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Personal Computer Security Threats

Having a computer at home is very useful for both work and entertainment purposes for the whole family. However, a computer that is connected to the Internet or runs Microsoft Windows is at risk of being infected with virus that poses security threats. Computer owners must be familiar with all the possible security threats and techniques that attackers use to gain access to the information on the system. Worms Worms are lumps of codes that replicate and spread between computers. The ease with which writing a worm is associated led to the many viruses being developed and spread through the Internet.

Worms need not to be maintained at all as they are independent applications, and they easily navigate the Internet. Sometimes they are in a form of email attachment. There are worms that are as small as 30 bytes. Their size depends on capabilities and intent. One example is the Melissa worm of 1999. This worm was able to spread itself by raiding address books through a Windows API. It then emailed itself to all of the first 50 contacts of the address book (Thompson, 2009, p. 1). Until now, most worms work this way. Opening an email attachment can unleash a hidden worm.

Worms have different purposes, which may include getting identities, and others that are spread in order to disrupt the entire system (Thompson, 2009, p. 2). Trojan Horses Trojan horse is a virus whose name originated from the popular Greek fable where the Trojans created a giant horse as a gift to Greeks. The unsuspecting Greeks did not know that Trojan soldiers were hiding inside the horse and then they came out and killed all the Greeks. The Trojan horse virus is similar to this. It may seem safe but people are not really aware that it is a virus.

The purpose of this virus is to be hidden while download and installation are under process. A Trojan horse cannot propagate by itself, unlike worms and viruses. It is usually propagated through email messages where Trojan horse is in form of an image or joke. It continues infecting the computer even after it was downloaded (Symantec Corporation, 2009). Viruses The main purpose of a computer virus is to spread itself in other programs or computers. Other purposes include destroying information and data from hard disks and flashing a message or graphics.

Other viruses that are non-destructive can still damage files when there are programming errors (Information Resources and Communication, 2007). With the boom of the Internet, information became readily available to the public anywhere in the world. With computers being connected to the Internet as hosts, the possibility of other people attacking files and stealing personal information, and doing criminal activities became rampant. Laws, practices and standards must be put into place to protect the confidentiality and availability of information and data in the Internet.

Most of the time, consumers are asked to register, or open an account and give personal information to the sites they visit. When a website or program becomes vulnerable to security threats, it will affect important transactions and businesses. An attacker or a hacker can employ techniques so that they can get into personal information or destruct files and data. Techniques include reconnaissance, probe, toehold, advancement, stealth, listening post, and takeover. Reconnaissance is a stage where hackers get information about the targeted system.

Information includes passwords and usernames. Probe marks the stage when hackers perceive the system’s weaknesses. Toehold is the stage where hackers enter the system to start their real purpose, and that is to exploit the vulnerability. Advancement is the stage where hackers move from accounts with little access to accounts that have much privilege such as the administrator’s. In this stage, the hacker can have freedom to retrieve, delete, change or move files when he or she already has the administrator’s account. Stealth stage suggests that any evidence pointing to an attack is removed.

The listening post marks the stage wherein the hacker sets up a backdoor, which makes sure that any activities will not be monitored. The takeover stage is where the hackers enlarge their control to the system and to other systems as well. This can give them access to other hosts that are connected to the computer that the hackers are currently using (Simmons, 2005).

References Information Resources and Communication. (2007). Personal computer viruses: Frequently- asked questions. University of California. Retrieved January 22, 2009, from http://www. ucop. edu/irc/services/wss_virus.html Simmons, S. (2005). Hacking techniques: Web application security. Retrieved January 22, 2009, from http://www. infosecwriters. com/text_resources/pdf/HackingTechniques_WebApplicationSecurity. pdf Symantec Corporation. (2009). Crimeware: Trojans and spyware. Retrieved January 22, 2009, from http://www. symantec. com/norton/cybercrime/trojansspyware. jsp Thompson, J. (2009, January 9). Diary of a computer worm. Personal Computer World. Retrieved January 22, 2009, from http://www. pcw. co. uk/personal-computer-world/features/2233680/diary-computer-worm-4321285

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