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Internet Security Tips
17 October 2006
"Safe Surfing"
Internet Security Tips
17 October 2006
"Safe Surfing"
Security Threats Defined
Hackers and Crackers
A Hacker is someone who writes malicious computer programs designed to infect computers, spread to other
computers, gain illegal entry into private computer systems, and to perform Denial of Service attacks on
corporate web sites for a variety of reasons, mostly financially motivated. They are believed to have more
than a million 'drone' computers world wide that they can remotely control to attack us at will.
The term "cracker" is not to be confused with ". Hackers generally deplore cracking. However, as Eric
Raymond, compiler of The New Hacker's Dictionary notes, some journalists credit most break-ins to "hackers."
A Cracker is someone who breaks into someone else's computer system, via the Internet or dialup modem;
bypasses passwords or licenses in computer programs; or in other ways intentionally breaches computer
A cracker can be doing this for profit, maliciously, for some altruistic purpose or cause, or just because thechallenge is there. Some breaking-and-entering has been done ostensibly to point out weaknesses in a site'ssecurity system. Financial information is usually the motive, be it a financial institution with account numbersor personal information that can be used for identity theft, or corporate trade secrets or national securityinformation that can be sold or used for extortion.
A classic story of the tracking down of a cracker on the Internet who was breaking into U.S. military and other
computers is told in Clifford Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg.
Viruses, Trojans, Worms, "Diallers", and other Malware
Malware (MALicious softWARE) is a new name for any bad software that was designed to destroy, aggravate,
wreak havoc, hide incriminating information, and/or disrupt and damage a computer system or network. This
includes any hardware, software, or firmware that is intentionally installed or inserted into a system for a
potentially harmful purpose without the knowledge or permission of the system owner. (i.e.: Trojan horse,
virus, worm, Spyware, Backdoors, etc.)
Viruses - Any malicious or destructive program that can get loaded onto your computer without your
knowledge or permission. The term virus was used because the programs are designed to spread from one
computer to another via floppy disk, directly through Internet by exploiting security flaws in operating systems
(Windows, Mac OS, and Linux) and Web browsers (Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Mozilla Firefox).
Malicious software designed to damage/disrupt a computer/network  Viruses
Malicious program that attaches or targets a specific System  Worms
Spread by Network (email attachment or embedded code)  "Trojan Horse" Viruses
Small, download with web pages, then get "payload"
General Unwanted Programs legitimate tools to kill processes, delete files, etc.
Trends - Antivirus vendors claim that there is an emerging trend to increasingly target Home Computers
since they are the weakest link in the security chain, and the likelihood of financial rewards are increasing
Internet Security Tips
17 October 2006
"Safe Surfing"
with the rapidly increasing number of home users that store passwords and credit card number son their
computers for access to Internet Banking. Corporate and Government systems have learned to use the latest
security tools and keep their systems up to date with security patches for their operating systems and web
Worms - a computer worm is a self-replicating computer program. It uses a network to send copies of itself to
other systems usually without any user intervention. Unlike a virus, it does not need to attach itself to an
existing program. Worms always harm the network (if only by consuming bandwidth), whereas a Viruses
always infect or corrupt files on a "targeted computer system" (i.e. Windows, Mac OS, Linux).
The Morris worm was written by at the time a computer science graduate student atand released on using a friend's account on a computer. It quickly infected large numbers of computers attached to the and caused massivedisruption. That it didn't spread even farther and cause more trouble is largely due to some errors in itsimplementation. It propagated via several bugs in and related systems, and its component programs(including several versions of '. Morris was identified, confessed, and was later convicted under theUS Computer Crime and Abuse Act. He received three years probation, 400 hours community service and afine in excess of $10,000.
Many worms have been created which are only designed to spread, and don't attempt to alter the systems theypass through. However, as the and showed, the network traffic and other unintendedeffects can often cause major disruption. A is code designed to do more than spread the worm - itmight delete files on a host system, encrypt files in a attack, or send documents via A very common payload for worms is to install a in the infected computer to allow the creation of aunder control of the worm's author - like the much publicised zombie worms and Ahuge network of zombie machines are often referred to as and are commonly used by SPAM sendersfor sending junk email or to cloak their website's address. Spammers are therefore thought to be a source offunding for the creation of such worms, and worm writers have been caught selling lists of ofinfected machines. Others try to blackmail companies with threatened attacks.] Backdoor programs, however they were installed, are often exploited by other malware, including worms.
