With all the interruptions to the Radiant Freedom blog and operations lately, at the hands of those hackers, I would say it's about time to talk a bit about network security. To start with, I'll define a few terms for you.
But first, let's go over what I'll be covering in this post:
- Some Computer and Network Security Terminology
- Why is security so important?
- What can I do to protect myself?
- Information stored on a computer.
- A set of related data, such as a Word document, or a picture.
- Software (Program):
- Data that can be run to perform some task. For example, MS Word is a software that helps you write documents on your computer, and World of Warcraft is a game software that provides many with entertainment.
- A type of program that aides in using the internet.
- A connection between 2 or more computers, that share data, programs, and other resources like printers. An example of a network that we all use daily is the internet – you're using it now to read this blog post, in fact.
- Someone who creates computer programs.
- A type of programmer who writes malware or attempts to gain unauthorized access into someone's computer/network.
- A weakness that a hacker can use to get access to your system.
- A special type of software that's designed to be harmful to your computer, data or privacy. Types of malware include:
- One of the earliest types, it infects other files, such as a runnable (executable) program, spreads itself to anything connected to the infected computer and does something harmful when some conditions are met, such as at a specific time, after a certain number of hours have passed or when some event happens, like login into your computer the next time.
- Similar to a virus, but it's a program that runs independantly, no need to infect an existing program like a virus does.
- Trojan Horse (or Trojan for short):
- A type of program that looks harmless or even beneficial, and tricks the victem into installing it, at which point it opens up a hole in your security and can allow a hacker to install other malware or gain unauthorized access to and control over your computer/network.
- A type of program that monitor's activity and sends this data to someone else. This can be used to get information about someone for identity theft, to get someone's login (username and password) or steal important information.
- Not all adwares are necessarily harmful on their own, some just download ads to another software, but some are harmful and can send your browser to attack or scam websites. Regardless of whether an adware is harmful or not, it does represent a vulnerability that a hacker can use to gain access to your system.
OK, so now that some common terminology in network security has been defined for you, let's move on to what you can do to protect yourself from such attacks. But first...
There are many ways a hacker can wreck havoc on your life, and the lives of countless others if they can gain unauthorized access to a system.
First off, they can shut it down by destroying the operating system or just turning it off remotely and preventing it from being turned back on. Alternately, they can hijack the system and use it to hack into more systems, all the while hiding this fact from the legitimate users, so you may never know your system's been compromised. Or they can hijack the system and lock out legitimate users from accessing it. This is where a company or individual can be effectively shut down completely. This was the nature of the attacks on Radiant Freedom, controlling the administration accounts and preventing legitimate users from logging into the site by altering usernames and passwords.
Another possibility is to load malware, such as a virus, onto the computer and have it lay dormant and spreading to other computers, memory sticks and pretty much anything else that can hold data, then suddenly strike to do some damage, such as wiping a hard drive off all stored data, for instance. Or the hacker could load up spyware to learn the admin passwords to gain more control later -- or to gain access to personal info to use in identity theft.
Other times a hacker might be looking to gain access just for bragging rights and does no real damage. Still, the dangers are too high to rely on this being the case, and once a hacker has compromised your system, even if only for bragging rights, you can be sure that other hackers who do have more malicious motives in mind will test their skill on your system.
The first thing you can do is make sure you keep yourself protected with a good password that an attacker would not be able to guess, and keep that password to yourself. One common way a hacker will get access is by tricking the victim onto giving the hacker his/her password and username. Another common mistake is to use a password that a hacker could easily guess.
Using proper names, words in the dictionary, or sequential numbers (eg password: 1234apple). These passwords are too easy for a hacker to guess, so throw in a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, special characters and don't use any names or words, at least not without mixing deliberate mis-spellings, replacement of parts of the word with something else, and combining multiple words together with special characters, and numbers. The biggest thing is don't be predictable about anything except not sharing your password with anyone.
Now, a strong password is a huge part of the battle, but not all of it. It still can't protect you from something harmful sneaking in with legitimate data, or a hacker from finding another way to gain access to your system, so you also need to have some protection against such things. That's where a firewall comes in. It can be either physical hardware, or a program (software) that limits access to your system to only those areas where you want access. A good firewall can also catch malware and hacking attempts before they even reach your system, thus preventing a problem from reaching you in the first place.
Still, even with the best passwords and firewalls around, things do get in one way or another. So you need to have a good program to scan for malware and remove it. Most modern anti-virus programs will scan for all of the forms of malware mentioned above and more! A good anti-virus program will catch all the most common viruses, Trojans, adwares and so on. But specialized anti-spyware programs are still the more effective at catching the spyware and adware types of malware.
On my own computer I use AVG Internet Security. Which comes with anti-virus, anti-spyware and a firewall, as well as many other features to keep your computer safe.
If you want to protect your computer from the types of attacks that went on here, you can get AVG Internet Security by clicking on either the link above or the image below:
As for protecting my website here, I've bought SiteLock to provide the security for this website, and keep the attackers out so the site remains available for people like you to learn and prosper.