Are there dangers in hosting a server?
Thread poster: Sheila Wilson

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Jun 27, 2009

Posts in plain English here please - my problem is that I understand so little about what is going on in the box.

My specific problem at the moment is that my son, who is temporarily living with us, wants to "host a server" and my husband and I are very wary of it.

He says he needs to use our printer, which seems sensible and non-risky. But he also needs to let unspecified other people use something that is physically housed on his computer (something work-related). Is this a risk for us? You all know how important the computer is to a translator, and we don't want to risk people either having access to our data or, more likely I imagine, bringing viruses etc into this network.

Are we worrying needlessly? I see the word "network" everywhere here so I imagine it's something most people feel happy with, but to older couples (53 and 60 in our case) it's all rather worrying.

Thanks in advance for your help and remember to keep it simple - if I want techno-talk I can ask my son!


 

Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:07
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Some problems you may expect Jun 27, 2009

First of all - if he wants to have his server in your home it must be a separate machine - under no circumstances do not use computer used for other purposes (especially not your workstation).

Even if it is a separate computer you may expect some problems - main issues which come to my mind are:

- greater risk of hacker attack on your home network (a server unless very professionally installed may constitute a gate to your home network)
- clogged internet connection - if this server is popular it may completely overload your internet connection.

Best Regards

Stanislaw


 

Epameinondas Soufleros  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 06:07
Member (2008)
English to Greek
+ ...
First and foremost, though… Jun 27, 2009

…you should ask your ISP if they allow this kind of thing —turning your PC into a server. There are ISPs that do not allow it.

 

Miroslav Jeftic  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:07
English to Serbian
+ ...
Yup Jun 27, 2009

I agree with Stanislaw.icon_smile.gif

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:07
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It depends on the server Jun 27, 2009

Sheila Wilson wrote:
My specific problem at the moment is that my son, who is temporarily living with us, wants to "host a server" and my husband and I are very wary of it.


It shows good faith that he told you that he would be doing this. He could have done it without telling you, and you would not have known a thing.

Will he be using the same internet connection as you?

He says he needs to use our printer, which seems sensible and non-risky.


Will he be plugging the printer into his computer directly (without it being plugged into yours) or will be be making use of the network printer or a wireless printer functions?

But he also needs to let unspecified other people use something that is physically housed on his computer (something work-related). Is this a risk for us?


It is not automatically a risk. Many programs act in server-like ways and are designed to be safe. It all depends on the program he'll be using, and how secure he is able to set up his computer. It also depends on whether he's using the same internet connection as you, and if so, whether your computer has been set up with secure networking settings (instead of the default, insecure setting that assumes there is only one computer).

You all know how important the computer is to a translator, and we don't want to risk people either having access to our data or, more likely I imagine, bringing viruses etc into this network.


These days, many computer equipments work wirelessly or via a network. For the time that he's in your house, I'd suggest you don't use your printer via the network (i.e. plug it directly into your own computer, and don't use it via the network cable or wireless function).

Get a technie who knows what he's doing to set up your router/modem or internet connection point (where his computer and your computer are plugged into or from wheere the two computers get their wireless internet), so that your computer is entirely secure.

The problem with modern operating systems is that their networking features are so complicated to set up (they have "easy" default settings which are basically insecure and their advanced features are so advanced that you need a bit of skill to set it up).


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your comments Jun 30, 2009

My apologies for the delay in responding to the helpful advice given - family events rather took priority for a while.

To Stanislaw who said:

"- greater risk of hacker attack on your home network
- clogged internet connection"
In fact, I think the idea of everyone using it was a bit of a red herring - my son has since explained that that was important when he was developing and testing games software and is no longer a requirement for him. I believe it's just trusted friends and colleagues that will use it.


To Samuel who said:

"It shows good faith that he told you that he would be doing this. He could have done it without telling you, and you would not have known a thing."
Yes, I rather thought he could have, in fact he said as much himself!

"will be be making use of the network printer or a wireless printer functions"
He wants to use the printer as a network printer ie wi-fi. It's physically plugged into my computer.

"The problem with modern operating systems is ... they have "easy" default settings which are basically insecure and their advanced features are so advanced that you need a bit of skill to set it up"
Herein lies one of the main problems - how much skill is needed? He has more than "a bit" but is that enough?

