What is computer security?
Computer security is the process of preventing and detecting unauthorized use of your computer. Prevention measures help you to stop unauthorized users (also known as “intruders”) from accessing any part of your computer system. Detection enables you to determine whether or not someone attempted to break into your system if they were successful, and what they may have done.
Why should I care about computer security?
We use computers for everything from banking and investing to shopping and communicating with others through email or chat programs. Although you may not consider your communications “top secret,” you probably do not want strangers reading your email, using your computer to attack other systems, sending forged emails from your computer, or examining personal information stored on your computer (such as financial statements).
Who would want to break into my computer at home?
Intruders (also referred to as hackers, attackers, or crackers) may not care about your identity. Often they want to gain control of your computer so they can use it to launch attacks on other computer systems. Having control of your computer allows them to hide their actual location as they launch attacks, often against high-profile computer systems such as government or financial systems. Even if you have a computer connected to the Internet only to play the latest games or to send the email to friends and family, your computer may be a target. Intruders may be able to watch all your actions on the computer or cause damage to your computer by reformatting your hard drive or changing your data.
How easy is it to break into my computer?
Unfortunately, intruders constantly discover new vulnerabilities (informally called “holes”) to exploit in computer software. The complexity of software makes it increasingly difficult to test the security of computer systems thoroughly.
When holes are discovered, computer vendors will usually develop patches to address the problem(s). However, it is up to you, the user, to obtain and install the patches or correctly configure the software to operate more securely. Most of the incident reports of computer break-ins received at the CERT/CC could have been prevented if system administrators and users kept their computers up-to-date with patches and security fixes.
Also, some software applications have default settings that allow other users to access your computer unless you change the settings to be more secure. Examples include chat programs that let outsiders execute commands on your computer or that could allow someone to place harmful programs on your computer that run when you click on them.
This section provides a basic introduction to the technologies that underlie the Internet. It was written with the novice end-user in mind and is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of all Internet-based technologies. Subsections provide a short overview of each topic. This section is a basic primer on the relevant technologies. We include links to additional information for those who desire a deeper understanding of the concepts covered here.
What does broadband mean?
“Broadband” is the general term used to refer to high-speed network connections. In this context, Internet connections via cable modem and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) are frequently referred to as broadband Internet connections. “Bandwidth” is the term used to describe the relative speed of a network connection — for example, most current dial-up modems can support a bandwidth of 56 kbps (thousand bits per second). There is no set bandwidth threshold required for a connection to be called “broadband,” but it is typical for connections over 1 Megabit per second (Mbps) to be so named.
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