Read these 27 Internet Security Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Internet Safety tips and hundreds of other topics.
As the popularity of hacking grew so too did the subculture. Bulletin Board Systems grew in profusion, although the top boards were very selective. These served as electronic meeting places, where hackers could exchange stories and techniques of compromising computer security. Access to a board would be granted or denied based on your technical proficiency or the fame of your exploits. Electronic newsletters also surfaced. One of the very first was "2600: The Hacker Quarterly", which started in 1984 and remains one of the most popular underground computer publications today.
An increasing number of hackers in the late eighties were no longer satisfied with simply looking around at computers and their information security systems. Many were using their skills for more criminal pursuits. The distribution of pirated software and games was commonplace. Some of the early hackers who were strongly against damaging the systems they broke into, felt that a new generation had entered the scene, a generation that cared little for the principle of freedom of technology but were rather more interested in individual profit. True hackers began to separate themselves from what they termed crackers: a more derogatory term to identify this new group of hackers with more malicious intentions. However, this distinction has never been taken up by the media.
By almost any measure, the so-called Love Bug virus was the most damaging and costly internet security disaster ever. According to Reuters the bug cost the world $15 billion in lost productivity. The Love Bug would mail itself to everyone in your Outlook address book. Moreover, it would gobble up certain media files stored on your hard drive. One German newspaper tragically lost 2,000 pictures from its archive. The perpetrator turned out to be a 23-year-old Filipino computer science student who more or less plagiarized all of his code. Because of a lack of laws in the Philippines covering computer crimes, he pretty much got away with his crime.
Email security precautions are one of your most important lines of defense. If an executable file shows up unexpectedly attached to an E-mail, you should delete it as a standard computer security measure unless you can positively verify what it is, who it came from, and why it was sent to you.
Much concern regarding hackers surrounds the safety of using credit card details and other data security issues over the web. There was a case in the United States recently where a hacker broke into a website and stole thousands of card numbers. However, he was soon apprehended, and the truth remains that fraud is more likely to occur when using a credit card over the phone than on a secure website. Businesses at risk have taken to calling on counter-intelligence hackers, hardened computer experts who will test a company's systems to the limit in an attempt to find holes and, if they do, help to close them.
December, 1987 saw the Jerusalem virus appear at Hebrew University in Israel. It was also a memory resident file infector. It was the first virus that contained a bug that caused it to re-infect already infected programs. Viruses can be stopped by good internet security software and personal firewall software.
Prior to the advent of the personal computer, hacking was limited to the activity of phreaking or to those who had access to mainframe computers. As a result, internet security issues related to hacking were not a widespread phenomenon. In the early eighties, however, PCs finally made their entry into some homes in North America and Europe. The Commodore 64 was one of the more popular models and many hackers started their hacking careers on these machines. For a new generation of teenage boys, computers, games and hacking became a way of life.
The passage of the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1984 brought to the Secret Service investigative jurisdiction for violations of Title 18 United States Code 1029 (credit card and access devices) and in 1986 Title 18, United States Code 1030 (computer fraud). The Financial Crimes Division's Electronic Crimes Branch houses the equipment and personnel devoted to computer security and data security.
The outbreak of the Melissa virus was a vivid demonstration of the need to be extremely careful about email security when you receive E-mail with attached files or documents. Other than web surfing, careless email security is the easiest way for you to compromise your computer security. Just because an E-mail appears to come from someone you trust, this does NOT mean the file is safe or that the supposed sender had anything to do with it.
The FBI's National Computer Crime Squad (NCCS) investigates violations of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986. These computer security and information security crimes cross multiple state or international boundaries. Violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act include intrusions into government, financial, most medical, and Federal interest computers. Federal interest computers are defined by law as two or more computers involved in a criminal offense, which are located in different states. Therefore, a commercial computer which is the victim of an intrusion coming from another state is a "Federal interest" computer.
Another famous virus that fired up the media was Melissa, a Word macro virus. When people received the host Word document via email and opened it, the virus sent a copy of itself to the first 50 people in the victim's address book. Named after a topless dancer in Florida, the Melissa virus crashed the information security of email servers at corporations and governments in different spots around the world. The Computer Emergency Response Team, set up after Robert Morris let loose his worm in 1988, estimated that the virus hit 100,000 computers in its first weekend.
Good computer security means being extremely careful about accepting programs or other files during on-line chat sessions: this seems to be one of the more common means that people wind up with virus or Trojan horse information security problems. And if any other family members (especially younger ones) use the computer, make sure they know not to accept any files while using chat.
Any unknown file is a potential threat to your information security or data security. Treat any file attachments that might contain executable code as carefully as you would any other new files: save the attachment to disk and then check it with up-to-date internet security software before opening the file.
Most instant message programs allow you to automatically logon when you startup your computer so that you don't have to enter your password every time you want to use the program. Remember you can't trust the information security on an unfamiliar computer. If you use a public computer make sure not to configure your IM program for automatic logon.