"It is not automatically a risk. Many programs act in server-like ways and are designed to be safe"
He has said these exact words, and it's good to hear them again.

Thanks for your comments. I think it's mostly a generation-gap problem and I can probably safely go along with his wishes. He certainly means no harm and does know his way around a computer.

Unfortunately, it seems to be unavoidable that he become impatient with me for not understanding quickly enough, and that I get defensive and fail to understand anything at all. Sounds like a typical mother-son relationship, doesn't it?


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:07
French to English
+ ...
Keep firewall and antivirus up to date, as you would anyway Jun 30, 2009

Sheila --

In a nutshell, you're right to be concerned, but the solution is essentially no different to the measures you need to take anyway: have a good firewall and antivirus product and keep it up to date, keep your OS up to date, and look out for any suspicious activity on your computer (e.g. additional notifications from your firewall software that you weren't getting before).

If the server is on a separate machine (which it should be), then there are a couple of additional risks to be aware of, but they're probably marginal:

(1) in order to run his server, your son may need to "relax" the firewall protection offered by your wireless/broadband router (technically he needs to do something called "opening up a port": your router also acts as a firewall, not normally allowing most incoming connections)-- there's then a slight risk that something already running on your computer that was listening for connections but not previously able to receive them (possibly a buggy component in Windows, for example, or some virus that got installed a year ago that's been sitting there unable to be "kicked into action") can suddenly start receiving them; if that program is either a virus or some other program with a bug in it, then there's a marginal risk. But with good firewall and antivirus software on your computer, as you should have anyway, the changes are slim;
(2) your son is obviously exposing HIS machine, e.g. if he had some bug in his server that allowed people to then use his machine as a gateway to hacking into other machines on the same network (such as yours). But again, this requires his server software to have a particular type of bug, and in addition for your machine to have a particular type of software/component with a bug in it. And good firewall/antivirus software on YOUR computer should detect it in the worst case.

But on the other hand...

If you're connected to a wireless network (or a network in general really), you're CONTINUALLY exposed to somebody really determined hacking that network and attempting to gain access to your computer. The only thing that's changed is you're opening up an extra avenue of attack. But for all avenues of attack, you should be protecting against them anyway. The ultimate course of action isn't much different.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Neil - I actually understood most of that Jun 30, 2009

Neil Coffey wrote:
have a good firewall and antivirus product and keep it up to date, keep your OS up to date, and look out for any suspicious activity on your computer


I have Zonealarm and Avast and I keep both these and Windows XP etc updated, and I'm planning to run scans daily to make sure I zap anything that has crept in unnoticed. Doing that, in conjuction with frequent backups, will hopefully avoid things going pear-shaped.


 

Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:07
English to French
+ ...
Trouble Jun 30, 2009

Hi Sheila, I will make a voluntarily gross judgment because you asked for no precise technical explanation.

Young son + gaming friends = trouble

Trust me, I have been doing computer repairs in people's homes for several years now. The late-teenage-twenty-something son is always a fuming dragon threatening to destroy the house. Computer speaking, of course.

Speaking of servers, I would have said yes when I read "for work", and when I read "games" I said NO. Servers for work are ok in your home, servers for games are monsters in your home.

If you wish, you can imagine your son inviting 4 sailing friends in your home, they have coffee, and they spread on the kitchen table a sailing map. Which is ok. Then, you imagine your son inviting a hundred friends to a rave party in your home, with trucks and all that.

Imho, if he wants to set up a gamez server, he must buy his own connection, his own computer and his own printer himself. Send him pick up potatoes in a farm to make some pocket money first.

I'd bet he will soon or has already asked you to buy the super kazoom graphic card that rocks because "your computer is so slow Mom".

Your Zonealarm and Avast are tools to keep out the little chihuahua dogs. You must prepare for the army of wolves from hell to cross your barrier now.

And keep your own computer safe from the monster! One of these days he will announce to you that "Oh I reformatted it it was too slow". And all your clients' data are gone.

I saw all that. It's true. I even saw medical cases, teenager taking to drugs with gaming friends, friends who know the house intruding to steal objects, etc.

[Edited at 2009-06-30 22:42 GMT]


 

Alaa Zeineldine  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 05:07
Member (2002)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Agree about the risk Jul 1, 2009

Sheila, I agree with all that was said about the risk of running a server on the same local network as your work computer and the additional risk of that server being a gaming server.

