Computer Security Ethics and Privacy | WebReference

Computer Security Ethics and Privacy

Computer Security Ethics and Privacy

By Vincent Deguzman

Today, many people rely on computers to do homework, work, and create or store useful information. Therefore, it's important for the information to be stored and kept properly. It's also extremely important to protect computers from data loss, misuse and abuse. For example, businesses need to keep their information secure and shielded from hackers. Home users also need to ensure their credit card numbers are secure when participating in online transactions. A computer security risk is any action that could cause loss of information to software, data, processing incompatibilities or damage to computer hardware.

An intentional breach in computer security is known as a computer crime, which is slightly different from a cybercrime. A cybercrime is known as illegal acts based on the Internet and is one of the FBI's top priorities. There are several distinct categories for people that perpetrate cybercrimes, and they are: hacker, cracker, cyberterrorist, cyberextortionist, unethical employee, script kiddie and corporate spy. A hacker is defined as someone who accesses a computer or computer network unlawfully. They often claim that they do this to find leaks in the security of a network.

The term cracker refers to someone intentionally accessing a computer or computer network with malice in mind. They access computers with the intention of destroying or stealing information. Both crackers and hackers are have advanced network skills.

A cyberterrorist is someone who uses a computer network or the Iinternet to destroy computer systems for political reasons. It’s similar to a terrorist attack because it requires highly skilled individuals, millions of dollars to implement and years of planning.

The term cyberextortionist is someone who uses email as an offensive force. They usually send a company a threatening email stating that they will release some confidential information, exploit a security leak, or launch an attack that will harm a company’s network. They use blackmail to demand a certain amount of money in exchange for not launching an attack.

An unethical employee is one who illegally accesses their company’s network for numerous reasons. One could be the money they can get from selling top secret information, or some may be bitter and want revenge.

A script kiddie is similar to a cracker because they might want to do harm, but often lack the technical skills. Script kiddies tend to use prewritten hacking and cracking programs.

A corporate spy has extensive computer and networking skills and is hired to break into a specific computer or computer network to steal, delete data and/or information. Shady companies hire these types people in a practice known as corporate espionage. They do this to gain an advantage over their competition. Business and home users must do their best to protect or safeguard their computers from security risks. The next part of this article will give some pointers to help protect your computer. However, one must remember that there is no guaranteed way of protecting your computer, so learning about your options is important.

When you transfer information over a network it has a high security risk compared to information transmitted in a business network because the administrators usually take stringent measures to protect against security risks. Over the Internet the risk is much higher. If you're not sure if your computer is secure, it's advisable to use an online security service to check your computer for email and Internet vulnerabilities. The company will then give some pointers on how to correct these vulnerabilities. The Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center is a good resource.

The typical network attacks that puts computers at risk are: viruses, worms, spoofing, Trojan horses and denial of service attacks. Every unprotected computer is vulnerable to a computer virus. Once the virus is in the computer it can spread throughout, infecting other files and potentially damaging the operating system itself.

A computer worm is a program that repeatedly copies itself and is similar to a computer virus. However, a virus needs to attach itself to an executable file and become part of it. A computer worm doesn’t need to do that. It copies itself, travels to other networks and eats up a lot of bandwidth. A Trojan horse is a program that hides and seems to be a legitimate program but in reality is a fake. A certain action usually triggers the Trojan horse, and unlike viruses and worms they don’t replicate. Computer viruses, worms, and Trojan horses are all classified as malicious-logic programs. These three are the most common but there many variations which are impossible to list here. You know when a computer is infected by a virus, worm, or Trojan horse if one or more of the following events take place:

  • Screen shots of strange messages or pictures appear.

  • You experience a sudden drop in memory.

  • Music or sound plays randomly.

  • Files become corrupted.

  • Programs or files don’t work properly.

  • Unknown files or programs randomly appear.

  • System properties fluctuate.

Computer viruses, worms, and Trojan horses deliver their payload or instructions through four common ways:
  • When an individual runs an infected program. If you regularly download data. from the Internet, you should always scan it, especially if you've downloaded executable files.

  • When an individual runs an infected program.

  • When an individual boots a computer with an infected drive. Don't leave media files in your computer when you shut it down.

  • When a user connects an unprotected computer to a network.

Today, a common method of infection is by opening an infected file which arrives as an email attachment. Again, it's important to scan all incoming data. There are literally thousands of computer malicious logic programs and new ones appear every day, so it’s important to update your virus and spyware protection programs regularly. Whenever you start a computer you should have no removable media in the drives. This goes for CD, DVD, and floppy disks, as well.

As mentioned earlier, there's no known method for completely protecting a computer or computer network from computer viruses, worms, and Trojan horses, but people can take several precautions to significantly reduce their chances of being infected.

[Ed. Note: For security, I use several programs, Zone Alarm, AVG, Pest Patrol and Spyware Sweeper.]

About The Author

For more information, contact Vincent Deguzman through his Web site or by email.You can call him at: 713-865-3576.




Created: March 27, 2003
Revised: September 19, 2007