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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Computer insecurity

Computer insecurity refers to the concept that a computer system is always vulnerable to attack, and that this fact creates a constant battle between those looking to improve security, and those looking to circumvent security.

Security and systems design

Although there are many aspects to take into consideration when designing a computer system, security can prove to be very important. According to Symantec, in 2010 94 percent of organizations polled expect to implement security improvements to their computer systems, with 42 percent claiming cyber security as their top risk.
At the same time many organizations are improving security, many types of cyber criminals are finding ways to continue their activities. Almost every type of cyber attack is on the rise. In 2009 respondents to the CSI Computer Crime and Security Survey admitted that malware infections, denial-of-service attacks, password sniffing, and web site defacements were significantly higher than in the previous two years.

Financial cost

Serious financial damage has been caused by security breaches, but because there is no standard model for estimating the cost of an incident, the only data available is that which is made public by the organizations involved. “Several computer security consulting firms produce estimates of total worldwide losses attributable to virus and worm attacks and to hostile digital acts in general. The 2003 loss estimates by these firms range from $13 billion (worms and viruses only) to $226 billion (for all forms of covert attacks). The reliability of these estimates is often challenged; the underlying methodology is basically anecdotal.”  Insecurities in operating systems have led to a massive black market[citation needed] for rogue software. An attacker can use a security hole to install software that tricks the user into buying a product. At that point, an affiliate program pays the affiliate responsible for generating that installation about $30. The software is sold for between $50 and $75 per license.


There are many similarities (yet many fundamental differences) between computer and physical security. Just like real-world security, the motivations for breaches of computer security vary between attackers, sometimes called hackers or crackers. Some are thrill-seekers or vandals (the kind often responsible for defacing web sites); similarly, some web site defacements are done to make political statements. However, some attackers are highly skilled and motivated with the goal of compromising computers for financial gain or espionage. An example of the latter is Markus Hess (more diligent than skilled), who spied for the KGB and was ultimately caught because of the efforts of Clifford Stoll, who wrote a memoir, The Cuckoo's Egg, about his experiences. For those seeking to prevent security breaches, the first step is usually to attempt to identify what might motivate an attack on the system, how much the continued operation and information security of the system are worth, and who might be motivated to breach it. The precautions required for a home personal computer are very different for those of banks' Internet banking systems, and different again for a classified military network. Other computer security writers suggest that, since an attacker using a network need know nothing about you or what you have on your computer, attacker motivation is inherently impossible to determine beyond guessing. If true, blocking all possible attacks is the only plausible action to take.

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