Yes, you can connect two computers together using only one cable. A crossover type cable can be use in this scenario. In this setup, the data transmit pin of one cable is connected to the data receive pin of the other cable, and vice versa.
There are several ways to do this. Install reliable and updated anti-virus program on all computers. Make sure firewalls are setup and configured properly. User authentication will also help a lot. All of these combined would make a highly secured network.
There are three main network protocols supported: NetBEUI, TCP/IP, and IPX.