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Every network can get compromised

Vlad Valceanu | July 7, 2009
Understanding the risk unsecured Internet access poses to your business.

Any company that maintains and stores data on their computers and has Internet access is a potential target of cyber criminals. Understanding how these attacks are performed is vital information in order to protect against them.

E-mail, news feeds and Web searches are tools that any modern company uses to communicate, stay up-to-date and find relevant information that help them stay one step ahead of the competition. However Internet access is mostly never used exclusively for work-related tasks. Every now and then, people are tempted to check what their friends wrote on each others wall (Facebook), what they are doing at the time (Twitter) or are simply curious about how they personalised their MySpace profile.

Sometimes even while reading e-mails from colleagues or partners, carefully-crafted spam can trick employees into executing files with unknown origin.

Using instant messengers is also a risk. There are Trojans and worms crafted specifically to make use of these applications in order to replicate. It is highly probable for someone to accept a file or follow a link coming from a friend. The same principle is used when social network worms spread across thousands of profiles.

Whichever the infection vector, the fact is that once a computer has been compromised, infection of the whole network is imminent. One of the simplest examples is using removable devices such as USB sticks or MP3 players to move files from a computer to another. If the file owner's computer is infected, the device will probably carry the e-threat to the destination and infect other computers as well, since most malware is able to do this.

Practical tips

There are a couple of hints that people and businesses can use to protect their computers and networks. Although these tips don't guarantee safety, following them will certainly reduce infection risks and improve security.

1.    Back up sensitive data on optical disks (CD, DVD)

2.    Acquire and use a reliable security solution. Make sure the product has passed tests of the more respected testers of anti-virus software (Checkmark, Av-Test.org, TuV are among them)

3.    Make sure your security solution includes a firewall and configure it to notify you of inbound and outbound connection attempts. Also read the text on the notification, don't just hit OK. If your security solution doesn't have a firewall, change it.

4.    Keep all the software and the operating system up-to-date. Most of them have automatic updating options. Make use of these as much as you can. This will ensure no known vulnerabilities can be exploited remotely (most of the attacks make use of these vulnerabilities).

5.    Don't trust anyone. Be a little paranoid. Scan every file you receive and keep your security products resident shield active. Most Web attacks are blocked this way. If your security solution doesn't have a resident shield, change it.

 

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