Top Menu

Protecting Your Computer From Online Threats and Networks

The dangers posed by computer security threats cannot be underestimated. Every year, companies and individuals suffer losses in terms of direct money loss, time loss, productivity wasted and technical headaches and hassles that could cost several hundred million dollars. Network threats carry a lot of damage and every responsible computer user, whether or not they are connected to the internet, must keep in mind some basic information and basic tips to prevent themselves from becoming victims of this ever-growing threat.

Computer Security Threats & Dangers

Originally computer viruses, worms, trojans and other forms of malware were created by hobbyists working alone, and they were created mostly for “street credibility” among other hackers. Many were just experiments to showcase technical proficiency, programming skills and other man commercial motives. As the internet gain commercial success, the breed of malware programmers rapidly involved into organized groups of hackers and malware programmers whose main motivation is commercial in nature. This trend also accompanied the rise of attack networks or botnets, which infected huge banks of computers all over the world for either concentrated attacks or network spam distribution. On a related front, phishing also increased. Phishing involves sending out deceptive-looking E-mail that claim to be from financial or web-based E-mail sites or other websites that contain sensitive personal information. The phishing attacks trick the recipients into giving up their personal information so the attacker can log in to real sites and steal sensitive financial input. This is all just another version of identity theft. Another reason why attackers create botnets is to use these networks of infected computers to attack other computers or websites to bring them down. This is called DDOS or distributed denial of service attacks and uses botnets to achieve their goals.

You can avoid having your computer becoming a part of a botnet, losing sensitive information or having your files destroyed because of viruses by being aware of the following online and network threat protection information.

Use and Configure Your Firewalls Correctly

The first line of defense against online and network threats is to set up a firewall. Depending on your operating system, this defense mechanism is set up automatically. What the system does is it monitors the information going in from the network and coming out of your computer to either block attacks coming in or if you get infected, blocks attacks coming from your computer. Firewalls normally come in two major divisions.

Hardware Firewall

Hardware firewalls are firewall settings that are included in the router that you are using to connect to the internet. Whether you connect through fiber connection, DSL connection or cable connection, many routers have basic packet-filtering mechanisms installed in the hardware to protect against attacks. Many of these are fairly rudimentary and basic, and acting alone may not be enough to provide a holistic network protection for your system. It is recommended that you look at your router’s instruction manual and set up the firewall settings correctly so that any attacks are blocked. It is also recommended that you use hardware firewalls in conjunction with software-based firewalls to achieve a higher level of defense.

Software Firewall

These are normally called application layer firewalls. On the software level, these firewalls monitor the movement of information request from the network and network accesses and port usage from a particular software installed in your computer. By monitoring port usage and packet movement, software-based firewall protection prevents the reception of unauthorized packets and also if you are infected, the sending of unauthorized packets.

These are most often installed as a default with certain operating systems, but can be overridden by more robust security software to prevent attacks like antivirus software, internet security software or all-in-one-security software. But firewall software can also be bought seperately from various security companies online.

Further Extend Your Security

You can also use an antivirus software or an Internet security suite with antivirus features to protect yourself from online threats. Viruses are spread by attacking a host computer and the host computer then makes a copy of the virus. The host computer’s network connection is then used by the virus to spread itself further. It keeps repeating this process until it has infected a lot of other computers.

Antivirus progams are fairly straightforward pieces of software. They use a virus profile to detect certain code or behavioral signatures of reported viruses and the software deals with them accordingly. The antivirus program either deletes, disables or quarantines viral infections. Antivirus software operates on two levels – memory and access. Your computer stores information in its memory and powerful antivirus software actively monitors the material that enters the system’s memory – it proactively blocks any virus intrusions into memory as a way of hiding from direct access processes. The other way antiviruses protect your computer is through direct access. When you are executing a particular file, it automatically triggers antivirus checks against its virus signature library to prevent executing operations that may be related to virus code.

Antivirus software packages also protect your computer through anti-trojan features. Trojans are seemingly harmless pieces of code. However, when installed, they download and install more harmful pieces of software. They would get into your computer system and disable antivirus or other protective mechanisms so they can then download and install blatantly harmful pieces of code. Antivirus software deal with trojans the same way it does with viruses. It has a comprehensive library of trojan signatures and actively block these.

