be watched.

    However, in a simple home environment like you are describing, if the two systems involved are just equal peers, both connecting to the router directly, and neither PC providing the gateway for the other, then it is more difficult to monitor each other. (I qualified the direct router connection because sometimes in a home environment one PC will run software like ICS (Internet Connection Sharing) which provides the network access to the second PC, but this is not what you are describing so it shouldn't be a concern.)

    Now one obvious point... Physical access to the PC is the weakest link in all of this. All bets are off if this person's PC will be used by others in the house... Anything stored on the PC will most likely be visible to someone sitting at it unless significant efforts are taken to secure the data (file access protections and data encryption would have to be used), but this is a totally different issue than what you are asking about regarding just network sharing.

    I'm guessing that all the users of each PC will have their own email accounts out at the ISP, so as long as they keep their passwords secret, no one should be able to get at anyone else's emails. And since neither PC is the gateway of the other, then they won't know about where the other PC is browsing on the Internet.

    As for "sniffing" the network wire... If the router they get uses switching ports then most of the packets (those targetted to one specific PC) won't be seen by the other's network port. So, look for a router that specifically has "switching ports" for the connection of individual PCs.

    A last point is this... Who will manage the router? Most routers can log connections and the person managing the router could set it up to log to their PC all connections passing through. Generally this will provide "sites connected to" and not actual data packets, but it is still a concern.

    Edited to add one other point: "File Sharing" - Just because PCs are on the same LAN (local network) does not mean that they have to set up and run file sharing (like NetBIOS shares). But, often people do this so they can pass files, especially large ones, from one PC to the other. If these people set up file shares, they need to be careful regarding what they share exactly. You can easily set up file shaing to share your entire disk with the other PCs on the LAN. If they do that, then of course all privacy is gone.
     
  3. HandsOff

    HandsOff Registered Member

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    Hello Low waterMark and thank you for the very thorough explanation! You were pretty much correct with your understanding of the network setup as presented to me. The only file sharing that will be going on is the kind that is not desired. I am noting down what you said about switching ports, but the part about router management may be the bigger issue. I loved the term you used 'equal peers sharing a network'. I hope the idea has a counterpart in reality. Oh, I can appreciate that there must be an ability to monitor the router, but really, i was hoping that routers it would be designed in such a way that each user's privacy could be maintained to the maximum extend. To me, and as i have said, i have never had a home network, i would guess that for the greater portion of home users, equality of privacy would be considered by far the more desirable set up. I haven't read the other replies yet, but i thank you so much for your insights. I want so much to tell her, "no worries!"

    -HandsOff

    (I don’t use a spell checker because I don’t trust it!)
     
  4. LowWaterMark

    LowWaterMark Administrator

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    Well, from the standpoint of the router maker, they are doing their jobs by providing all the control and logging to the person that bought and installed the router. The one who has the management password gets full control of the router and access to all its information. That's why I wanted to point this out.

    In a sense you can think of the router as protecting you (well, "them" in this case) from the outside world (i.e. the Internet at large). "Privacy" for those inside the LAN is not a factor simply because the person with the management password is the boss.

    Well, for the most there is only a limited amount of true privacy available when you are on a shared resource. When you share anything in this world it is little different. :doubt:

    Best Wishes,
    LowWaterMark
     
  5. controler

    controler Guest

    If your router has a built or even if you have a seperate hub the other members can't see you info unless the router software is installed on all the computers. I most cases this is true anyways. I have three networked in the house now and unless I install the router software on all three with one computer as the main one, the router doesn't log
    info on the other two. SO!! if the computer you are using on the network has not been chosen to be the main one, YES the router log shows the sites you visited.
     
  6. meneer

    meneer Registered Member

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    Perhaps off topic (hmmm, no it IS ot)...

    Since two networking hosts are sharing the internet connection, on the internet they are identified by the subscribers IP address (the one that pays the internet fee). If it were my IP address I would make certain that the sharing partner can be trusted :eek:
     
  7. HandsOff

    HandsOff Registered Member

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    To Low Water Mark, Controller, and Meener,
    Thanks for the input, and Meener you are not off topic, I made of poor choice or words when i said 'keep secrets'. I probably should have said 'maintained privacy'. And really, what is troubling her is that she is a single young adult living at home and while familial realations are good, i would go as far as to say that the family is about as close as a family can be, still she is shy by nature. She has lots of friends online, spends untold hours at the Victoria's Sectret site. Probably, there is no problem at all, only i am trying to convince her to do it so that she can scrap the 56k modem and step into the new millenium. I feel like a doctor who is convincing a patient to undergo a procedure that will allow her to see. But i'm really glad that she will know what to expect going in.

    "do you think anyone really cares what you do on the internet?", "No, you don't understand, the world revolves around me!"

    ...and it does too...
     
  8. bigc73542

    bigc73542 Retired Moderator

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    I am networked with my grand daughter on dsl. When I setup the wireless router I just omited naming the computers and that way there is no way to find it on the network. That is the info I got from linksys support and I can not find her comp at all so it must work.
     
  9. HandsOff

    HandsOff Registered Member

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    Thanks BigC!-

    - That's just the sort of thing I was looking for!

    - HandsOff



    ============================================
    - Trying to get XP to work is exhausting! I feel like I just spent 3 hours on the stairmaster, only without the cardiovascular benefit!
     
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