Computer Security

Computer security is a branch of computer technology known as information security as applied to computers and networks. The objective of computer security includes protection of information and property from theft, corruption, or natural disaster, while allowing the information and property to remain accessible and productive to its intended users. The term computer system security means the collective processes and mechanisms by which sensitive and valuable information and services are protected from publication, tampering or collapse by unauthorized activities or untrustworthy individuals and unplanned events respectively. The strategies and methodologies of computer security often differ from most other computer technologies because of its somewhat elusive objective of preventing unwanted computer behavior instead of enabling wanted computer behavior.

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Wikipedia: Anti-Phishing Working Group
Wikipedia: Anti-Spyware Coalition
Wikipedia: Defensive Computing

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ADWARE
- Adware, or advertising-supported software, is any software package which automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertisements to a computer. These advertisements can be in the form of a pop-up. They may also be in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user during the installation process. The object of the Adware is to generate revenue for its author. Adware, by itself, is harmless; however, some adware may come with integrated spyware such as keyloggers and other privacy-invasive software.

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Wikipedia: Adware

BACKDOOR (ANYTHING) - A backdoor in a computer system (or cryptosystem or algorithm) is a method of bypassing normal authentication, securing remote access to a computer, obtaining access to plaintext, and so on, while attempting to remain undetected. The backdoor may take the form of an installed program (e.g., Back Orifice) or may subvert the system through a rootkit.

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Wikipedia: Backdoor

BOTNET - A botnet is a collection of compromised computers, termed bots, that are used for malicious purposes. A computer becomes a bot when it runs a file, typically from a drive-by download, that has bot software embedded in it. Botnets are controlled en masse via protocols such as IRC and http.

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Wikipedia: Botnet

CRIMEWARE - Crimeware is a class of malware designed specifically to automate cybercrime. The term was coined by Peter Cassidy, Secretary General of the Anti-Phishing Working Group to distinguish it from other kinds of malevolent programs.

Crimeware (as distinct from spyware, adware, and malware) is designed (through social engineering or technical stealth) to perpetrate identity theft in order to access a computer user's online accounts at financial services companies and online retailers for the purpose of taking funds from those accounts or completing unauthorized transactions that enrich the thief controlling the crimeware. Crimeware also often has the intent to export confidential or sensitive information from a network for financial exploitation. Crimeware represents a growing problem in network security as many malicious code threats seek to pilfer confidential information.

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Wikipedia: Crimeware

KEYLOGGER - Keystroke logging (often called keylogging) is the action of tracking (or logging) the keys struck on a keyboard, typically in a covert manner so that the person using the keyboard is unaware that their actions are being monitored. There are numerous keylogging methods, ranging from hardware and software-based approaches to electromagnetic and acoustic analysis.

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Wikipedia: Keylogger

MALWARE - Malware, short for malicious software, consists of programming (code, scripts, active content, and other software) designed to disrupt or deny operation, gather information that leads to loss of privacy or exploitation, gain unauthorized access to system resources, and other abusive behavior. The expression is a general term used by computer professionals to mean a variety of forms of hostile, intrusive, or annoying software or program code.

Software is considered to be malware based on the perceived intent of the creator rather than any particular features. Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, dishonest adware, scareware, crimeware, most rootkits, and other malicious and unwanted software or program. In law, malware is sometimes known as a computer contaminant, for instance in the legal codes of several U.S. states, including California and West Virginia.

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Wikipedia: Malware

PHARMING - Pharming is a hacker's attack aiming to redirect a website's traffic to another, bogus website. Pharming can be conducted either by changing the hosts file on a victim’s computer or by exploitation of a vulnerability in DNS server software. DNS servers are computers responsible for resolving Internet names into their real addresses - they are the "signposts" of the Internet. Compromised DNS servers are sometimes referred to as "poisoned".