Secure your computer’s resistance against Internet-based threats

Increasingly, antivirus software publishers have been bundling virus packages separately from software that protect your computer from spyware, internet attack sites, and phishing sites. They are doing this because this type of software bundle protects users from Internet-based threats while antivirus protections focus on more generalized threats. As more and more users spend more of their time online, Internet security bundles have grown in importance. Sadly, many consumers are still under protected. In a lot of cases, they buy the antivirus package separately thinking that it would be a more robust package. Truth be told, a lot of all-in-one security software do a more than decent job of protecting against network security threats because they cover the whole spectrum of attack modes.

For the sake of discussion, in case you don’t get an all-in-one security package, you can set up your internet settings and buy specialized software to combat spyware, attack sites and anti-phishing sites. For spyware protection, there are free packages available in the market like Search and Destroy. However, a lot of commercial packages have really augmented their spyware detection and neutralization schemes, so it is probably a better deal to get a more holistic package than just anti-spyware software.

Another security threat that arises from internet security settings is malware attack sites. If you are using a browser that does not actively block attack or you are using antivirus software that does not have attack site protection, you may unwittingly load a website that installs malware on your computer. Thankfully, many browsers are using anti attack sites features to prevent their users from unwittingly loading an attack site. Google for its part is actively marking websites that have been reported as attack sites in search results, so you can count on this added level of protection.

The best approach would be to set up a three-layer anti attack site scheme. First, your antivirus software prevents you from loading an attack site. Second, if you see a search listing designated as an attack site on Google and you clicked the listing, your browser blocks it or your antivirus blocks it.

Another class of online threats are phishing sites. Phishing websites look like financial or E-mail sites or any type of website that contains sensitive personal information. The goal of a phishing website is to trick the visitor into thinking that it is the actual bank site or the actual web mail site. The victims enter their log in name and password. Once they put in this information, the attacker then logs on at a later time to steal sensitive information. Many internet security packages that are available commercially have anti-phishing features. They identify the websites that are being used or IP addresses being used for such attacks and block them automatically.

Remind Yourself of Following to Keep Security Up

Always turn on your firewall

Use as many different types of firewalls as you can. These are either operating system based firewalls or application firewalls which are tied with your antivirus software, hardware firewalls or firewalls already integrated in an internet security software. With this triple layer of protection, you can gain some measure of confidence that your system will not be attacked from external sources or if you get infected, your system is blocked from becoming a launching node for attacks.

Always turn on antivirus auto update

Most antivirus and network security software suites have auto update feature. Make sure that this is always turned on. Auto updates get the latest virus, malware or spyware information from the software maker’s website and installs it on your computer automatically. This protects your computer if you are running your computer all the time or you always leave your computer turned on, or you use your computer sporadically and forget when it is time to update. Make sure that you always turn auto update on instead of setting it to manual.

Never click on HTML attachments from people you do not know

As antivirus, anti-spyware and anti-malware software becomes increasingly sophisticated and effective in meeting hacking or network security threats, many of these hackers are branching off to using social network sites, E-mail or other mans to trick people into downloading their malware for trojan infestation or virus infestation. The key here is when you are giving out your E-mail, make sure you give it out only to the people you know. If you get E-mail from people you do not know or E-mail claiming to be official communications, make sure to be suspicious of log in information or pages asking for log in information. This can easily be done by hovering over the link. For example, you get an invitation to log in to a social networking site, make sure the domain name is accurate. If something seems suspicious or fishy, delete the E-mail. Another common way attackers compromise the security of your computer system with your assistance is attack sites that are loaded automatically in HTML attachments. Be very careful of these. Most of the time, your antivirus network security software automatically blocks you from accessing attack sites, but using common sense and using these tips, you add another extra layer of protection against your software-based and hardware-based protection.

The Conclusion of Protecting Your Computer

The bottom line is software can fail, hardware can fail and common sense can fail, but putting all these layers of protection together gives you a higher chance of protecting yourself from the lost money, lost time and lost productivity that network threats pose. Do yourself a favor and give yourself as many layers of protection from network security threats as you can.

, , , , ,