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Vulnerabilities in Computing

Virtual Dangers

You might have heard horror stories of people having their credit card numbers stolen in the course of e-commerce and, as a result, you may have stayed away from bidding on e-bay. Or, you may have heard about viruses spreading through email like wildfire, crashing people's systems and then been afraid to open your mail. As always, the best way to begin to protect yourself from these virtual dangers that can have all too real results is to learn about the potential risks and what you can do to prevent them from arriving at your portal.

You're Vulnerable

So much of our world is now dependent on computers and the internet. We do our shopping at online stores with our credit cards, our doctors input our medical records online, airplanes navigate via the internet, we listen to music with mp3s, and we communicate via email and cellular phones. That's a lot of our personal life stored online and that means we're vulnerable. Cyber security is the term that is used to label the process we undertake to protect such information through detection and prevention, and through responding to attacks.

But there are always levels of risk, and some risks are mere annoyances, while others can wipe out your entire computer system. Even worse is someone who breaks into your system and steals your information, like your credit card number, for instance, and uses it to take a shopping spree with the charges on you. Here are some of the major cyber security risks:

Hackers: Hackers are people who look for and exploit the vulnerabilities inherent in computer systems for their own, ill-gotten gains. Sometimes a hacker is just a brilliant person who is curious to explore their ability to get into a system and obtain information. At other times, he's a mischief-maker, who wants to see if he can create a virus and send it through the net. At the other end of the spectrum is the hacker who is out there to steal or alter information with malicious intent.

Malicious Code: Malicious code includes three types of computer code that may endanger your computer system.

1)    Virus: A virus can't spread on its own. It needs people to help it along. In order for the virus to propagate inside your computer, you have to open an infected email attachment, or surf to an infected website.

2)    Worms: They worm their way inside your system without your help by finding and exploiting security flaws in your software. Once they get into your system, they seek out and find other computers to infect through your system. A worm can also be contracted through email, web pages, or network software. The major difference between worms and viruses is the worm's ability to self-propagate.

3)    Trojan horses: They come in disguise, for example, clothed as a program that claims it will make your system run faster and smoother when what it really does is relay your personal information to a remote intruder.


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