Antivirus Internet Security Basics: How Viruses Get on a Computer
Understanding how computer systems get infected by viruses and other malware is key to maintaining computer security. Find out how computer security gets compromised in this informative article.
Recently a computer security expert stated that the only way to keep a computer 100% safe was to never turn it on. It turns out this inaccurate and a little misleading. A computer used solely to type up and print out documents, never connected to the Internet and that never received files transferred from some other computer, could in fact be a useful 100% secure computer system. This brings us to the two main ways viruses and other malware get on a computer: through a network like the Internet and file transfers from other computers.
Users want to attach computers to the Internet and receive emails, instant messages; browse web pages, download music and fun software etc. The problem is that this puts not just millions but billions of people at their doorstep! Imagine that if billions of people could reach a home instantly – how many ill intentioned people would come by to see if the doors and windows were secured? How many con artists would knock on the door? An Internet connected computer is in just that predicament.
When a computer is connected to a network by design it starts listening for communications from the outside world. Things known as ports get created which are special “doors” to the computer. These doors are special because they each have a designated program that will answer the door if it is knocked on. Examples of programs that listen for traffic from the network include:
Even the operating system itself opens ports to share files or a printer or anything else on the computer. Each of those programs creates a “door” to a computer that it will answer if someone “knocks” on it. If that program is poorly designed then when it answers the “knocking” program could take advantage of it and thus compromise the computer.
In addition to people being able to come across the Internet and knock on one of the “doors” mentioned above - by using a web browser and surfing the Internet users are inviting people to access their computers. Every time a web site is browsed the web browser is downloading files to the computer and processing them. If that web browser is not programmed properly it is a huge security risk. For example on December 12 of 2008 Microsoft reported a big security hole in all versions of its Internet Explorer browser. The hole permitted data stealing software to be installed on the victim’s computer just by browsing an infected web page! Other examples of programs that invite access to your computer:
The above represents the basics and go a long way to protecting computer systems.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yves A Martin is the founder of M-Qual Computer and Internet Specialists: a network engineering and small business technical support firm based out of Philadelphia, PA. MQual have been servicing the New York - Philadelphia - Delaware Valley region for over 10 years with expert computer solutions.