I think Arnaud may have given some extreme examples that we all hope and assume do not apply to your son, whom you know better than us.

However, the technical risks to your business of running a gaming server on your network should be sufficient for you to request that your son set up his server on a separate network connected to a separate broadband service. This will cost you/him more, but when they occur, security breaches are much more costly. I once had to spend a month cleaning up the PC's on my home network because my son -who was much younger at the time- had set up his computer for playing games on the internet. We had a whole gang of trojans making themselves comfortable on my network. Needless to say, this was hardly a productive month for me.

It is also advisable not to share a printer or anything else on the same network as you son's server.

As a final note. While you should be confident enough of your son, could you also guarantee all his friends or casual gaming partners? Can he guarantee them?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Arnaud and Alaa Jul 1, 2009

Thanks for your input Arnaud. It certainly sums up the dangers that most parents of teenagers occasionally have nightmares about.

However, I don't think it quite fits my circumstances:

Arnaud HERVE wrote:
Young son + gaming friends = trouble


My son has never been at all interested in playing computer games - he studied video game development and programming and developed games for others to use. Now, he is putting his programming skills to work in an industrial engineering context, modelling flows for airports, hospitals etc.

Arnaud HERVE wrote:
I'd bet he will soon or has already asked you to buy the super kazoom graphic card that rocks because "your computer is so slow Mom".


He has had his own computer for many years and, yes, it has a much better graphics card than mine - but then he's doing 3D modelling and I'm typing!

Arnaud HERVE wrote:
Your Zonealarm and Avast are tools to keep out the little chihuahua dogs. You must prepare for the army of wolves from hell to cross your barrier now.


Lovely images!

Arnaud HERVE wrote:
One of these days he will announce to you that "Oh I reformatted it it was too slow". And all your clients' data are gone.


As I said, he's studied computing so I don't think he's likely to do anything that stupid, thank heavens!

I didn't give enough info. about my son (after all, this is a public forum) so I can understand your reply, but I don't recognise my son at all in the picture you paint.

Thanks to Alaa, too, especially for the interesting pictures painted of trojans sharing the sofa. The point you make about trusting one's son but maybe not his friends rings so many bells - if only one could choose the friends!

[Edited at 2009-07-01 05:59 GMT]


 

Arnaud HERVE  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:07
English to French
+ ...
Extreme Jul 1, 2009

Alaa Zeineldine wrote:
I think Arnaud may have given some extreme examples that we all hope and assume do not apply to your son, whom you know better than us.


Of course I gave extreme examples.

But I also worked as a system administrator in a high school and, well, I can tell you some of the boys will do anything to ruin your network. They even have forums and competitions to ruin the school's network.

Plus, Sheila didn't want a technical explanation but we must at least indicate that gaming will use the bandwidth to a point that doesn't correspond to a home connection anymore, but more to an industrial professional building.

Anyway, as you said she doesn't share the network with her son only now, but with a group of unknown friends. That alone would be enough for me to keep my confidential clients' files away.

[Edited at 2009-07-01 08:14 GMT]


 
hosting Jul 31, 2010

it depends on the server..............

 

RieM  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:07
English to Japanese
+ ...
My thoughts.. Jul 31, 2010

Hi Sheila,

If I ever host a server at home, I wouldn't to deploy it within the same network as my workstations/printers, and create a DMZ (de-militalized zone) for a server or a server farm, just like any office/corporate network administrators do. This way, your machine and data is at least safe and sound within the internal network while the server is exposed to public. But some ISPs may not allow you to do so, or ask for a different service contract with you.

Has he ever configured servers/routers/firewalls? Has he taken classes in related to or self-studied network management and learned enough to protect your home PC and data with confidence? What types of services is he planning to host on the server? Web, Mail, FTP.... Can he resolve bandwidth issues? Can he deal with DoS attack?? ... There are just so many questions to be asked and answered, and only so not to jeopardize your own business.

Just my thoughts...

Rie


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Things have moved on Aug 1, 2010

Thanks for the reply, Rie.

However, this is a thread that was opened last summer and things have moved on since then. The advice given at the time caused me to stall my son's requests until he could re-assure me more. Then, as so often happens with young people's careers, things changed. My son is now very busy with industrial process modelling and uses his laptop when working on game development.

So, please consider this thread closed.


 


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