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Using older PC's/OS's online What are the real threats?

LorneinCanada

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Jan 7, 2022
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Maybe this topic has been beat to death. But I'm new here and haven't noticed any recent threads. I'm really not fluent in the whole world of LANS and WANs. In this modern world our devices pretty much do it all automatically.


If I'm using an old set up and I hook it to a local LAN to share files, printer etc. But don't attempt to access the net directly. Am I putting my modern PC's and security at risk? ie is the old OS a portal to attack the new devices in the home.

If the answer is no. What are the bad things that can happen to the old PC accessing the web. Loss of the HD? Can my bios be attacked and ruin my CPU?

And to better define my activities. Say I want to directly interact with a second party. Say for example I or they have a BBS server. From my uneducated view my threats are limited to those PC's I'm interacting with. Or is this wrong.

Is there any safety in connection speed. Or lack there of. For example say I figure out how to hook a 56k dial up modem to my modern fiber modem... router... whatever it is and to another vintage PC enthusiast who is doing the same. Does this slow weak data transfer speed offer me any safety margin?

Are there going to be many hackers or malicious third parties out there that would be actively hunting for old PC's/OS's to interfere with me?

I guess last for today. I'm a HAM and am just scratching the surface of digital modes. I am at the moment just dabbling with MMSSTV. But I see more advanced HAMs linking there transceivers to over the air BBS chat groups. And even accessing the net on a very basic scale. Email transfer for example. Is there any real threat of malicious behaviour under these operations?
 

NeXT

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Basically if you are attaching your machine to an internet connected LAN these days ensure your router's firewall is properly configured to block all incoming ports you do not specifically use and route dedicated ports to static IP's on machines that do. My ISP goes a step further and default ports like 80 (http), 21(ftp), 23 (telnet) and 25 (SMTP) (among many others) are blocked on their end unless you specifically call them (and pay more per month). This stops 98% of people trying to poke around looking for unsecured machines, then either botting them or using them as a piggyback to access other machines on the network. For the remaining 2% they have to either know you're there or be specifically looking for you. Either of which are unlikely unless you do something dumb like make the machine's IP address directly face the internet.
Fun fact: If you install the TCP stack on a Symbolics LISP machine and then make the IP address accessible outside the firewall, you can crash Genera in under 60 seconds because the sheer volume of automatic access attempts (systems trying to find unsecured systems and then attempt to brute force the login using common default credentials) and packet chatter will make the stack topple over. ;)

Edited: I mean, you go into reddit and every armchair infosec dweeb is going to say YES IT'S A SECURITY RISK on the single point of it's an old computer running an old non-updated OS but their solutions are either impractical or simply paranoid. Just make sure your firewall is properly configured like above (and I think at this point you can't get a consumer router whose built-in firewall isn't enabled by default) and odds are you will be fine.
 
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Agent Orange

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Above all, backup your important data. Don't make any PC a single depository for your data.
 

LorneinCanada

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Jan 7, 2022
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Ok NeXT. That gives me some well for starters excellent back grounding and further some terms I can now search and expand my knowledge upon.

And yes Agent Orange. Back ups are wise. That's why we got our ZIP drives out of storage!

Just as an add on. My favourite OS is XP. Sadly some of my favourite modern entertainment services have forcibly abandoned it. I just got my old Comtex 386 going. Preliminary stages. It has Win 3.11 Workgroups on it. I imagine over some level of DOS.... Not sure about that. 3.11 and DOS its all new to me.
 

whartung

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If the answer is no. What are the bad things that can happen to the old PC accessing the web. Loss of the HD? Can my bios be attacked and ruin my CPU?
You don't say much about your "old PC", specifically what is it running?

As NeXT said, behind a reasonable modern router, XP should be safe. The primary threat isn't being connected, the primary threat is you downloading something that corrupts your machine.

Your older stuff is perfectly safe. Simply, nobody is "hacking" those systems any more, and they don't really have the capability to be hacked anyway -- not a lot of remote services running on a Win 3.11 system to compromise.

Nobody is hacking XP anymore for that matter.

Recall that what folks want from your machine today is either as a spam relay, or a crypto currency miner.

Nobody is going to ransomware your machine, you're too small. Not worth the effort, bigger fish to fry.

The single biggest threat to your system is your web browser. I don't know if an XP version of a browser has any capabilities worth corrupting.
 

NeXT

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Did I buzzword overload you there? Sorry about that. :p
Yeah you can run Winsock on 3.11 and you can sleep easy knowing nobody's going to be exploiting that.
 

LorneinCanada

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Jan 7, 2022
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You don't say much about your "old PC", specifically what is it running?

Ya sorry. I was debating adding more detail but trying to keep the post short and sweet,ISH On machines that can run it I like XP. Simply because I'm more familiar with it than any other OS. It playes the era of games I like the most. I dabble once in a while with Ubuntu variations. I'm on some version of it right now. Sometimes it impresses me. Other times it frustrates the heck out of me.
And as of this year we have decided to get those bucket list PC's going. The Comtex 386 can be seen in one of my first threads. I have a few Tandy's ie 1000's and a 2500. A Commadore.... Darn I can never remember it... PC-10 or 40 Arrrrg I'll have to right it down next time I'm in the storage container. At any rate I see vintage videos from back in the day and some modern youtuber stuff. I see some of these machines were capable of some basic dial up sort of networking... I want to try joining or hosting a BBS either on line or maybe if it can be done over the air with some other HAMs.
 

Unknown_K

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It works on a variety of old MS OS and takes little effort to hang a machine.

Granted most hackers want to take over a machine and use it for spam, mining, or ransomware these days.
 

Timo W.

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Basically if you are attaching your machine to an internet connected LAN these days ensure your router's firewall is properly configured to block all incoming ports you do not specifically use and route dedicated ports to static IP's on machines that do.
For what he's asking, there is actually a much easier solution people seem to have forgotten these days. If you want to connect something to LAN but not expose it to the internet, simply do not tell the device what the IP of the gateway is (i.e. set the gateway to 127.0.0.1). With no gateway, the device can never talk to anything outside the LAN. Of course, that requires manual IP configuration and not using DHCP on that device.
 

Robbbert

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Jan 10, 2019
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I have a collection of old windows (WFW 3.11, NT 4.0, 95, 98, 98SE, W2K, XP, Vista, 7 and 10). All the computers are capable of talking on the internet, and nothing untoward has ever happened. I agree with what the others have said - as long as you are sensible you should be safe.

Browsers on XP include IE8 (it came with IE6 but you could upgrade), Firefox up to 52.9 ESR (still works on most sites), and some old versions of Chrome. I imagine there's plenty of other browsers too, since XP is/was a popular OS.
 

Unknown_K

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I have quite a few old machines that can and sometimes do connect to the internet, I just don't have anything important on them and they are turned off when not in use.
 
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