Many people rely on the Internet for many of their professional, social and personal activities. But there are also people who attempt to damage our Internet-connected computers, violate our privacy and render inoperable the Internet services.
Given the frequency and variety of existing attacks as well as the threat of new and more destructive future attacks, network security has become a central topic in the field of computer networking.
How are computer networks vulnerable? What are some of the more prevalent types of attacks today?
Malware – short for malicious software which is specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain authorized access to a computer system. Much of the malware out there today is self-replicating: once it infects one host, from that host it seeks entry into other hosts over the Internet, and from the newly infected hosts, it seeks entry into yet more hosts. In this manner, self-replicating malware can spread exponentially fast.
Virus – A malware which requires some form of user’s interaction to infect the user’s device. The classic example is an e-mail attachment containing malicious executable code. If a user receives and opens such an attachment, the user inadvertently runs the malware on the device.
Worm – A malware which can enter a device without any explicit user interaction. For example, a user may be running a vulnerable network application to which an attacker can send malware. In some cases, without any user intervention, the application may accept the malware from the Internet and run it, creating a worm.
Botnet – A network of private computers infected with malicious software and controlled as a group without the owners’ knowledge, e.g. to send spam.
DoS (Denial of Service) – A DoS attack renders a network, host, or other pieces of infrastructure unusable by legitimate users. Most Internet DoS attacks fall into one of three categories :
• Vulnerability attack: This involves sending a few well-crafted messages to a vulnerable application or operating system running on a targeted host. If the right sequence of packets is sent to a vulnerable application or operating system, the service can stop or, worse, the host can crash.
• Bandwidth flooding: The attacker sends a deluge of packets to the targeted host—so many packets that the target’s access link becomes clogged, preventing legitimate packets from reaching the server.
• Connection flooding: The attacker establishes a large number of half-open or fully open TCP connections at the target host. The host can become so bogged down with these bogus connections that it stops accepting legitimate connections.
DDoS (Distributed DoS) – DDoS is a type of DOS attack where multiple compromised systems, are used to target a single system causing a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. DDoS attacks leveraging botnets with thousands of comprised hosts are a common occurrence today. DDoS attacks are much harder to detect and defend against than a DoS attack from a single host.
Packet sniffer – A passive receiver that records a copy of every packet that flies by is called a packet sniffer. By placing a passive receiver in the vicinity of the wireless transmitter, that receiver can obtain a copy of every packet that is transmitted! These packets can contain all kinds of sensitive information, including passwords, social security numbers, trade secrets, and private personal messages. some of the best defenses against packet sniffing involve cryptography.
IP Spoofing – The ability to inject packets into the Internet with a false source address is known as IP spoofing, and is but one of many ways in which one user can masquerade as another user. To solve this problem, we will need end-point authentication, that is, a mechanism that will allow us to determine with certainty if a message originates from where we think it does.
Man-in-the-Middle Attack – As the name indicates, a man-in-the-middle attack occurs when someone between you and the person with whom you are communicating is actively monitoring, capturing, and controlling your communication transparently. For example, the attacker can re-route a data exchange. When computers are communicating at low levels of the network layer, the computers might not be able to determine with whom they are exchanging data.
Compromised-Key Attack – A key is a secret code or number necessary to interpret secured information. Although obtaining a key is a difficult and resource-intensive process for an attacker, it is possible. After an attacker obtains a key, that key is referred to as a compromised key. An attacker uses the compromised key to gain access to a secured communication without the sender or receiver being aware of the attack.
Phishing – The fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
DNS spoofing – Also referred to as DNS cache poisoning, is a form of computer security hacking in which corrupt Domain Name System data is introduced into the DNS resolver’s cache, causing the name server to return an incorrect IP address.
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