Security, Malware, And Your Computer

Computers are practically in every aspect of our lives these days and our reliance on them is heavy. They are used as tools for work, data storage, schoolwork, shopping, and entertainment. Because so much information is typically stored on our computers we must always make sure they are protected from that loss of information. Businesses have to secure information on their computers to protect it from exploitation by hackers. And the home computer user is no exception to the requirement to protect computer information because there can be credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other sensitive personal information stored on their computer or transmitted when doing online shopping. There is a term used for this and it is “computer security risk.” This term refers to the likelihood that some action could cause the loss of information, computer hardware, or denial of service.

When computer security is put at risk intentionally, it becomes criminal in nature or we call this a computer crime. Another relative of the computer crime is the cybercrime. The FBI pays especially close attention to cybercrimes and there are other types of crimes related to them such as corporate spying, unethical computer activity, cyberterrorism, hacking, cracking, and cyberextortion.

Hacking at one time had a positive meaning to it but since computer crimes were introduced, it falls in the bucket with the rest of them. The hacker is the person who gains access to a computer network illegally. They sometimes use the excuse that they were only trying to break a network’s security so as to make the administrator aware of any security deficiencies.

Closely related to the hacker is the cracker. But the cracker never has been viewed in a positive light. The cracker always has had the intent to gain access to computer and its network to do harm to it or commit a crime like stealing information stored on it. The cracker, like the hacker, has to know what he or she is doing so advanced computer skills are needed in order to pull these crimes off.

Then there are the cyberterrorists and cyberextortionists. The cyberterrorist has a political motive behind his or her activities and it is to do harm to computers to adversely affect a political system. Cyberterrorism requires extensive planning, skilled people to carry it out, and money to fund it. It is much like the classic terrorist attack.

The cyberextortionist is the one who commits the crime of extortion via email. They will hold a company hostage by threatening to release sensitive company information or harm a company’s computers and network if not given some confidential information and/or money. Sometimes these criminals are aware of security leaks that will allow them to exploit the computer. It is much like classic extortion except carried out through computers.

Then there is the employee who wants to get revenge on his or her company because of some perceived wrong done to them or they want to pad their pockets. These people are known as the unethical employees and what makes them so dangerous is that they many times know how to get into the system.

Not everyone has the computer skills required to be a cracker or hacker so there is another classification known as the “script kiddie.” This person is usually is a teenager attempts to harm a computer system but cannot do much because he or she does not know much. This person will use canned programs and scripts to attempt to do the hacks and cracks.

Some unethical businesses try to gain an unfair advantage on their competition through an illegal activity known as corporate espionage. The same unethical businesses will hire a corporate spy who is highly-proficient in computers and technology to break into the target corporation’s computers. The corporate spy will then steal information or even sabotage the target computer.

It is imperative that home and business computer users take action to shield their computer from these threats to their security. Computer security methods are not 100% foolproof but they do decrease the risk to computers significantly. As soon as a solution is found to protect against one threat, someone figures out a new way to gain unauthorized access to them. Computer users on home networks are more at risk to have information stolen than are computers on business networks mostly because of the more advanced security on the latter. And the internet is a network even more susceptible and at risk when it comes to security. Another problem with security on the internet is that there is not one centralized point to manage security and safety on the information highway.

You are probably wondering now if your computer is secure from threats such as these. There are ways you can get your system evaluated. You can find sites on the internet that offer services that will access your computer and report to you any security vulnerabilities found either through internet browsing or the e-mail. These same companies many times offer tips and suggestions of ways to protect against the vulnerabilities. Another resource in the fight against computer security threat is the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Coordination Center which also offers suggestions.

Security attacks against computers usually involve things like worms, viruses, denial of service, Trojan horses, and spoofing. All of these, the computer virus is the most famous. A computer virus is basically software that is designed to do damage to the files on your computer once it gets installed on it. All if it is done without the user giving permission and without the user’s knowledge at first. A computer virus, once it gets in your computer, will spread and cause more damage. It will do things like delete files and corrupt your computer’s operating system and render it inoperable. Thus it was tagged with the term “virus” because it acts much the same way as human virus does: it gets in and spreads throughout the body and causes illness or damage in some cases. Protection against viruses is available through anti-virus software.

An offshoot of the computer virus is the computer worm. A computer worm is much like a virus with the exception that it will find some perfectly valid executable program on your computer and attach itself to that program. When the user runs the program, the computer worm will attack. Computer worms can consume a lot of network bandwidth while they replicate across a corporate network.

And now for the famous Trojan horse computer threat that derives its name from the famous story in Greek mythology. What a Trojan horse does is hide itself in a program that looks like a valid program but in reality it is not. Trojan horse programs do not replicate like the viruses and worms do.

All these different types of threat software are known as malware which is term used to refer to malicious-logic programs. Malware, as the name implies, does damage to your computer. There are other variations of worms, viruses, and Trojan horses but we are just discussing these three for this article. And you should know how to suspect you have been attacked by one or more these malicious programs. You should be suspicious that you have been attacked if your computer shows one or more of these signs:

Programs you use suddenly don’t work like they used to:

  • Files are missing or corrupted
  • Strange music or sounds are heard on your computer
  • You start running out of memory for no apparent reason
  • Strange files show up on your system
  • System properties begin to change
  • Popup windows with odd messages and/or images display

The ways in which these malicious programs do their damage or drop their “bombs” can be one any one of the following:

  • A user runs a program infected with the virus. This is why virus scanning software that checks a program before running it is so important.
  • A user boots a computer and the virus is installed on the boot sector. It is recommended that you remove all media files when you shut down your computer.
  • A user connects to a computer that is not protected against viruses on the network (such as accessing a shared drive). So the user opens a virus-infected file on a shared drive and now the user’s client computer has the virus.
  • A user opens up an email attachment that contains an executable file with a virus. This is why it is so important to not open up executable email attachments unless you know the sender and the attachment has been scanned by anti-virus software.

And another big problem with malicious logic programs is that new ways to implement them are discovered every day. Security websites try to stay on top of each new malware implementation so that users can be alert for them. Take basic safety measures to protect your computer such as installing a good anti-virus package that gets updated with new malware detection logic automatically. Never open up suspicious email attachments. Be careful of the internet sites you visit (i.e., don’t visit Warez sites), and run anti-spyware programs. Take the media out of any alternate boot devices you have so that a virus cannot get stored on it and be introduced at boot time. Finally, stay informed from security websites as to the latest threats and what to look out for.

Guy Starbuck is a Super Geek and Health Phreak who writes for SpywareTool.com [http://www.spywaretool.com], NetworkSecurity.WS [http://www.networksecurity.ws], and ActiveDirectory.US [http://www.activedirectory.us].

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Guy_Starbuck/211129