The term pharming is a neologism based on farming and phishing. Phishing is a type of social engineering attack to obtain access credentials such as user names and passwords. In recent years both pharming and phishing have been used for online identity theft information. Pharming has become of major concern to businesses hosting ecommerce and online banking websites. Sophisticated measures known as anti-pharming are required to protect against this serious threat. Antivirus software and spyware removal software cannot protect against pharming.

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Wikipedia: Pharming

PHISHING - Phishing is a way of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail spoofing or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one. Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques used to deceive users, and exploits the poor usability of current web security technologies. Attempts to deal with the growing number of reported phishing incidents include legislation, user training, public awareness, and technical security measures.

A phishing technique was described in detail in 1987, and the first recorded use of the term "phishing" was made in 1996. The term is a variant of fishing, probably influenced by phreaking, and alludes to "baits" used in hopes that the potential victim will "bite" by clicking a malicious link or opening a malicious attachment, in which case their financial information and passwords may then be stolen.

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Wikipedia: Phishing

RANSOMWARE - Ransomware is computer malware which holds a computer system, or the data it contains, hostage against its user by demanding a ransom for its restoration.

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Wikipedia: Ransomware

ROGUEWARE - Rogue security software (or rogueware) is a form of computer malware that deceives or misleads users into paying for the fake or simulated removal of malware, or that installs other malware. Rogue security software, in recent years (2008–2011), has become a growing and serious security threat in desktop computing.

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Wikipedia: Rogueware
Wikipedia: Rogue Security Software

ROOTKIT - A rootkit is software that enables continued privileged access to a computer while actively hiding its presence from administrators by subverting standard operating system functionality or other applications. The term rootkit is a concatenation of "root" (the traditional name of the privileged account on Unix operating systems) and the word "kit" (which refers to the software components that implement the tool). The term "rootkit" has negative connotations through its association with malware.

Typically, an attacker installs a rootkit on a computer after first obtaining root-level access, either by exploiting a known vulnerability or by obtaining a password (either by cracking the encryption, or through social engineering). Once a rootkit is installed, it allows an attacker to mask the ongoing intrusion and maintain privileged access to the computer by circumventing normal authentication and authorization mechanisms. Although rootkits can serve a variety of ends, they have gained notoriety primarily as malware, hiding applications that appropriate computing resources or steal passwords without the knowledge of administrators and users of affected systems. Rootkits can target firmware, a hypervisor, the kernel, or—most commonly—user-mode applications.

Rootkit detection is difficult because a rootkit may be able to subvert the software that is intended to find it. Detection methods include using an alternate, trusted operating system; behavioral-based methods; signature scanning; difference scanning; and memory dump analysis. Removal can be complicated or practically impossible, especially in cases where the rootkit resides in the kernel; reinstallation of the operating system may be the only alternative.

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Wikipedia: Rootkit

SCAREWARE - Scareware comprises several classes of scam software with malicious payloads, or of limited or no benefit, that are sold to consumers via certain unethical marketing practices. The selling approach uses social engineering to cause shock, anxiety, or the perception of a threat, generally directed at an unsuspecting user. Some forms of spyware and adware also use scareware tactics.

A tactic frequently used by criminals involves convincing users that a virus has infected their computer, then suggesting that they download (and pay for) fake antivirus software to remove it. Usually the virus is entirely fictional and the software is non-functional or malware itself. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, the number of scareware packages in circulation rose from 2,850 to 9,287 in the second half of 2008. In the first half of 2009, the APWG identified a 585% increase in scareware programs.

The "scareware" label can also apply to any application or virus (not necessarily sold as above) which pranks users with intent to cause anxiety or panic.

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Wikipedia: Scareware

SOCIAL ENGINEERING - Social engineering is the art of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information, rather than by breaking in or using technical cracking techniques. While similar to a confidence trick or simple fraud, the term typically applies to trickery or deception for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or computer system access; in most cases the attacker never comes face-to-face with the victim. In the United Kingdom, social engineering using impersonation (e.g. to gain information over the phone, or to gate-crash an event) is known informally as blagging. In addition to criminal purposes, social engineering has also been employed by debt collectors, skiptracers, private investigators, bounty hunters and tabloid journalists.

