Cyber Security

How we protect networks, programs and computers from attack, damage or unwanted access

Securing computers is extremely important. Measures to prevent the uses and physical computers are really important in the modern world. Read on, and we we see why!

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Difficulty: Beginner | Easy | Normal | Challenging

Prerequisites:

  • None

Definitions:

Anti-virus software: A program or set of programs designed to prevent malicious software running a computer

Cyber Security: The protection of computer systems from theft or damage, as well as the disruption to their processes

Passwords: A secret word, phrase or combination of characters that gain admission to a place

Key loggers: A way that the key strokes on someone’s personal computer can be recorded. This is a method to record the username and passwords on a host computer

Malicious software: This category contains worms, trojans, adware and more

Malware: Software designed to cause damage to a computer

Network: A group of computers or computer devices that share resources

Penetration testings: A simulated attack on a computer system with the goal of evaluating the security of the system

Cyber security: What is it?

Cyber security is simply thought of as the methods to protect computers and computer networks.

We may not think that this is important. However, the thing is lots of networks and services touch our daily lives. Want to search something on Google? At school this relies on our school computer, the school network (to route the traffic to Google), all of the computers in between your computer and Google (as the Internet traffic is routed to them) and the computers at Google.

When you think about is, computer systems are needed for lots of our daily lives:

  • Traffic lights
  • Bus systems
  • Television schedules (even through transmitted through over the air broadcasts)

Specific cyber security threats

If you want to break into someones computer, just ask them for the password! You might think that it sounds really silly, and in some ways it is but this is what Social Engineering relies upon.

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

When you receive a call, email or text from a bank you should make doubly sure that the call is from the organisation you think is calling you. Second, they should never, ever ask you for your password (ever. They should be able to reset your password or have access to your account from their system. They should not be using your username and password to do so!

Sometimes social engineering can use social media to gain access to your accounts or money. A common trick is to set up a Facebook account that looks like one of your friends, and then asks for a money transfer to help them out. Since it looks like one of your friends, you are very likely to help them out. Unfortunately in this instance the account has been set up by a fraudster to look like your friend (or the account has been stolen by using one of the other methods detailed in this article).

Social engineering is a common, cheap and effective way to break into people’s accounts.

Commonly known as computer viruses, in the past people were concerned that their computers might be slowed down by these.

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More sophisticated common viruses are often more interested in your passwords and may integrate a keylogger in order to steal passwords from a system.

There are lists of common passwords. Fraudsters and criminals know that, so in order to gain access to someone’s account they might first try these easy, simple passwords. You might well not be surprised to find out this is what happens, and furthermore this tactic actually works.

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Reminder: Using your birthdate as a password is famously poor. Don’t do it.

When you log into Facebook you have access to see your own posts and your friends posts, but not any posts that are set to friends only (when you are not a friend).

This is known as having access rights. Your files on Google Drive should only be accessible to those you want to have access to them.

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A common problem is when you set the rights incorrectly on a system. The wrong person can see the wrong thing, for example a customer seeing credit card details of other customers on a website (these are the sort of problems that can lead to large fines in the UK).

People sometimes copy their work onto USB drives, and take their work with them. This is also a common way of using Google Drive, and people can backup and use their work. However, when people do this they are responsible for making sure that the data does not fall into the hands of someone who should not have access to it.

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This is really very important for banking and other information that needs to be kept secure.

Windows and MacOS only receive security updates for a limited number of years. After this time the Operating System becomes outdated, and bugs and problems that people can use to damage your computer may not be fixed. This is true of all software, not just Operating Systems.

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Software should be updated to make sure that there are no problems that people have found in the software, from bugs to security issues that can be exploited by people who want to get access to your computer.

Penetration testing

In order to decide whether a system is secure a set of tests take place. This might be referred to as ethical hacking as the goal is to find problems with the system and report them so they can be fixed.

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The form these take depends on the software or system being installed or tested, but is likely to include automated tools.

Conclusion:

When you are designing a system, any knowledge of Security is important. This article has covered some of the basics, including Penetration testing, access rights and weak passwords.

This is just a start, there is plenty more to learn and plenty you can study around this area!

Extend your knowledge

  • There are plenty of blogs and external sources of information around this topic. For the general impact of Cyber Security on the wider world you can try to read The Register and the acticles about security.

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