Types of Computer Security - An Overview
Types of computer security risks include virus, spyware, and malware. However, those are only the tip of iceberg. To help you understand types of computer security, I have divided the entire theory into the following three parts:
- Internet and Network Security
- Standalone Computer Security
- Data Loss by Accidents
Internet Security is the one most people are concerned with as it deals with malware and hackers. The next type of computer security, Network Security, deals with the security problems on networks of any size. This includes external problems as well as problems from users of computers inside the network. Standalone computers refer to computers that are not connected to any network (but may be connected to Internet). This part will cover the possible security vulnerabilities on such systems. Finally, the Data Loss part is applicable to networks and computers in the networks as well as standalone computers.
Types of Computer Security - Safety Concerns on Internet and Networks
Internet Security, among different types of computer security, covers malware and hacking techniques. The Internet is an open zone where anyone can create a website that may place malware on your computer or server. This is also the space that gives shelter to people who are on the prowl to reach your computer or servers to access your data for misuse.
You can divide the Internet into unknown and trusted sites. Trusted sites are simply the ones that you can trust, with a good example being your own office website. Obviously, you won’t knowingly place any code on your own website to compromise the computer security of people visiting it. Another way to divide the Internet is into secure and non-secure zones. The secure zones are normally represented by a lock symbol in the address bar of your computer. An example of such sites can be your Internet banking site that employs high level encryption to secure their database as well as your computer.
While you already know about malware, there are two more common techniques used by hackers to access your data: port knocking and packet sniffing.
There are several ports on your computer that allow different applications to transfer data to and from your computer. A good application would instantly close the port as soon as it sends or receives information. However, there are some applications that delay or forget to close these ports. Sometimes it is the OS to blame. Port knocking, or port scanning, is the technique where hackers keep on trying to access the different ports on your computer or server. Once they find an open port, they can easily reach your data and use it the way they want.
You might know that to transmit data over Internet, it is divided into several chunks (called packets) of equal size. Each packet contains the sequence number of the packet preceded by the IP address of the computer or website (server) to where it is send. They also contain the IP address of source computers/network components such as servers (websites). These packets are mostly encrypted before leaving for the destination. Packet sniffing is another effective technique that helps hackers gain control over the source as well as destination computers. This is more dangerous than port knocking as it affects the entire network system. The technique involves observing the encryption and transmission patterns from a computer/server to the ISP’s server. Other hackers can also sniff data transmission from certain websites. Once they crack the encryption, or if the ISP or website does not support high level encryption, the data is easily accessed by the hacker. Once accessed, even a data chunk can give further clues to the hacker for gaining total control over a computer, network, and even a website.
This is why most browsers use high level SSL encryption to keep your data safe. Still, no software is perfect and may give out details if there is any kind of security lapse on part of end-user, ISP, or the website developers.
Types of Computer Security - Other Major Issues in Network Security
Among other types of computer security problems, this section deals with client-server model of networks. Any network is only as secure as the network designers and administrators make it. There are numerous ways whereby a network is vulnerable to both external and internal threats. The choice of server and its configuration plus encryption methods highly affect the security of any network. Following are a few of the “most possible” threats to a network on client-server model:
- Improper configuration of servers- where users are auto-elevated to certain reputed groups. Different servers offer different facilities. Most of the prestigious servers, including Exchange 2007, have the facility to auto-elevate users based on their interactions. This often results in data theft.
- Misuse of User Rights- users with certain rights may misuse their privileges to steal company data and sell it competitors or use it for some other malicious purpose such as destroying data files concerning competitors, etc.
- Spamming to create Denial of Service- this technique is again used by both internal and external hackers. The trick is to flood the network with fake data packets. The network is totally congested and results in a crash. If the server is not well configured, the network fails and does not work, resulting in the loss of real data that can be picked up by the hackers. Even if the hackers cannot intercept data in this case, the data in transmission is lost forever.
Types of Computer Security - Safety Factors Concerning Standalone Computers
Among the major types of computer security are factors affecting data on standalone computers. The major threat is stealthy techniques used when such computers are left running and unattended. Many users do not consider locking their computers before taking a short break. Others can easily take a peek into the computer by the time the actual user returns. Hence it is recommended to program the computer to lock by itself after a few minutes of inactivity. The option is available in Windows OS where you can set a password for each user and set the properties to ask for the password when the screen saver is removed. This also calls for lowering the time before screen saver starts. Still, users should make it a habit to lock their computers as part of their data security policy.
Another safety factor that is often abused is users not using any security for booting the computer. I strongly suggest a BIOS password so that unauthorized users can’t even see the full configuration of the computer. Among other security threats that are again Internet related are the possibility of infection and hacking by way of malware and the methods discussed on the first page.
Types of Computer Security - Data Loss by Accidents
A network failure or a HDD crash is never predictable. One of the most important angles in types of computer security is loss of data caused by problems with data storage devices and data loss during transmission. While the latter has to be dealt with a good network security policy - to recover data packets lost in transit, the data loss caused by a computer/server crash can be prevented using a solid backup plan. Data files can be replicated over a remote server as well as on different computers on a network. For standalone computers, users can apply backup to external devices and/or to some online storage.
This article only touched the most common types of computer security. There can be several other problems that may cause infections and/or data loss under each of the different types of computer security discussed here, which also need to be attended to as and when required.
This post is part of the series: Types of Computer Security - How Important is a Computer Firewall
This series on types of computer security informs you about different types of security threats. It helps you deal with security threats to computer and security threats to networks. The series on types of computer security also discusses computer based security systems before detailing firewalls.