What You Should Know About Cyber Security Threats – A Primer, Part I

Internet security is fast becoming a major concern as more government, private, financial and defense organizations get connected to the world wide web.

Financial transactions, booking tickets for movies, hotels and flights, communicating with family, friends and colleagues – Information Technology is widely used in all these areas of our life and more. Our lives are getting intertwined with the interconnected digital world – and therein lies the concern.

This interconnected digital world is increasingly getting misused by cyber criminals – stealing financial and private data from individuals and organizations. Sensitive data like credit card number, bank account number, user log-in information, defense secrets – nothing seems to be safe from this threat, and the cases of security breaches are only increasing day by day.

On top of stealing data, they can install malicious software on user’s machine, and also control and use computer resources remotely without user’s consent. In some cases a compromised computer can be used as a ‘host’ to launch attacks on other computers on a network.

In this scenario it is important that everyone learns about these cyber threats. Knowing about these threats and the ways to mitigate them will help you to keep and transmit data safely over the cyber space.

There are two types of cyber security threats – active and passive attacks.

Active attacks attempt to alter data and system resources. Capture and retransmission of altered data, Denial of Service (DOS) attacks are active in nature.

Passive attacks monitors and captures data without altering it. Email monitoring for sensitive data, port listening, network packet sniffing, all these are passive attacks.

Computers on a network operates on a seven layer architecture. This architecture is based on the Open System Interconnection (OSI) model developed by International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Each of these layers has specific associated functions.

A cyber attacker can target any of these layers – and access to a single layer can open up vulnerabilities in other layers. The whole network can be compromised this way. It follows that an entire network is as strong as its weakest layer.

ITU has specific recommendations for assessing and providing network security. Unfortunately network security is often a neglected area in any organization and this is allowing cyber attackers gain easy access to important networks.

In the 2nd part of this series we will look at the tools used in cyber attacks and available remedies.

To be continued..

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