The National Cyber Security Division (NCSD) is part of the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection in the Department of Homeland Security. NCSD is charged with coordinating the implementation of the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace and serves as the national single point of contact for the public and private sectors regarding computer security, information security and internet security issues. NCSD is also charged with identifying, analyzing, and reducing cyber threats and vulnerabilities; disseminating warning information about threats; coordinating incident response; and providing technical assistance in continuity of operations and recovery planning.
In November of 1987, the Lehigh virus was discovered at Lehigh University in the U.S. It was the first "memory resident file infector". A file-infecting virus attacks executable files. It gets control when the file is opened. The Lehigh virus attacked a file called COMMAND.COM. When the file was run (usually by booting from an infected disk), the virus stayed in the resident memory. Viruses can be stopped by good internet security software and personal firewall software.
After running its course in 2002, in 2003, Bugbear reappeared, but in a far more damaging strain. In 24 hours the newer version, Bugbear.B, caused the same damage that it had taken the previous Bugbear three days to cause. Bugbear.B claimed its new victims quickly because a flaw in Microsoft Outlook meant the program automatically opened e-mail attachments. The person or persons responsible for the virus have not yet been caught. Make sure your email security software does not automatically open attachments, and don't open them yourself unless you are absolutely certain they are safe.
In October 2002, the Bugbear virus infected users running Windows via a security hole in Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express and Internet Explorer. The virus copied itself to the hard drive and on to other computers that shared a network. The virus copied the passwords and credit card numbers a user typed. Then, it could send a file with the personal information to several e-mail addresses. In its first week, 320,000 infected e-mails were sent. Viruses can be stopped by good internet security software and personal firewall software.
In 1995 internet security software companies worried nobody would need them anymore because of Windows 95, which avoided the usual viruses. The most common viruses were still boot viruses that worked on DOS, but wouldn't replicate on Windows 95. But, later in 1995, macro viruses appeared. These viruses worked in the MS-Word environment, not DOS. The anti-virus industry was caught off-guard, but was happy at the same time.
In mid-July 2001, two variants of the Code Red worm began spreading through the Internet. Code Red operated in three stages -- scanning, flooding and sleeping. During the scanning phase, the worm searched for vulnerable computers and ran damaging computer code on them. Next, in the flooding phase, the worm sent bogus data packets to the White House Web site. The White House, however, changed their Web site's IP address and was therefore able to maintain computer security. Experts believed the worm's final sleep mode could last indefinitely, and that even infected machines would not pose a threat to the Internet. The worm also replaced Web site text with the phrase "hacked by Chinese." At its peak, the worm infected 2,000 machines every minute, and infected 359,000 machines and cost $1.2 billion. Because of a Code Red warning many people were able to protect their machines.
Trojan horse programs can be spread inside practically anything people find desirable, such as a free game, movie, song, etc. Firewalls and internet filters include Trojan horse blockers. Victims typically download the Trojan horse from a WWW or FTP site or got it via peer-to-peer file exchange or just carelessly opening some email attachment. Trojans usually do their damage silently. The first sign of trouble is often when others tell you that you are attacking them or trying to infect them.
Here are some tips for protecting your computer and privacy by using a common sense approach to online security. Never give out sensitive personal information, such as your credit card number, social security number, or passwords, in an IM conversation. Only communicate with people on your Contact List or Buddy List. Never agree to meet a stranger in person whom you've met on IM. Never accept files or downloads from people you don't know. Never accept files that you weren't expecting from people you do know. Each IM program assigns you a name, not unlike an e-mail address. This name is usually called a screen name. Choose a name that doesn't give away your personal information. For example, use SassySue instead of DetroitSue.
One reason why the internet security is so vulnerable to hackers and information security problems is because the foundations of the internet were created by scientists who placed a premium on ethical behavior. An early critic of internet security, Cliff Stoll, famously stated that "if we built buildings the way we programmed computers, the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization."
Most historians agree that the first virus to replicate from PC to PC was "Brain". The story goes that Basit and Amjaad Farooq Alvi, owners of a store called Brain Computer Services, wrote the boot sector virus to stealthily leave their contact information on infected computers. Basit and Amjaad claimed they wrote the code to ascertain the extent of software piracy in Pakistan (they were, after all, software vendors). But Brain soon leaked through the Pakistani borders and quite harmlessly infected computers worldwide. The first virus internet security programs were written soon thereafter.
A "cookie" is a way for a particular website to identify returning users and possibly prepare a customized page for them. Have you every been to a website where you have had to fill out certain criteria such as you name and interests? All of this information that you enter gets packaged into a "cookie" and sent to you web browser for storage. When you return to the same website your web browser will send the packaged to cookie to the webserver, and in turn be prepared to load any customized information that you may have specified. For example, rather than seeing a Welcome Screen you may see your name and the last time you visited this site.