In the fast-paced tech world, countless threats prowling around our laptops and PCs exist. The internet is dealing with many 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.
We have created this guide to reveal the essential information about making your devices and computers “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 understand what online security is, why you should protect yourself when going online, and how you 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 is that Computer Security is more of a diverse field. While the 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. Still, they are both skilled and able to offer the best insight on online security.
PC security is more of computer security. It covers the areas, including the network and online safety. A large number of the vulnerabilities in your computer are likely to survive just due to the internet. In many cases, the flaw in one of the high-end servers affects computer security. Unfortunately, an average user cannot control a computer’s security aspects.
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 always happen. The information provided by a computer security company is often impartial, favoring their solution and 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 didn’t pose any severe security concern until the mid of 1980.
During this period, users witnessed innovations in cyber threats. These innovations included the Brain Virus, the first-ever IBM PC virus. This virus could harm the MS DOS’s boot sector, making them sluggish or even unable to render helpful information. The earliest Malware then rapidly transformed as the tech-savvies got the opportunity to engage users in fraud, spreading skills across their peers. The media became active in the coverage of virus attacks during 1990.
The first significant virus breach occurred with the Michelangelo computer virus. Like other virus breaches, Michelangelo’s computer breach spread panic through media worldwide. Netizens were concerned that soon their data would be under threat.
1. The Traditional Virus
In the history of viruses, Malware has spread mainly through user error. A user acts, triggering the virus to come into action. For instance, if a user opens an email attachment containing an image or other files, 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 a user’s action. Reproduction of a virus is made possible not through a security loophole in a program but through the presentation. During the late 1990s, the virus became the most threatening computer program. Many people were amateur at using email and didn’t know much about how opening an attachment could lead to devastation.
In addition, email services had featured no proper security mechanism such as a spam filter, keeping the virus away from the users’ inboxes. 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 file types that people consider the most secure, such as Excel spreadsheets and files. PDF extensions. In addition, a virus can infect your computer even through a web browser. It can occur if a user visits a web page with a virus.
Trojans are a different virus, infecting PCs through similar methods as specified above. Since a virus can run vulnerable code on a computer, a Trojan can enable a third party to access your computer. Interestingly, both viruses and a Trojan can often lump together to become Malware, as some threats are linked with 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 uniquely, deserving a distinct category. In essence, a worm is Malware capable of infecting a personal computer without requiring a user to take any 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 document follows specific instructions for attacking a particular vulnerability of a network. If any PC is discovered with exposure, the worm uses the network vulnerability to gain access to the PC. Afterward, a worm can use the infected PC to spam more IP addresses, repeating the process continuously.
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 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 designed for Iran’s nuclear program.
A rootkit is a more 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 similar to a worm while hiding themselves in legitimate file formats.
Sony was under threat when the security experts identified various music CDs that included a rootkit. The rootkit could access Windows PC, conceal itself from virus scans, and send data to a remote computer. This was considered a part of a misunderstood copy protection policy.
In many ways, a rootkit can achieve a goal similar to the traditional Trojan and virus. Their aim can be deletion or corruption of files. It might also log the keystrokes in an attempt to discover the username and password and send them to any 3rd party. These are the disasters that a virus or Trojan could do, but 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, rootkit removal can damage the operating system.
5. Pharming and Phishing
The Malware in 1990 appears relatively ineffective when compared to those of today. In the past, Malware was developed by hackers who wished to highlight their skills and gain dominance over their peers.
They tend to damage the computers severely, staying on the infected systems only. On the other hand, modern-day Malware is often nothing but a tool utilized by cyber goons to penetrate the users’ confidential information. The exposed information can later be used to make unauthorized use of credit cards, identity theft, and perform a broad range of illegal activities on the 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 the rogues are commonly known as the most severe problems with individual characteristics, they are challenging 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 know the most common cyber threats, you might wonder what you should do for them. The best place to start is by discussing the operating systems.
Security of the Operating Systems
In reality, your installed operating system can influence potential malware threats. Your operating system determines the counter-act you need for cyber threats. In many cases, Malware is designed to benefit from specific exploits in an operating system. Malware coded to help from different vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows can’t harm the Mac OS X as both follow a significantly different coding architecture.
It would be correct to say that an operating system’s selection can affect a PC’s overall security more than any other aspect. Keeping these factors in mind, we have included the most popular operating systems that are being used by the netizens:
Microsoft’s most recent operating system, Windows 10, is the revised version of the previous installment. Windows 10 offers a broad range of fantastic features, including security patches. Windows 10 ensures your PC is protected by ensuring that programs do not gain access to your system without acquiring permission.
In addition, Microsoft has introduced various improvements across the operating system’s ability to send crucial security information to the users. Interestingly, Windows 10 benefits from a monarch towards security stronger than previous versions of Windows. This is vital when considering the security exploits that Microsoft had previously patched.
However, Windows 10 is prone to various vulnerabilities due to widespread usage and popularity. Windows 10 is still one of the most used operating systems, which makes it a preferred choice among hackers for targeting. This is the reason Windows 10 users need a reliable security solution.
Mac OS X
Mac OS X offers the most modern feel. However, the Mac OS X is an older operating system at the core. The first-ever version was released back in 2001, which makes it older than Windows XP. The leading tech giant Apple follows a distinct approach from Microsoft. When the individuals at Redmond work on the hefty releases, introducing them to the market every five to six years, Apple, on the other hand, updates the OS X about eight times since the initial release.
These releases mainly comprise security updates. Apple Inc. has achieved a strong reputation for providing the fans with the robust that surpasses the Windows OS in multiple ways. However, this reputation of Apple tends to fail when examined closely.
Although Malware targeting the Mac OS X doesn’t exist, Apple pats the security flaws similarly to Microsoft. Interestingly, the security company Secunia has discovered that in the last year, Mac OS X had been subjected to about 36 vulnerabilities that are ten less than those of Microsoft’s Windows XP.
This doesn’t mean Mac OS X isn’t a secure operating system. An advantage it has over the UNIX heritage is the requirement to sign in as the “root” for applying changes to some critical files. However, many security experts believe that OS X is close to immune to various security threats because of the obscurity element. Since there is a significant degree of truth to this, multiple threats to the security of the Mac OS X exist and can be equally damaging as those targeting Microsoft Windows.
Linux requires users to sign in on a root account to apply changes to crucial system files. Linux has stood at the top for offering security in terms of obscurity. The user base of Linux is relatively tiny. 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 some tech nerds 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 always safe.
Never Open Suspicious Emails
You should always avoid opening up suspicious emails. Malware tends to reproduce by opening infected files in an email. You should do the 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, worst case, make your computer unusable.
So far, we have revealed all the essential information about the security of laptops and computers. Considering the increasing number of Malware, Trojan, worms, and more vulnerabilities, it has become necessary to equip oneself with powerful antivirus software and a firewall that keeps a user safe against various threats. If you want to add more to this guide, feel free to comment.