Examples include which spreads using the backdoor opened by and at least one instance
of malware taking advantage of the "backdoor installed by the software they put on
millions of music CDs ending in late 2005.
Virus Sources - Viruses are sophisticated computer programs that are "hand crafted" by programmers all over
the world. Most are designed to work quietly in the background with few symptoms so that they can spread
themselves as far and wide as possible before being detected and removed. The source code for the virus
programs and "tool kits" with building blocks and instructions on how to use them are widely available from
"Hacker" web sites all over the world, mostly in countries that do not strictly pursue such criminals.
Virus Symptoms - Most viruses are designed to work quietly in the background so that they can spread to as
many other systems as possible, and do as much damage as possible before they are discovered and removed.
The most common symptoms of a viral infection include:
Internet Security Tips
17 October 2006
"Safe Surfing"
 Windows "blue screen of death" errors that cause the PC to shutdown and reboot;  Errors about missing files (especially.DLL files) during startup; Documents of various types, some or all, disappearing unexpectedly;  Internet disabled by ISP for sending too many emails, or emails with infected attachments;  Pop-up Ads in unusually high numbers with similar content;  Lots of new book mark entries for porn and gambling sites in you web browser;  Home Page changing without your knowledge, keeps going back to same page;  Browser Search Hi-Jacking - misspelled URLs go to index page with porn and gambling references Dialling your ISP or elsewhere as soon as you start the computer.
Email Threats
Phishing - the act of sending an to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an
attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for The e-mail
directs the user to visit a where they are asked to personal information, such as passwords and
credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has.
Worms - many have their own email engine to send out reinforcements via email attachment to every email
address that they can find on your computer, be it in an address book or document. Others will harvest email
address from web sites for their targets.
Spyware and Adware
Spyware refers to a broad category of malware designed to intercept or take partial control of a computer
without the of that machine's owner or legitimate user. While the term taken literally suggests
software that surreptitiously monitors the user, it has come to refer more broadly to software that subverts the
computer's operation for the benefit of a third party.
In simple terms, spyware is a type of program that watches what users do with their computer and then sends
that information over the Spyware can collect many different types of personal information about a
user. The more harmless programs attempt to track the websites that a user visits and send this information to
an advertisement agency for statistical analysis.
A more malicious code may log keystrokes to intercept passwords or credit card numbers. Yet other versions simply launch targeted refers to any software which displays advertisements, such as the much maligned popup ads; with or
without the user's consent
. Some legitimate uses of adware include useful programs such as the mail
client which can be used freely with full features, with display ads as an alternative to registration
fees. This is known as advertising-supported software, but not as spyware. Other examples include Kaaza file
sharing, and a popular ad-on for MSN Messenger called Messenger Plus. This sort of Adware is quite different
from the malware type which often operates surreptitiously or misleads the user, causing unwanted system
Tracking Cookies - Anti-spyware programs often report Web advertisers' as spyware. Web
sites (including advertisers) set cookies - small pieces of text data rather than software - to track Web-
browsing activity: for instance to maintain a "shopping cart" for an online store or to maintain consistent user
settings on a search engine.
Internet Security Tips
17 October 2006
"Safe Surfing"
Only the Web site that sets a cookie can access it. In the case of cookies associated with advertisements, the
user generally does not intend to visit the Web site which sets the cookies, but gets redirected to a cookie-setting
third-party site referenced by a "image. Some Web browsers and privacy tools offer to reject
cookies from sites other than the one that the user requested.
Advertisers use cookies to track people's browsing among various sites carrying ads from the same firm andthus to build up a marketing profile of the person or family using the computer. For this reason many usersobject to such cookies, and anti-spyware programs offer to remove them.
Typical Spyware Examples
A few examples of common spyware programs may illustrate their wide range of behaviors. Caveat: As with
computer viruses, researchers give names to spyware programs which often don't relate to any names that the
spyware-writers use. Researchers tend to group programs into "families" based on common behaviors, or by
"following the money" of apparent financial or business connections. For instance, a number of the spyware
programs distributed by Corporation are collectively known as "Gator".
a group of programs, installs by exploiting Internet Explorer vulnerabilities. These programs
direct traffic to ads on Web sites including To this end, they display pop-up ads, rewrite
results, and alter the infected computer's to direct lookups to these sites.
