If you are like me you just want your computer to work. You don’t have the mind to understand all the technical stuff. You are told you have to an antivirus and some throw in the word firewall to protect you from hackers, viruses, worms, Trojans and so on. What are all these things? We little people just want to write our articles and learn how to protect our computers and understand the lingo of the industry without being computer analysts or computer geeks.
A firewall is system that monitors all incoming and outgoing messages from your computer terminal. You set it to allow what you want to allow access to your computer and you block out what you don’t. This is very important if you have personal information on your computer that you would not like a hacker to get to. It is also important that your security controls and administrative controls are not tampered with because literally, a hacker can destroy your computer. Firewalls will also protect against when a strange website asks for access to your computer. Sometimes it can be annoying when the firewall system asks you if you will allow factoidz, gather.com, associated content, or any of your favorite sites, but all you have to do is say yes once and it will store this information. The extra effort you make to protect your computer will keep it safe and virus free.
Hackers wear several hats. There are script Kiddies, white hats, gray hats, and black hats.
Script Kiddies are outcasts of the real hacker community. They really have no hacker experience. They just use programs other hackers have made to break into computers and they have very little understanding on how to hack into somebody’s computer.
White hats are not malicious, but they do hack the security system of other computers. Their reason is more for understanding the system rather than to do harm. White hat hackers, once gaining the knowledge they require, often go on to be computer analysts.
With Gray hat hackers you really don’t know what their motives are to hack into other people’s computers and you really don’t know if they have any ethics at all.
Black hats are the dangerous type of the hacker subculture. They are the ones you always see in the news. These hackers are also called crackers because they can crack the world’s great security systems such as the CIA or they can crack your personal home computer. No computer system is sacred to them.
The Black hat hacker is somebody who finds a way to break into your computer from an outside source. You don’t have to know this person or company. The person or people could be thousands of miles away or even in a different country. Yet, they know how break into your computer to access your personal information such as your bank account number, private emails to your mistress, or what have you. These hackers can do some pretty nasty things to your computer such as embedding a virus that will fry your hard drive, or do some annoying things such as program your computer to send out emails from your account to other people in your address book and so on.
The hacktivist is a person that uses programs to get into your computer to send you popups, emails about Viagra, and so on. Or they go onto websites such as yahoo and pass through their security to put the same junk on these websites as well. They may also be advertising for a particular philosophy, religious viewpoint, just want to send out spam and so on. Hacktivists can send so many messages that they can be used to deny access to legitimate websites, and crash their systems with the flood of messages. When this occurs it is called cyber terrorism.
Viruses, Trojans and Worms
Viruses, Trojans and Worms are often used to mean the same thing, but they are in fact different.
A Computer Virus
A computer virus is a computer program, which copies itself onto your computer from another person’s computer. It normally does not hurt your computer unless you actually open the exe, or com file from which it came. You can spread this virus in your system to other computers as well. There are commands embedded into the program to do some kind of damage to your computer. It can be something annoying like not allowing you onto your favorite websites, or it can hide itself in your computer and get sent out in your emails. Or worst still, it can destroy different sectors of your computers operating system. It can damage, change, or corrupt the data in your system. It can cause your computer to crash depending on how severe the virus is. There are several types of viruses:
Boot Sector Viruses
Infects your information in your hard drive, floppy disks, DVD’s and so on.
Master Boot Record Virus
Infects your master boot record.
File Infector Viruses
File infector viruses infects files which have what are called executable codes meaning they tell your computer what to do, these code files end in .exe or.com. Some of these files can be infected only when you are running them, (executed) while other file infector viruses will be memory resident, which means they have the capacity to infect other files even when they are not open in your computer.
Macro viruses will infect Microsoft documents such as Word, Access, PowerPoint, and Excel spreadsheets. This type of virus uses the Microsoft Visual Basic macro language. Some of these macro viruses are very similar to a computer worm as they spread around the Internet.
Multi-partite Viruses will share characteristics from more than one of these viruses, like attaching to boot records and program files.
A worm is very similar to a virus and it considered to be a subtype of a virus. Worms will spread from computer to computer. However, the difference is that no human has to start the process. It does it on its own. Worms have a dangerous feature, which allows it to replicate itself on your computer. That means it can send out thousands of worms to other computers. An example of replicating is that the worm can send itself out to everyone on your mailing list like the virus, but then it will send itself out to everyone on the list of the people you email and then everyone on their list and so on. It can cause a huge network of thousands or millions of infected computers. Because of this, it has the potential to shutdown major websites with the attack of worms. It can also allow access to malicious activity from hackers who can control your computer. The Blaster worm was a big concern just recently.
A Trojan or Trojan horse is a very tricky mischievous software that you are downloading thinking it is coming from a reliable source. Instead it is a trick. Once you are infected with a Trojan, it depends on the severity of that particular Trojan to determine the damage. Some will do annoying things like adding silly active icons to your computer desktop. Others can be deadly by deleting operating files on your computer and other valuable information. Trojans will create a backdoor to allow other malicious hackers into your computer. However, what makes them different from a worm is that they do not affect other computers nor can they reproduce. You are the one who is stuck with the problem. Trojans also look for vulnerabilities in the computer or website to get access and exploit or destroy.
Blended threats use the features of viruses, worms, and Trojans and infect millions of computers websites, and essential services. Blended threats cause damage to various parts of your computer or website all at once. It is the worst kind of computer security sabotage and does not require human intervention to execute it.
Malware is short for malicious software and it is any program that will intentionally damage your computer, your server, or the computer network. It includes Spyware.
Spyware spies on your computer to see what websites you visit, what your computer habits are, what you buy, and so on and then it will bombard you with ads for all kinds of products. Some Spyware will be programmed to make it difficult for you to delete it. You must be careful what you download because this is how Spyware gets control of your computer. Shareware is a known source for Spyware, however it can be anything you download from the computer that can be embedded with Spyware.
How to Protect Your Computer
You will find great firewalls, antivirus, anti Spyware, and anti Malware programs on the net or at your local computer shop. Take advantage of these programs, keep your computer’s operating system updated and keep your antivirus and other security protection updating and you will never have to worry about the difference between these computer terms again. You don’t have to be a computer geek to be computer protection savvy.