Information security is a hot topic, and there are plenty of reasons for that. This post will focus on the hows and whys of keeping it safe at home.
Ok, I probably need to read this. But who's my enemy?
There are plenty of them, and knowing them makes it easier to stay protected. Here's the list of enemies:
- The guys building the botnets What the heck is a botnet? It's a net of bots. What 's a bot? It's someones personal (mostly) computer, infected with a piece of malware (virus) that silently runs on the computer. That piece of malware opens up a connection to someone on the internet, letting that person control the infected computer. Yes, thats how most viruses works today. The process of getting that particular connection-making piece of malware on to the computer might be complex, but it is nowadays commonly caused by visiting a website that silently downloads a piece of software to start the process. When the "bad guy" finally have access to that personal computer, it's all business from there on. A successful "bad guy" might pull of the previously described process on, say 50.000 – 100.000 computers. Those computers are "bots" and they are all accessible to the "bad guy" and part of his botnet. Ok, the numbers will vary. They are not all online or powered up at the same time, some bots will be added with newly infected computers, and some fall of due to successful cleaning activities. The "bad guy" most often have no interest in whats on your computer – it's just an online resource waiting for commands. So, what tasks does the bad guy have in mind for his bots? Well, have you ever wondered where SPAM come from? SPAM, those emails telling you that you won a million dollars, or that you should send money to someone at Haiti, or saying that Viagra is cheap, they are all sent out from bots. Billions of SPAM emails are sent out every day, most of the are filtered, but enough of them slip through. And, enough of them convince the reciever of it's commercial goal, and someone gets a little money. Not a little by the way – it's enough to make the botnet owners busy with their business idea. And if they dont have any SPAM mails of their own, they turn the botnet into a rental. Rent a botnet for a week, and make money on SPAM. Thats their idea. You could also rent the botnet for even more evil purposes, say launching a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack at some company or website that you dislike. This is also a business for the person renting the botnet, as those attacks are very handy when pulling of an extorison. So to sum it up. It's all business.
- The guys that transfer money from one place to another, online (your money..) Yep, online banking. Forget about getting robbed out on the street at night (well, maybe not..), nowadays you might get robbed on some dark corner of the Internet. "Online banking trojans" and "DNS spoofing" are common methods. A piece of malware (virus) on your computer, or your home router (not that common), will make it possible for someone to hijack your banking session or creating their own session, leaving you with an empty bank account. It works with Casino or Poker sites too. "Yeah thats plausible, but they never get away with the real money, because they'll get arrested when making a withdrawal at the bank office". Yeah? Back to enemy # 1. Ever got an email saying: "Dear sir/madam, I'm in a tight spot as I'm in exile and my assets are to be frozen. I need you to quickly make a withdrawal from my account, and making a deposit at another bank. You will get further instructions. You will get to keep 10% of the assets."
- The guys forcing you to pay for something you don't need or want (ending up with more things you don't need or want..). This is commonly known as "rouge anti virus". You end up on a webpage and suddenly a pop-up window is telling you something like "Warning! Malware is detected on your computer! Press OK to scan your computer NOW!". It doesn't matter if you press OK or Abort. And you cannot click your way out of it no matter how you try. Malware is downloaded and executed on your computer while you just sit there and watch a fake progressbar of a virus scan, showing that you have some twelve viruses on your computer. (Which you don't have…well, now you might have it..). The rouge anti virus removes a lot of options on your desktop and start menu, and instead add shortcuts to your newly installed "Anti virus". You will constantly be prompted to buy the full version of the "Anti virus" application in order to restore your now very crippled computer. I dont know if buying your way out actually restores your computers functionality, but what often works the little keylogger that comes with the rouge anti virus app. You buy the full version online with your credit card and..oops, there goes your bank account.
- The guys that break stuff for no reason. This is very uncommon nowadays, since focus have moved to the profit instead. If you break stuff, you get caught and you don't make any profit. However, the Internet is full of it, and if you dont keep after your computer…it will suffer. In the old days, before the hackers and the mafia wrote their SLA's, viruses and malware did evil stuff like erasing files and stuff. If it happens to you, it's probably an old hacker going retro..
- You (yes, you!). You probably think I'm kidding, but the headline says "Information security", not "IT-security". That means I'm going to focus on your behavior and habits, not just what's going on inside your computer. How do you manage USB sticks? Where do you throw your credit card transaction receipts? Is your wireless secure? How about the things you can no longer do if your computer gets stolen?
Measures of protection
Continued in part 2 >>