Security Threats on Home PC


Case Study: Potential Security Threats On a Home Personal Computer

We live in a day in age where information is available, about almost anything, at the tips of your fingers. As fast as you can get the information, is as fast as someone can steal it. Security has to be important as the information we pull off of the internet everyday. Some of the major problems we face in network or internet security is a careless user, identity thefts, Spyware/Trojans, viruses, ad-wares etc1… In the next couple of paragraphs, I will explain some of the avenues that an attacker may use to retrieve information about you, your computer or the vulnerability of your network. Just because you have taken some of the precautions to protect yourself, it does not mean you are completely protected from someone looking to gain access.

The first avenue is a virus. I personally believe that if you keep your internet security up to date, you should not have any problems with viruses. A virus is a program that can copy itself and modifies itself so it goes undetected to the host computer. Viruses are sometimes mistaken for worms or Trojans, but viruses can execute themselves and do not need something to execute it. Viruses can be transmitted by the internet, disk, flash drives or by email. Viruses are usually undetectable and as they attach themselves to a program or an email. The damage they could cause can be minimal to destructive. It can be a simple change in how the computer displays an icon on the desktop to actually crashing your hard drive rendering it useless. The way to protect yourself here is to have an up to date antivirus installed on your computer and scan your computer thoroughly at least once a week.

Ad-wares are the next avenue. Here the problem is usually attached to a program that is a freeware or a shareware. Even though the program is free or free for a limited time, the manufacturer of the program still makes money from selling information the ad-ware gathers from your computer. An ad-ware is a program that must be installed and it captures information about your computer, network and/or yourself and sends it back to the interested parties to sell. The easiest way to prevent ad-wares from residing on your computer is to not download and install freeware or shareware programs that you do not trust. If you have to have the program installed, then I would recommend that you have a firewall installed to monitor your traffic. Usually, you will see a pop up regarding the incoming or outgoing traffic for the particular ad-ware and you can simply block the traffic. For advanced users, you can simply create a rule that blocks any activity the program has with the internet. Sometimes the freeware or shareware work together with the ad-ware and will not function if the ad-ware does not communicate with the host location on the internet for a certain amount of time. Rule of thumb is to not download programs you do not trust.

Last I am going to talk about is the careless user. This is a person who downloads everything they can get their hands on without considering the risk they are taking. These people usually do not have a firewall installed and activated and do not regularly scan their computer for viruses. These same people do not back up their computers so their important information will not get lost or damaged. These are the same people that come to me not understanding why their computer does not work like it did a few months ago when they bought it. Careless users are just asking for their information to be stolen. The only way they may change is to educate them about the dangers out in the world. They need to understand that this type of activity is not tolerated at work and they probably could not do half of the things they do at home at work. A simple firewall would probably eliminate 75% of their problems. The other 25% must be on education because the user could turn the firewall off if they find it difficult to travel to a specific site.

Of all of the avenues I talked about, all of them can be prevented when you take the steps to protect yourself. Most of the attacks come from people looking for vulnerabilities or holes in your computer’s or network’s security. Educate yourself and you can prevent attacks. Purchasing a good antivirus and internet security package is the first step. Keeping up to date with your security and operating system’s patches is a must, but make sure you manually look for these patches. Sometimes patches do not come through automatically. Turn on your firewall and for your wireless network implement your WEP security2. Following these steps will drastically reduce the attacks.

References

Sandy Berger (2002). How To Guides: What is a Computer Virus? AARP.org,
Retrieved February 22, 2009, from
http://www.aarp.org/learntech/computers/howto/a2002-07-18-virus.html

Anick Jesdanun (Feb 16 2004). Associated Press, landfield.com. Exploit high-speed connections, careless users, Retrieved February 22, 2009, from
http://www.landfield.com/isn/mail-archive/2004/Feb/0061.html

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