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Network security threats

Dec 14, 2010

As you probably know, the main objective of security software is to protect and ensure the safety of information, computer systems or computer networks from theft, vandalism, damage, loss and other potential hazards. Of course, security software is not the only solution to protect a computer system, but in my opinion, namely security software plays a crucial role in securing and maintaining the confidentiality of personal computers.

I think the problem is that unlike the corporate computers, personal computers are not adequately protected against Internet threats, since not all users are good professionals in the field of information security, often ignored the rules of computer security and many other security flaws that are not present in corporate networks. And if, in most instances for corporate computers the main threat are insiders, then for personal computers — Network security threats.

As a rule, to protect personal computer against Network threats helps security software, such as antivirus, anti-spam, firewall, anti-spyware and others — as multi-application security suite or standalone software. And despite the fact that this class of programs provides a malware, spyware, phishing, spam and vulnerability protection, they cannot protect against these threats if the user does not comply with the rules of computer security and ignores the recommendations of experts.

However, to ensure maximum protection for personal computer and sensitive information from Network security threats, the user must know what the threats are, how they can attack and what to do in certain situations. Below, I want to briefly describe the most dangerous threats, as well as give some advice on how to avoid them.

— Vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities are flaws in computer software that create weaknesses in the overall security of the computer or network, which allows an attacker to reduce a system's information assurance. Vulnerabilities can also be created by improper computer or security configurations. Threats exploit the weaknesses of vulnerabilities resulting in potential damage to the computer or personal data.

Companies announce vulnerabilities as they are discovered and quickly work to fix the vulnerabilities with software and security patches. That is why, if you want to stay safe from security vulnerabilities, you need to keep software and security patches up to date, configure security settings for operating system, internet browser and security software and enable automatic updates for all installed software.

— Spyware

Spyware is a type of malware that can be installed on computers and collects little bits of information at a time about users without their knowledge. The presence of spyware is typically hidden from the user, and can be difficult to detect. Typically, spyware is secretly installed on the user's personal computer. Sometimes, however, spywares such as keyloggers are installed by the owner of a shared, corporate, or public computer on purpose in order to secretly monitor other users. Additionally, a user may unknowingly receive spyware by accepting an End User License Agreement from a software program.

To protect PC from spyware, be selective about what you download to computer and beware of clickable ads, because spyware can be downloaded from Web sites, instant messages, email messages and from direct file-sharing connections. Also read carefully licensing agreements, watch out for anti-spyware scams, keep browser up to date, do not accept or open suspicious error dialogs from within the browser and scan your personal computer often. Spyware may come as part of a „free deal” offer — do not accept free deals. If you use Norton Internet Security or another security suite, for anti-spyware protection configure the firewall to block unsolicited requests for outbound communication.

— Spam

Originating from the name of Hormel's canned meat, spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately, often unsolicited advertising, to a large number of recipients. Spam is a serious security concern as it can be used to deliver spyware, malware, targeted phishing attacks and can contain offensive language or links to Web sites with inappropriate content.

To avoid spam messages, do not respond to ”junk” messages, do not click on URL links from these mails, disable the email’s preview pane, read emails in plain text, and last but not least install Anti-Spam software and keep software and security patches up to date.

— Phishing

Phishing is similar to fishing in a lake, but instead of trying to capture fish, phishers pretending to be legitimate companies and using emotional language, scare tactics or urgent requests to entice recipients to respond attempt to steal your personal information. They use spam, malicious sites (these sites can look remarkably like legitimate sites), email messages and instant messages to trick people into divulging sensitive information, such as your passwords, full name, address, phone number, social security number, credit card number or other confidential information.

To protect your confidential information from phishing attacks install anti-phishing software (if you are NIS user, use Norton Toolbar which provides security and convenience), check the URL in the address bar of your internet browser and do not provide personal information to any unsolicited requests for information.

— Malware

Short for „malicious software”, malware is a category of malicious code that includes viruses, worms and Trojan horses and other software programs designed to damage or do other unwanted actions on a computer system. Destructive malware will utilize popular communication tools to spread, including worms sent through email and instant messages, Trojan horses dropped from web sites, and virus-infected files downloaded from peer-to-peer connections. Malware will also seek to exploit existing vulnerabilities on systems making their entry quiet and easy.

To protect PC from malware, scan all files and email attachments with an antivirus solution before transferring them to your system, ignore messages if a person (even if it’s on your Buddy list) is sending strange messages, files or web site links, use firewall to block all unsolicited outbound communication and keep security patches up to date.

— Misleading Applications

Misleading applications intentionally misrepresent the security status of a computer. Misleading applications attempt to convince the user that he or she must remove potentially malware or security risks (usually nonexistent or fake) from the computer. The application will hold the user hostage by refusing to allow him or her to remove or fix the phantom problems until the “required” software is purchased and installed. Misleading applications often look convincing—the programs may look like legitimate security programs and often have corresponding websites with user testimonials, lists of features, etc.

To protect your personal computer from Misleading applications, use Norton Internet Security to proactively protect from spyware and other security risks, configure the firewall to block unsolicited requests for outbound communication, do not accept or open suspicious error dialogs from within the browser, purchase security and system performance software from reputable sources, keep software and security patches up to date and be especially cautious when clicking on pop-up advertisements—especially ads promoting system security or performance tools that look like a standard Microsoft Windows alert.

— Cybercrime

Cybercrime refers to any crime that involves a computer and a network, where the computers may or may not have played an instrumental part in the commission of a crime. Issues surrounding this type of crime have become high-profile, particularly those surrounding hacking, copyright infringement, child pornography, and child grooming. The most prominent form of cybercrime is identity theft, in which criminals use the Internet to steal personal information from other users. Two of the most common ways this is done is through phishing and pharming. Both of these methods lure users to fake websites (that appear to be legitimate), where they are asked to enter personal information.

Because cybercrime covers such a broad scope of criminal activity, the examples above are only a few of the thousands of crimes that are considered cybercrimes. While computers and the Internet have made our lives easier in many ways, it is unfortunate that people also use these technologies to take advantage of others. Therefore, it is smart to protect yourself by using antivirus and spyware blocking software and being careful where you enter your personal information.

And please remember that the human factor is the weakest link in information security chain and the cause of many Network security threats...

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