Security Dangers and Vulnerabilities

Computer security on college campuses has unique challenges:

weakest link      
  • the availability of high speed campus computer networks
  • an abundance of sensitive data
  • computer users with varying expertise sharing the network
  • a variety of operating systems at different service pack levels
  • computers online when not in use

The current state of computing adds these concerns:

  • Complex desktop operating systems with unnecessary services enabled.
  • Complex web application software with potentially harmful ActiveX, Java or Javascript code that executes when the web page loads.
  • Peer-to-peer file sharing programs with insecure default configurations.
  • Ad-ware and Spyware distributed and installed with popular file sharing programs.
    • Adware detects the subject of the page you are viewing so it can send you targeted advertising.
    • Spyware tracks all your browsing habits and sends this personal information to a marketing server.
    • These parasite programs use your computer's processing power and slow your computer's performance.
  • Keyloggers - programs that can track your every keystroke, capture your usename, password or PIN and use it later to compromise your privacy.
  • Increased incidence of security holes as malicious users create and share exploits to break into systems.
  • "Spoofed" Websites - users are directed by e-mail to what appears to be a legitimate website, but in reality is a copy-cat “spoofed” website created to steal your login information. Some phishers have even created spoofed websites which appear to have the security "padlock" icon in the browser status bar.
  • Trojans - code entering computers through applications or data files the user downloads or opens. It allows a remote user access to your computer.
  • Viruses - code appearing as e-mail attachments. It may infect files, prohibit normal functioning, or send out personal data from your computer.
  • Worms - code that replicates itself over the computer network, infecting more computers and consuming system resources.

These issues contribute to making computers - especially those on college campuses - targets and easy prey for hackers and malware.

For a list of Headline News and Alerts, along with excellent Cyber Security Tips from the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), see UD Security Home.

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