Computers have become an indispensible tool in many people’s work and personal lives. But with the convenience and efficiency computers add to everyday tasks comes risk. Simply put, your computer’s connection to outside networks creates an opportunity for criminals to access your sensitive data. For this reason, Park Bank encourages vigilance in protecting your private information.
Awareness of the multiple forms security threats take is the first step in building your defenses. Most people understand the potential damage caused by computer viruses – malicious programs buried within other applications that are able to replicate themselves and spread through networks. But there are many more types of “malware” available to fraudsters intent upon mischief, or worse, theft.
Click on the entries below for a definition of some of the most common computer security threats:
Your electronic security strategy needs to address the many vulnerabilities hackers seek to exploit. The first step in shoring up your system is to install a firewall. Firewalls help filter out potentially destructive data from your network and are an essential defensive tool for businesses and individuals with an Internet connection.
Spam filters, spyware blockers, IDSes (Intrusion Detection Systems) and IPSes (Intrusion Prevention Systems) also protect your network from abuse. Meanwhile, anti-virus programs will help you combat the destructive effects of self-spreading malware.
You should also keep your computer’s software patched and current. Patches fix problems that manufacturers identify in their programs and should only be downloaded from reliable sources. It is also important to update your operating system and anti-virus application on a regular basis, and take the time to back up your files.
Unfortunately, information thieves continue to develop new ways to access and steal your data, which requires you to keep on top of innovations in electronic security technology in order to adapt to new threats. But you can take comfort in the fact that prevention, when it comes to data theft, is far less painful than cure!
More than any other kind of malware, viruses are one of the biggest threats computer users are facing today. Viruses are malicious programs buried within an existing program that have the ability to replicate themselves and spread from computer to computer. Viruses can generate everything from relatively harmless prank messages to commands that destroy valuable programs and data. A virus may activate immediately or lay dormant for over a year before attacking its host system. Simply opening an innocent looking email attachment may be enough bring your computer to a halt.
A worm is a specific virus that has the ability to self replicate across many computers by creating copies of itself in the computer’s memory. Worms are designed to spread quickly and secretly. It can hurt a system with rapid reproduction, eating up storage and memory resources or network bandwidth – the speed of your computer. Unlike a virus, a worm does not need to attach itself to an existing program. A worm may also deposit a Trojan horse.
A Trojan horse is a destructive program that presents itself as a harmless application. The damage they can cause can be very hard if not impossible to repair. Trojan horses usually contain a program that allows another person full access to your computer. Once activated, one possible destructive task could be the theft of your identity and/or financial data. A Trojan horse may also be designed to make its host more vulnerable to future attacks or simply activate to destroy hard-drive applications or data. Often, Trojan horses gain access to systems by disguising themselves as a useful program or item.
A rootkit is a specialized and particularly dangerous from of malware. Rootkits are a set of tools that an intruder uses once entering a computer system. Once entered, these tools help allow the intruder maintain their access to the system and use it for unscrupulous purposes. An intruder can enter the computer from a security flaw, such as a weak password, to install these tools. Once the tools are installed, they will provide the intruder a backdoor to access the computer remotely and hide the fact that the system has been compromised. Because of this, it makes them extremely difficult to detect and remove.
A hidden bypass to a program's security area, a backdoor or trapdoor may be created by a programmer to expedite troubleshooting or for some other innocent purpose. But once discovered, the technique may be used by an attacker to damage, destroy or steal data. A program with a known backdoor or trapdoor may itself be considered malware.
Spam is unsolicited email received, usually from people you don’t know, that may contain advertisements, get rich quick schemes, offensive material, etc. Besides being a nuisance, unwanted email can be used by attackers as a tool for leading unsuspecting recipients to web sites where viruses, worms, spyware and other types of malware can be installed on their systems. Never respond to spam emails! If you do, you are confirming that your email address is “live” and could be subject to more unsolicited emails. The best way to deal with spam email is to ignore and delete it.
Spyware is software that is unknowingly installed on a computer to collect information about a user's web-surfing habits. Some spyware is relatively harmless, designed to generate data about shopping, viewing or other habits without revealing the identities of individual users. Malicious spyware, however, may be used to capture web browsers in order to change their home pages, receive waves of pop-up ads or ignore user navigation commands.
Botnets are a large number of “zombie” computers that are infected by a Trojan horse and commanded by an attacker. Botnets can be used to launch spam email campaigns, viruses or DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks on web sites for either amusement or extortion purposes. A zombie computer is a compromised computer connected with the Internet that is used under remote direction. Typically, the owners of these zombie computers are not aware that their system is being used for this type of activity.
This is a hidden program that captures and records every computer key stoke entered by a user. Once the keystrokes are logged, they are tucked away in the computer for retrieval at a later date, or sometimes the information is transported directly to the intruder. This is highly useful to an intruder because it will help them find passwords and other useful information that will enable them to attack and compromise a system.