By being aware of these Internet risks and the effect they can have on you, your family, you can make a choice about the level of protection you install on your computer. And without the right level of protection, there will be holes in your system that could provide entry for the malware that permeates the Internet.
What level and type of protection against these computer security threats should you install on your computer?
Well, you'll find all the information you need to guard privacy and online security in my article, How To Choose Your Computer Security Threats Protection.
Now, we'll go through a brief introduction to the most prevalent computer security threats. Either scan through them all, or click on the links below for those you are particularly interested in...
The virus or worm, can,
Trojans are one of the sneakiest of the online risks. They are often downloaded on the back of a free program (freeware) that has some value to the user -- a free game, software program or music, for instance.
A Trojan installed on a computer allows that PC to be entered via a 'backdoor' by any remote user that has the access code to the Trojan.
The remote attacker can enter the computer undetected to access or destroy any information stored. Alternatively, the Trojan can be programmed to automatically send any information on our PCs back to the attacker, such as, credit card details and passwords.
As with any malware, such as viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware, rootkits get onto our computers by various means, such as through spam attachments being opened, on the back of free downloads or planted by crackers who have breached computer defenses.
One of the most common and worrying uses of rootkits is to launch spam and denial of service (DOS) attacks against other computers or networks. Another use of rootkits is to hide Trojans, so an intruder can easily use it to extract data from your computer, as mentioned in the computer security threats above.
The software is installed on our hard drive through spam, drive-by downloads, freeware, shareware and the P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing programs, like Imesh and Bearshare. It gathers our personal information and computer habits and this private information is transmitted through our Internet connection to a third party -- usually without our knowledge or consent.
More aggressive forms of spyware can install themselves through "drive-by downloads", where an invasive program is invisibly downloaded to your computer. It can be initiated by simply visiting a Web site or viewing an HTML e-mail message.
There are two categories of spyware...
Spammers peddle pornography, sexual aids, diet pills and get-rich-quick schemes... in fact, anything that has a perceived value. It is no longer just a frustration, nuisance and time-waster... it has now become one of the major computer security threats.
Much of this spam has malicious code or malware incorporated into it, which is triggered by opening the email or even previewing it in our email program.
If you're not quite convinced that spam is dangerous, consider the following...
A web bug tells a spammer when an e-mail has been opened and tells marketers what advertisements and web pages we have viewed. The bugs can discover key details about our system that are very useful to hackers. They also transmit the IP (Internet Protocol) address of all readers of an e-mail to a spammer -- really secretive computer security threats!
A survey showed that more than 80 percent of children said they receive "inappropriate" spam every day, with half of those admitting they felt "uncomfortable and offended" when seeing them.
Popups/unders/banners can be an annoyance by interfering with our viewing pleasure but some of these ads can also join the serious computer security threat -- they can carry Trojans, spyware or browser hijackers. The malicious code is generally activated by clicking on the ad... the malware being installed on our computer through vulnerabilities in our browser and a process known as a drive-by-download.
Cookies are small text files containing information that identifies each user. When you move to another page or return to the site at a later time, the web server asks your browser for the cookie, so it can 'recognize' who you are.
Cookies are often used by advertisers to track our browsing and buying habits and create profiles of users for targeted marketing. Multiple sites may read from the same cookie and share the information or, they can sell it on without the knowledge or consent of the user.Although not one of the serious computer security threats, cookies are a privacy risk.
Crackers run programs that scan computer ports over the Internet to work out which ports are accessible. If our computer shows up in one of these scans, the cracker may decide to enter our PC. Crackers favorite targets are the home and home office computers connected by broadband to the Internet. Because the connection is always open, there is more opportunity to locate these computers with their scanners.
Alternatively, crackers may just exploit weaknesses that have not been 'patched' in the computer's operating system in order to gain entry. As discussed above, Trojans are another way crackers use to gain access to our PCs.
Besides the potentially valuable information they can obtain from our PCs, these intruders also want our hard disk space and Internet connection. So, we add to the computer security threats by sending out spam or attacking other computers on the Internet... and all this can be done without our knowledge!
Not only will your money be taken, but when making payment, your credit card details will be stolen. Scareware often contains a key logger to record your personal details for ID theft and can remotely take control of your PC for sending spam to other computers!
This information is obtained by 'social engineering', usually using spam for phishing or pharming. The theft can be directly from our computers using Trojans, spyware and crackers, as discussed above.