also known as DyFuCa, redirects Internet Explorer error pages to advertising. When users
follow a broken link or enter an erroneous URL, they see a page of advertisements. However, because
password-protected Web sites (HTTP Basic authentication) use the same mechanism as HTTP errors, Internet
Optimizer makes it impossible for the user to access password-protected sites.
transmits extensive information to advertisers about the Web sites which users visit. It also altersHTTP requests for advertisements linked from a Web site, so that the advertisements make unearnedprofit for the 180 Solutions Company. It opens pop-up ads that cover-up the Web sites of competing companies.
aka WinTools or is a family of spyware programs distributed by It installs an ActiveX controls by drive-by download at affiliated Web sites, or by ads displayed by
other spyware programs - an example of how spyware can install more spyware, compounding the problem.
These programs add toolbars to Internet Explorer, track Web browsing behavior, redirect affiliate references,
and display unwanted pop-up advertisements.
SPAM and Junk Mail Senders
Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited, undesired bulk messages. While
the most widely recognized form of spam is the term is applied to similar abuses in other media:
Spamming is economically viable because advertisers have no operating costs beyond the cost of their Internet
connection rental, and the manpower to maintain their huge mailing lists, and because it is difficult to hold them
accountable for their mass mailings. Because the is so low, there are numerous spammers, and
the volume of unsolicited mail has become extremely high. The costs, of lost productivity and fraudulent sales,
are borne by the public and by which generally just add extra capacity to cope with
Internet Security Tips
17 October 2006
"Safe Surfing"
Spamming is widely despised, and has recently been the subject of new legislation in many Prevention is the only real cure for SPAM emails. Don't give out your email needlessly to manufactures or websites unless you really need to communicate with them. Reputable firms will allow you to control the type andfrequency of Junk Mail on their we sites, but once they have your email address, gets onto public space, orlisted on a web site then you will start to get your share of SPAM. The Spammer all use webbot computers toscan the World Wide Web every night looking for new email address to add to their mailing lists. Why? Justbecause it is so profitable. It is estimated that most of the larger spammers make several thousand dollars perday from people who are dumb enough to make on-line purchase for anything from prescription drugs, Viagra,Cialis, Penis Enlargement Pills, fake Rolexes, and Gucci bags.
Most ISP's have implemented SPAM blocking software on their mail systems, but once you are on the list youcan be sure that a lot of the mail will get through. The bad news is that the send Non-Delivery Notices to thereturn address in the SPAM message which are nearly all forged and misdirect the NDN's to some unsuspectinguser or ISP. Last year, AccessComm was the target of a malicious attack by a SPAM sender that reported allthe originating sender as fictitious AccessComm mail users. The resulting storm of NDN's took down theirmail server for several days, and they had to upgrade from two to about 22 mail servers to cope with the traffic.
Most popular desktop email software such as Microsoft Outlook and QualComm's Eudora have Junk Mailfiltering built in. This software attempts to learn what is SPAM with your input, and files it away to a separatefolder the you can review later to retrieve any good stuff that got there by mistake.
Tools and Solutions
Install Security Updates
The companies that develop and market computer operating systems and networking software componentsoften release software updates that fix or close security vulnerabilities in their products. When new softwarebuts are discovered, they are published by a number of agencies such as, a part of the SoftwareEngineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, publish all know software bugs and the related securityrisks for all major operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc. and network tools such as webbrowsers, file transfer programs, and instant messaging.
The result of publishing all know program flaws, is that the vendors have about a week to come up with asolution to fix it before it is exploited en mass by hackers and virus writers. These public security reportsprovide the hackers with nearly all the information necessary to break into any computer that has not beenupdated by installing all available security patches.
So set your computer to run Windows Update (or if you like Microsoft Update,) and check from time to time byrunning the Windows Update program from the Start Menu to see if all available critical security updates havebeen installed.
Internet Security Tips
17 October 2006
"Safe Surfing"
Use Good Anti-Virus Updated Weekly
Choose a good brand named Anti-Virus product and make sure to update the program at least every two years,and ensure that the Virus templates or DAT files get updated automatically on a regular basis, at least weekly.
You have basically no protection is either of the above rules is not obeyed. When AVG or McAfee anti-virusdata files are older than a week, the icon loses its color and goes black and white to alert you that there is aproblem. Open the Security console and check for the problem. Often it just means that your system has beenturned off, or had no Internet access for the past few days. Click on the button to manually update the data andit will probably be fine.
