In the midst of the fast-paced tech world, there are countless threats prowling around our laptops and PC. The internet is dealing with a large number of potential cyber threats, and it has become essential for us to protect our confidential information from falling into the wrong hands. We should understand what kind of threats we should look for and protect our computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and most importantly, the IoTs.
Having said that, we have created this guide to reveal the most essential information about making your devices and computer “Hack Proof” against a broad range of vulnerabilities. We have an objective to make your online privacy and data secure against every hacker, identity thief, snooper, and state-sponsored surveillance.
After reading this guide, you will be able to understand what is online security, why should you protect yourself when going online, and how you actually protect yourself online. Read along to discover everything:
What exactly is Computer Security?
Both Online security or Computer security are often misunderstood. These terms often provide you with no help apart from basic information. The reason lies in the fact that Computer Security is more of a more diverse field. While online security experts and computer scientists are working day in and day out to identify and fix security issues on various devices, there are the tech nerds who are immature in the literal sense of the world, but they are both skilled and able to offer the best insight on online security.
It is more about computer security than PC security. It covers the areas including the network and online security. A large number of the vulnerabilities in your computer are likely to survive just due to the internet. In many cases, a flaw in one of the high-end servers affects computer security. Unfortunately, the average user doesn’t have any control over the security aspects of a computer.
It means the security of the PC can be defined as the safeguard of the personal computer. It is solely your responsibility to secure the computer from possible cyber threats waiting outside of the walls. Computer security companies often express this concept as the Firewall. You will find the blocker or shield across the promotion of the computer security software.
These terms are meant to specify the aim of computer security; however, this doesn’t happen always. The information provided by a computer security company is often impartial favoring their solution, perplexing the threats and issues.
History of Computer Viruses
Computer viruses weren’t considered a possible danger in the initial stages. The viruses released in the earlier stages spread in 1970 through the ancestor of the internet, ARPANET. They were the mundane programs that often tend to do nothing apart from just showing messages at a user’s terminal. Computer viruses apparently didn’t pose any severe security concern until the mid of the 1980.
During this period, users witnessed innovations in cyber threats. This innovation included the Brain Virus which is the first-ever IBM PC virus. This virus could harm the MS DOS’s boot sector, making them sluggish or even unable to render useful information. The earliest malware then rapidly transformed as the tech savvies got the opportunity to engage users in fraud, spreading skills across their peers. Media became active in the coverage of virus attacks during 1990.
The first major virus breach took place with the name of the Michelangelo computer virus. Similar to other virus breaches, Michelangelo’s computer breach spread panic through media around the world. Netizens were concerned that soon their data will be under threat.
The Traditional Virus
In the history of viruses, malware has spread mainly through user error. A user performs an action, triggering the virus to come into action. For instance, if a user opens an email attachment containing an image or other file, it spreads the virus to an entire computer. The file will first show an error, fooling the user that nothing is wrong with it.
In many cases, virus spread occurs due to the action of a user. Reproduction of viruses is made possible not through a security loophole in a program, but through the presentation. During the late 1990s, viruses became the most threatening computer program. A large number of people were amateur in using email and didn’t have much information about how opening an attachment could lead to devastation.
In addition, email services featured no proper security mechanism such as spam filters, keeping viruses away from the inboxes of the users. In the modern day, technological development in this landscape has made the virus spread through email less effective. There are a large number of people who do not install decent security software and open email attachments without knowing the disaster it could bring to them.
Since email viruses are common nowadays; virus architecture has become more innovative. Viruses can now conceal themselves in some of the file types that people consider the most secure such as Excel Spreadsheets and files with. PDF extensions. In addition, a virus can infect your computer even through a web browser. It can occur if a user visits a webpage with a virus.
Trojans serve as a different virus, infecting PCs through similar methods as specified above. Since a virus can run vulnerable code in a computer; a Trojan can make it possible for a third party to access your computer. Interestingly, both virus and a Trojan can often lump together to become malware, as there are some threats linked with both the virus and a Trojan.
The worm stands as the method of virus attacks and their reproduction instead of the virus itself. Worm infection works in a unique way, deserving a distinct category. In essence, a worm is malware capable to infect a personal computer without requiring a user to take an action apart from turning on a computer and connecting it to the internet. Unlike traditional malware that can hide in an infected file, a worm tends to attack a computer through a network loophole.
When talking about the stereotypical worm, they can spread through spam copies of themselves to random IP addresses. Every copy follows specific instructions for attacking a particular vulnerability of a network. If any PC is discovered with a vulnerability, the worm makes use of the network vulnerability for gaining access to the PC. Afterward, a worm can use the infected PC for spamming more IP addresses, repeating the process continuously.
