Editor : Martin Simamora, S.IP |Martin Simamora Press

Rabu, 04 Mei 2011

Cyber Security : The top 10 online threats

This year the World Wide Web comes of age. It’s 21 years since Tim Berners-Lee created the web while developing ways to control computers remotely at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. But as its reach and influence grows, the number of ways the web infuriates us grows too. A report by US security firm Barracuda Networks suggests one in every five internet searches leads to a malware infection. Another, by McAfee Security, claims that of the top 100 results in every search listing, 60 sites contain some form of malware. Our online escapades are killing productivity, damaging computer systems worldwide and making the web harder to use. John Brandon looks at the top 10 web annoyances and reveals how to avoid them


PROBLEM: The American actor is all over the news – and according to Anup Ghosh, founder of web protection service Invincea, his name leads to more malware infections that any other search term. Hackers manipulate search results so that when you click on a link, your computer is compromised.
SOLUTION: Avoid searching for popular cultural icons, since hackers use those terms as a honeypot. Otherwise, use a browser that spots them, such as IE9.


PROBLEM: First of all, there is no actual man in your browser. Instead, this technique involves a small Trojan virus that infects your computer when you visit a site. Then, when you go to use an online banking portal, the man-in-the- browser captures the data stream to steal your account information. In some cases, the deadliest Trojan horses can actually intercept bank transfers.
SOLUTION: One of the best defences is to avoid internet transfers altogether. If you must do them, use a malware-sniffing agent beforehand.


PROBLEM: You search for some innocuous term such as ‘Swiss Alps’ and click on one of the first links. The site looks legitimate: there’s a picture of the mountains and some text about what to do when you visit. But these content farms pull images and text from other sites, bait the search engines with optimised programming and then slam you with banner ads and text links that lead to malware sites.
SOLUTION: Learn to identify these fake sites, which often use bland colour schemes, simple font arrangements and no corporate branding.


PROBLEM: In February, the London Stock Exchange site served up banner ads that contained malicious malware, infecting thousands. Since reputable sites often use third-party ad networks, in this case the UK ad service Unanimis, then in turn serve up third-party ads from unknown advertising, it’s often difficult to track where the ads originated and what damage they can cause.
SOLUTION: This practice of malvertising is extremely difficult to eradicate since it has so many co-dependencies.


PROBLEM: Cookies are the bane of the web, as these small software nuggets can track what you do. When you visit a site, they are installed without your knowledge.
SOLUTION: In the US, new Do Not Track legislation will force those who run web servers to protect against cookies. Private industry has also taken action: in Firefox 4, you can enable a Do Not Track feature that warns you about sites that distribute cookies and can block them. And Internet Explorer 9 includes a Tracking Protection feature that blocks cookies.


PROBLEM: Sites such as Spokeo. com are notorious for doling out personal information to anyone with a PayPal account: once you register, you can look up the income of your neighbour, see if your boss has been divorced and even check the religious views of a co-worker. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission has reported that there is an official complaint against Spokeo.
SOLUTION: None. Hundreds of sites track personal information, some legitimately. Security experts argue that personal data on the web is part of living in the digital age.


PROBLEM: One of the most well- known features in Gmail and Yahoo! Mail is causing serious productivity loss: the reply-all button. As Simpler Consulting vice president Tim Whitmore notes, it causes workplace slowdowns because in the vast majority of cases there is no need to include everyone.
SOLUTION: The simple solution, Whitmore says, is to think about who really needs to know about the dialogue and include only those recipients. “If the email chain is getting out of hand, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone,” he adds.


PROBLEM: Some advertisers have figured out how to inject code into your browser or a website and have disabled the back button, which is what you use to return to a previously visited site. The advertisers then inundate you with banner ads, play annoying music and disrupt your web travels.
SOLUTION: The only solution, other than avoiding sites that look questionable, is to look for the close box or click a bookmark to visit a different site.


PROBLEM: If the WikiLeaks documents reveal anything, it is that nothing is safe on the web. As Invincea’s Ghosh explains, stolen business documents could lead to serious breaches – not just at a government level, but in corporations as well. “This is more than just a web annoyance,” says Ghosh, citing the Night Dragon and Aurora cyber attacks used by criminal gangs to steal corporate intellectual property.
SOLUTION: Companies should take precautions to protect data. Web browsing is not for the faint of heart.


PROBLEM: Another annoyance has to do with the poor programming skills of web developers. As ProSite Web Design president Tom Warthen explains, headaches arise from errors on web pages, poor programming routines, broken links at a website and slowdowns caused by programming shortcuts. Forrester Research reported in 2009 that nearly half of all website visitors expect a page to load in two seconds or less.
SOLUTION: Warthen says better programming, especially using the latest Java controls, can help reduce errors.


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