By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
File and Print Sharing is a wonderful thing for Windows users. It's also a dangerous thing.
It's an important part of modern computing for millions of PCs. Drop in $20 networking adapters and hook up $30 worth of cable and two or more PCs can work with the same files and folders and even use the same printer. Small offices throughout the world use this amazingly cheap method of creating a network. And many users do the same thing at home so that mom and dad can link up with the kids' PC and play those CD-ROM games when Eric and Kimberly are asleep.
But the same feature that lets PCs share the same files and printers over a small-scale network leaves them under open skies when they are on the Internet. To your Windows 95 and Windows 98 PC, there is no difference between the three-computer network at the stationery store and the 100-million-computer network called the Internet. A network is a network. If you share your files and folders with the route manager down the hall, you're sharing them with a 14-year-old in Bratislava who has nothing better to do than hack into your PC. You need to keep that in mind.
Last week I explained how you can find out if File and Print Sharing is set up on your PC. This week I'll tell you how to keep using File and Print Sharing without letting the Brat from Bratislava into your home or office.
I'll assume you've already checked and found that File and Print Sharing is already installed. Most users who take advantage of File and Print Sharing don't take it one step further, and that's the secret. To keep intruders out of your PC while letting others share your stuff, you need to protect everything with passwords. It's actually easy to do.
Double click the "My Computer" icon on your Desktop. You'll see icons for your floppy drive and for your hard drive. (If you have more than one hard drive, you'll see more than one icon for hard drives.) You'll also see icons for your CD-ROM drive and any other drives you have, along with icons for the Printers folder and a few other things.
You're going to click your right (or alternate) mouse button on each of the drive icons. When a menu opens, you're going to click Sharing. When you see the Sharing window, you're going to click either Not Shared or Shared As:, and then, if you've chosen Shared As:, you'll click Depends on Password.
Then you'll have a choice of two passwords, one for viewing files and folders (called "Read Only") and one for doing anything at all to files and folders (called "Full Access"). You can specify the same password and a different password for each category. Don't choose a simple, easy-to-guess password. Use one with numbers and letters in random order. (MYPC is easy to remember and very easy to guess, but 8rk3nx9u surely is not.)
Start with the floppy drive. (If there's no disk in the drive, you'll hear a grinding noise, but don't let that stop you.) Many users turn off sharing for a floppy drive, but having a working floppy drive on another networked PC can be very handy. So I recommend turning it on and setting up a tough password for all access.
Then do the same for the hard drive(s) and any removable drives such as Zip drives. Turn on sharing if you want to for your CD-ROM. You don't need to specify a password, since CD-ROMs are static devices that don't create files. (If you have a CD recorder, you do need a password to protect it.)
Now double click the Printers folder. Right click any printer icons you find there and choose Sharing. No password is recorded unless you type one in. You should always protect your printer with a password if you spend a lot of time on the Internet.
When you're done, Windows probably will tell you to reboot. Do that, then double-check the settings when Windows comes back up. Keep the passwords secret except to anyone who needs to know them, and do not store a list of those passwords on your PC.