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| Security Risks for Digital Media Designers || part2
Spyware's Ugly Face
Spyware is one of the most worrisome Internet threats that computer users face today. The term applies to standalone programs that can secretly monitor system activity and relay the information back to another computer. Some spyware is legitimate. Some corporations use it to monitor employees' Internet usage, and parents use spyware programs to monitor their children's online activity. But it is the less-than-legitimate spyware that represents a security risk to designers, particularly since it can be used for identity theft and fraud.
There are a number of ways by which spyware can be installed on a user's system. Some spyware programs are made available as freeware-that is, as software that can be downloaded at no charge. These programs usually require the user to agree to an end user license agreement (EULA). Other spyware programs do not include a EULA. Consequently, users are advised to use security solutions that detect spyware regardless of the presence of an EULA.
Spyware programs can also be bundled with a legitimate program. This bundling is not done by the legitimate program producer or distributor but rather by someone who wants access to confidential data that users may divest as they use the legitimate program. The software package is then placed on a public download site or is sent to a newsgroup for maximum exposure. It is executed when the user runs the legitimate program.
Spyware can also be installed through a Web browser using ActiveX controls or browser helper objects (BHOs). BHOs are add-on programs that can add features to a user's browser. To reduce this risk, it is recommended that users disable ActiveX wherever possible or configure their browser to require a prompt for ActiveX controls to execute. Then, should the browser present a dialogue box that is not expected, the user should not click anywhere on the dialogue box but, instead, immediately close the browser window.
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| Design professionals are advised to be extremely cautious when removing spyware. Programs should be removed as non-intrusively as possible in order to minimize any problems that might result from the removal of the program. To avoid these types of problems, it may be necessary to ignore some non-critical aspects of these programs such as benign registry keys left behind during the uninstall process.
Best Practices for Computer Users
By following a number of general best practices, designers can significantly reduce their exposure to today's Internet threats. For example, computer users should use an Internet security solution that combines antivirus, firewall, intrusion detection, and vulnerability management for maximum protection against complex, blended threats. They should also ensure that security patches are up-to-date and that passwords are a mix of letters and numbers. Additionally, passwords should not include dictionary words, and they should be changed often.
Email attachments continue to pose a major security risk to users. They should avoid viewing, opening, or executing any email attachment unless the purpose of the attachment is known. Virus definitions should be updated regularly. By deploying the latest virus definitions, designers are protected against the latest viruses known to be spreading "in the wild." Users are also counseled to routinely check to see if their PCs or Macintosh systems are vulnerable to threats by using an online vulnerability scanning service from a reputable information security provider.
Education, in harmony with reliable security solutions, is vital to thwarting security breaches. Design professionals should learn to recognize computer hoaxes and phishing scams. Hoaxes typically include a bogus email warning to "send this to everyone you know" and improper technical jargon to frighten or mislead users. Phishing scams are much more sophisticated. Users must remember that most legitimate businesses will never ask users to disclose confidential information over the Internet. The best course of action is to simply delete these types of emails.