"Social engineering" as an act of psychological manipulation was popularized by hacker-turned-consultant Kevin Mitnick. The term had previously been associated with the social sciences, but its usage has caught on among computer professionals.

A study by Google researchers analyzing fake AV distribution found that up to 90% of all domains involved in distributing fake antivirus software used social engineering techniques.

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Wikipedia: Social Engineering Security

SPYWARE - Spyware is a type of malware that can be installed on computers, and which collects small pieces of information about users without their knowledge. The presence of spyware is typically hidden from the user, and can be difficult to detect. Typically, spyware is secretly installed on the user's personal computer. Sometimes, however, spywares such as keyloggers are installed by the owner of a shared, corporate, or public computer on purpose in order to secretly monitor other users.

While the term spyware suggests software that secretly monitors the user's computing, the functions of spyware extend well beyond simple monitoring. Spyware programs can collect various types of personal information, such as Internet surfing habits and sites that have been visited, but can also interfere with user control of the computer in other ways, such as installing additional software and redirecting Web browser activity. Spyware is known to change computer settings, resulting in slow connection speeds, different home pages, and/or loss of Internet connection or functionality of other programs. In an attempt to increase the understanding of spyware, a more formal classification of its included software types is provided by the term privacy-invasive software.

In response to the emergence of spyware, a small industry has sprung up dealing in anti-spyware software. Running anti-spyware software has become a widely recognized element of computer security practices for computers, especially those running Microsoft Windows. A number of jurisdictions have passed anti-spyware laws, which usually target any software that is surreptitiously installed to control a user's computer.

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Wikipedia: Spyware

TROJAN - A Trojan horse, or Trojan, is a destructive program that masquerades as an application. The software initially appears to perform a desirable function for the user prior to installation and/or execution, but (perhaps in addition to the expected function) steals information or harms the system. Unlike viruses or worms, Trojan horses do not replicate themselves, but they can be just as destructive.

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Wikipedia: Trojan Horse
Wikipedia: Trojan Horse Timeline - Noteworthy Trojan Horses

VIRUS - A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer. The term "virus" is also commonly but erroneously used to refer to other types of malware, including but not limited to adware and spyware programs that do not have the reproductive ability. A true virus can spread from one computer to another (in some form of executable code) when its host is taken to the target computer; for instance because a user sent it over a network or the Internet, or carried it on a removable medium such as a floppy disk, CD, DVD, or USB drive.

Viruses can increase their chances of spreading to other computers by infecting files on a network file system or a file system that is accessed by another computer.

As stated above, the term "computer virus" is sometimes used as a catch-all phrase to include all types of malware, even those that do not have the reproductive ability. Malware includes computer viruses, computer worms, Trojan horses, most rootkits, spyware, dishonest adware and other malicious and unwanted software, including true viruses. Viruses are sometimes confused with worms and Trojan horses, which are technically different. A worm can exploit security vulnerabilities to spread itself automatically to other computers through networks, while a Trojan horse is a program that appears harmless but hides malicious functions. Worms and Trojan horses, like viruses, may harm a computer system's data or performance. Some viruses and other malware have symptoms noticeable to the computer user, but many are surreptitious or simply do nothing to call attention to themselves. Some viruses do nothing beyond reproducing themselves.

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Wikipedia: Virus
Wikipedia: Virus History
Wikipedia: Virus Timeline - Noteworthy Viruses

WORM - A computer worm is a self-replicating malware computer program, which uses a computer network to send copies of itself to other nodes (computers on the network) and it may do so without any user intervention. This is due to security shortcomings on the target computer. Unlike a computer virus, it does not need to attach itself to an existing program. Worms almost always cause at least some harm to the network, even if only by consuming bandwidth, whereas viruses almost always corrupt or modify files on a targeted computer.

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Wikipedia: Worm
Wikipedia: Worm History
Wikipedia: Worm Timeline - Noteworthy Worms