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According to the stats, the SQL Slammer worm in 2003 infected about 75,000 computers within just ten minutes of release. The term worm covers a broad range of threats. Some of the worms spread security loopholes in an email, spreading viruses after infecting a system. Others can work through following a targeted attack. Another worm, Stuxnet is developed using a code that was designed for the nuclear program of Iran.
Rootkit is more of a nasty malware, capable of achieving privileged access to various computers. They can hide from traditional antivirus scans. As their name reveals, they serve a specific purpose. Rootkits can attack a system, spread, and reproduce through various tactics. They operate similarly to a worm while hiding themselves in legitimate file formats.
Sony found itself under threat when the security experts identified various music CDs which included a rootkit. The rootkit could access Windows PC, conceal itself from virus scans, and send data to a remote computer. Apparently, a misunderstood copy protection policy led to this.
In many ways, rootkits function like traditional Trojans and viruses. Their aim can be the deletion or corruption of files. It might also log the keystrokes in an attempt to discover usernames and passwords and send them to any 3rd party. These are the disasters that a virus or Trojan could do, but the rootkit can conceal itself effectively while doing its job.
A rootkit can be challenging for an operating system, leveraging security loopholes in an operating system and presenting itself as a legit system file. In many cases, the removal of the rootkit can damage the operating system as well.
Pharming and Phishing
The malware in the 1990 appears quite ineffective when compared to those of today. In past, malware was developed by the hackers who wished to highlight their skills and gain dominance over the peers.
They tend to damage the computers severely, staying on the infected systems only. On another hand, modern day malware are often nothing other than a tool utilized by the cyber goons to peak into confidential information of the users. The exposed information can later be used to make unauthorized use of credit cards, identity theft, and performing broad range illegal activities on internet, bringing down the wrath upon an innocent user.
Pharming and phishing are the techniques through which cyber criminals can perform an attack. In reality, they aren’t meant to attack a system, but steal confidential information and use it for illegal purposes.
Since rogues are commonly known as the most serious problems with individual characteristics, they are difficult to categorize threats, as the ecosystem of threats is varied and transforming. This is the reason malware is utilized more frequently.
Malware stands as the perfect catch for many as it can infect a computer or use it to bring harm to you. Now that you are aware of the most common cyber threats, you might be wondering about what you should do for them. The best place to start is by discussing the operating systems.
Security of the Operating Systems
In reality, the operating system you have installed can influence the potential malware threats. Depending on your operating system, you’ll need different countermeasures to deal with cyber threats. In many cases, malware is designed to benefit from specific exploits in an operating system. Malware that is coded to benefit from different vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows can’t pose any harm to the Mac OS X as both follow a significantly different coding architecture.
It would be right to say that selection of an operating system can affect the overall security of a PC more than any other aspect. Keeping these factors in mind, we have included the most popular operating systems that are being used by netizens.
Being launched in 2001, Windows XP gained a massive reputation as the most critical operating system. Fans loved Windows XP for its sleek and simple interface that offered enhanced features to those of Windows 98, and ME. Also, it had proven itself slimmer while being capable of running on older machines.
As soon as Windows XP had released, it announced some notable security features over the previous versions. It put an end to the security loopholes that could mess with Windows systems through either a blank network account or an error in certification. The security factors in Windows XP received a major update in Service Pack 2 with the release of Windows Security Center. It created ease for the users to discover if their operating system was backed by anti-malware and had the most recent security updates installed.
Today, Windows XP is more than ten years old, and over the passage of time, it had been attacked by a series of cybercriminals. The widespread popularity of Windows XP has made it a preferable choice for malware looking to attack a large number of computers. Also, Windows XP doesn’t have access to various features that come in Windows 7, Windows 10, and its other versions.
Linux requires users to sign in on a root account for applying changes to crucial system files. Linux has stood at the top for offering security in terms of obscurity. The user base of Linux is quite small. To make things even worse, the user base of Linux cannot cling to any specific variant. Though the code is often the same, there are notable changes in the different variants of this operating system.
How to Protect Your Computer
Use an Antivirus
You can install a reliable antivirus to protect yourself against various malware apps. Though there are tech nerds who say you can keep yourself safe without any antivirus by carefully using the internet. However, the truth is that you need an antivirus to protect yourself against complex malware programs. PC security needs antivirus, firewalls, and more programs to ensure you are safe at all times.
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Never Open Suspicious Emails
You should always avoid opening up suspicious emails. As a matter of fact, malware tends to reproduce by opening infected files in an email. You should do a security check on an email before downloading the attachments. In this way, you will stay safe against the potential viruses that could steal and damage information, or in the worst case, make your computer unusable.
So far, we have revealed all the essential information about the security of laptops and computers. Keeping in view, the increasing number of malware, Trojans, worms, and more vulnerabilities, it has become essential to equip oneself with a powerful antivirus software and firewall that keeps a user safe against various threats. If you want to add more to this guide, feel free to comment.