Always set your anti-virus program to do a full system scan at least once per week. Some viruses, usually smallTrojans will always sneak through, with Web pages and they can download more dangerous reinforcements.
Don't get sucked into buying the Full Meal Deal or "Internet Security Suite" from your anti-virus vendor
when you renew your annual license to download updates. They generally include a Anti-Virus, Firewall,
SPAM filter, and Parental Controls for Web Surfing. This is especially true for older computers with Windows
ME or 98. They won't be able to handle the workload, and will slow to a crawl.
Home Users, use AVG Free Edition. It's completely free, automatically downloads data file updates, has a
scheduled scan capability, and all the reporting that you need.
Firewall Protection
If you are running any version of Windows prior to XP SP2, and you do not have a Firewall Router with
Network Address Translation (NAT) between you and the Internet, then you need to install a software Firewall.
They can be purchased separately from your favorite anti-virus vendor, such as McAfee or Symantec, and are
also included in their security suites. Another good alternative is ZoneAlarm from They
have a very good freeware program that will provide adequate protection, and has the flexibility to allow local
file and print sharing behind a firewall router.
The firewall will block any incoming traffic such as hackers scanning for open ports with services such as webservers, ftp servers, or email waiting and listening for connections. ZoneAlarm will even tell you with a pop-upmessage every time someone tries to "touch" your computer from the Internet. That is interesting at first butwill soon become annoying. Try it - you will likely see more than half a dozen hits in the first 15 minutes.
Firewall Routers only provide one-way firewall protection, keeping the bad guys out. A software firewall can
also provide controlled access to the Internet from only known programs, subject to your permission. This can
stop Trojan horse viruses and Backdoor programs from opening up the Internet and allowing the author or
another virus to freely enter your computer. However, don't be too complacent, because most serious viruses
know how to shutdown the most popular firewall and antivirus programs.
Internet Security Tips
17 October 2006
"Safe Surfing"
Anti-spyware programs
Lavasoft's one of a few reliable anti-spyware programs, after scanning the hard drive of aninfected Windows XP system.
Many programmers and some commercial firms have released products designed to remove or block spyware. Steve Gibson's OptOut, mentioned above, pioneered agrowing category. Programs such as Lavasoft's and Patrick Kolla's rapidly gained popularity as effective tools to remove, and in some cases intercept, spyware programs.
More recently acquired the software, and soon release it as Windows
AntiSpyware beta
as a free download for and users. In early
spring, 2006, renamed this beta software to "beta 2." Microsoft has announced
that the product will ship (for free) with
Other well-known anti-spyware products include Webroot's s Anti-Spyware, PCTools' and Sunbelt's (from the same GIANT Anti-Spyware codebase, that becameMicrosoft's Windows Defender).
Most major anti-virus vendors such as and have added anti-spyware
features to their anti-virus products; however they have proven to be incomplete, but better than nothing. They
were reluctant to add anti-spyware functions, citing lawsuits brought by spyware authors. To get around the
law suits, McAfee has classified these threats as "potentially unwanted programs". Symantec Anti-Virus,
categorizes spyware programs as "extended threats" and now offers real-time protection from them.
Anti-spyware programs can combat spyware in two ways:  real-time protection, which prevents the installation of spyware
detection and removal of spyware.
Writers of anti-spyware programs usually find detection and removal simpler, and many more programs havebecome available which do so. Such programs inspect the contents of the Windows registry, the operatingsystem files, and installed programs, and remove files and entries which match a list of known spywarecomponents. Real-time protection from spyware works identically to real-time anti-virus protection: thesoftware scans incoming network data and disk files at download time, and blocks the activity of componentsknown to represent spyware. In some cases, it may also intercept attempts to install start-up items or to modifybrowser settings. Because many spyware and adware are installed as a result of browser exploits or user error,using security software to browsers can also be effective to help restrict any damage done.
Fake anti-spyware programs
Malicious programmers have released a large number of fake anti-spyware programs, and widely distributed
Web now spuriously warn users that their computers have been infected with spyware, directing
them to purchase programs which do not actually remove spyware - or worse, may add more spyware of their
The proliferation of fake or spoofed antivirus products has occasioned some concern. Such products often bill themselves as "antispyware", antivirus, or registry cleaners, and often feature popupsprompting users to install them. This is called Known offenders include: Internet Security Tips
17 October 2006
"Safe Surfing"


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