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Understanding Internet Security

written by: Karishma Sundaram•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 4/29/2010

Internet security should never be taken lightly. With malicious cyber attacks becoming more direct and certainly more advanced, a user needs to be well-informed to stay protected. This article looks at the importance of Internet security and how to implement it.

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    What is Internet Security?

    Internet Security Internet security is a broad umbrella which covers all products that protect a computer from Internet-related threats. Although the term may be somewhat intimidating, the truth is many people use some form of Internet security as a matter of course.

    Antivirus applications, antispyware programs, firewalls, and encryption standards all form a part of Internet security. They each protect against a certain kind of threat, and therefore are each individually important in their own right. However, it is often the case that although a user may feel their computer is protected because of an antivirus software application, they often neglect to consider threats like spyware or port listeners. It is vital to cover all bases when dealing with malicious activity, especially from over the Internet.

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    The Protection Trio

    Most antivirus software applications will not co-exist harmoniously on one machine, as many of them will cancel each other out, leaving glaring gaps for malware to seep through. A similar scenario will be created if a user has two firewalls installed on the same computer. However, this problem does not extend to applications performing different security jobs.

    It is vital to have the troika of security applications: a good antivirus application, an antispyware program and a firewall.

    Antivirus applications periodically scan the computer in question for malware. They can also be used to scan downloads for viruses. Mostly these applications are geared towards viruses, although they sometimes can catch worms, Trojans and other malware. However, it is best not to rely on just an antivirus for detecting malware.

    Antispyware picks up on malware hidden deep within freeware, usually masquerading as something else. Unlike the other two kinds of security applications, two different programs can co-exist on the same system. In fact, this is sometimes recommended as one antispyware application is unlikely to catch all the threats currently circulating.

    Firewalls are necessary, even though dealing with their constant alerts initially can be somewhat annoying. They detect any incoming connections to the computer, as well outgoing ones. A user can then set which connections are trusted, and accordingly the firewall is configured. Incoming threats are fairly straightforward, as those are direct attacks; it is the outgoing connections that are often overlooked. If a Trojan has slipped in, through the defences, it will attempt to connect to an external computer. These connections are hidden from the user, so will go unnoticed without a proper firewall.

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    The Importance of Internet Security

    It is a common misconception that Internet security plays a large role only in organizations, or when people have sensitive information on their computers. This is not the case at all; it is quite possible for a hacker to set up an unsecured computer as a zombie for attacks on other machines. A zombie computer is essentially a ruse behind which the actual computer is hidden, therefore if there is a backward trail it leads straight to the zombie – and the hacker is safe.

    In the case of sensitive information, there is no doubt that Internet security is vitally important. Information can be sensitive for any number of reasons, whether it is financial details, confidential data, or even personal information which a user does not wish to share.

    Therefore it is of the utmost importance to keep a computer always secure when connected to the Internet, as the majority of threats originate from there.