The first major rule of any business is that it must be open in order to succeed. The same can be said of your technology, it has to be working in order to be useful. Not only is it important to have your systems installed and setup properly, but they must be safeguarded against constant attacks as well.
Currently, stronger and more malicious viruses are being released every day. It is now possible for a computer to come under attack within 12 minutes of being connected to a network or the Internet, according to Sophos, a reputable security firm. These conditions make security policies and security programs a must for anyone using a computer. The number of different types of threats alone can be overwhelming, but we are here to help.
A virus is a self-contained program capable of infecting other files. Once a virus has infected your machine, it can effectively alter or delete other files. The affects of which can range from a minor nuisance to a system wide catastrophe. Viruses are most often spread through user actions such as, opening infected email and downloading infected files.
A worm is very similar to a virus. In many cases, the main difference is the mode of infection. Unlike viruses, which require, to some extent, user activity to transmit them, a worm is capable of copying itself from machine to machine over different types of networks, including the Internet. This makes is a particularly serious security risk in that, even with the right precautions (not opening suspicious emails, scanning downloaded items, etc.) it is still possible to become infected.
Adware is software that automatically displays advertisements. These programs are the ones most typically responsible for the unwanted ďPop-UpĒ windows. While not as malicious as a virus, an adware infection can decrease the usability of a machine dramatically. Often a single infection will include other programs and can quickly grow to a seemingly unmanageable problem.
Another serious threat caused by adware is that of system resource hijacking. This is used to allow an attacked to use your machine to accomplish certain goals. Your machine, known as a bot, can be used to propagate other attacks. Effectively, this robs your machine of processing power and can cause your system to be marked as a security threat to others, further preventing your ability to use it.
Spyware is defined as a specialized form of adware, which tracks information about you as a user and transmits it to third parties without your consent. Information sent can range from simple usage statistics to user input. These programs can allow someone else to retrieve vital information about you, such as, passwords, identification (social security number) and banking or credit account numbers, commonly referred to as identity theft.
A firewall is a defense device (software and/or hardware) that, when properly installed and configured, keeps unauthorized users from accessing your machine. Successful installation and configuration of these devices requires intimate knowledge of their workings as well as the workings of the systems they are defending.
Each type of threat has itís own unique characteristics and in general has itís own unique solution. While following general safe use guidelines is a good start, it is not nearly enough. Securing any system, from a single machine to a complex network, requires different solutions tailored to meet the needs of that particular system.