Sunday, December 8, 2013

Information Systems Security Primer – Final Parts

This is the fourth and fifth part of Fortune 100 Corporation Security Director Ken Lobenstein’s primer on computer security and more...


Part IV.   

When you use the Internet to connect to the legal research service, a whole lot of people know you’re out there and they can find your network and your computer and they can do lots of ugly things to it and to your information. Now your computers can get infected without you even knowing anyone or anything is touching your computers. You need anti-virus software on steroids, something that watches which Internet sites you connect to, looks at what’s on them, and stops the ugly stuff from coming in by hiding in the middle of a stream of good stuff. Or pretending to be good stuff. 

And when you went on the Internet, you probably also signed up for email. Really bad for security. So now your anti-virus software has to be smart enough to scan websites for what’s lurking there and check email for spam (junk mail) and phishing attacks that are messages that try to trick you into giving up personal information (or worse, client’s personal information). 

There also are people out there looking for computers they can “borrow”. Why would they want to do that? Well, usually, because they want to do something they don’t want to get caught doing, so they want to do it from someone else’s computer. They want to store movies they stole from Sony, but not on their computers; they’ll use yours. Or pretty much anything illegal or unsavory. So when you download that stock quote program so you can watch your portfolio value plummet by the second, what you really downloaded was a "studio" that is sending illegally pirated movies around the world from your computer!

So now you may want to add a box or a piece of software called a firewall. Just like the wall between two townhouses that keeps a fire in your neighbor’s unit from spreading into yours, a computer firewall keeps a flaming mess from getting into your computer from the forest fire of illegal activity that’s going on all over the Internet. It knows how to analyze traffic coming at you across the Internet and spot and stop the bad stuff. Files you don’t want on your computer. 

Part V. 

If you’re doing all these things from a court system that either handles large numbers of cases, or lots of high profile cases, there are people out there who might want to disrupt what you’re doing. So they might try to flood your network connection to stop useful traffic from getting in our out: electronic filings, notices to or from the parties, stuff like that. This is called a denial of service (DoS: not the same as DOS, a very old personal computer operating system) attack. In a more sophisticated form, a DoS attack may try to get past your firewall and flood your network and all the computers on it so not only can you not communicate with the outside world, you can’t even run your own computers and network. 

The good news is, that the firewall we put in to protect you from the wild and wooly Internet can also protect you from DoS attacks too.  But it must be configured properly and therefore professional assistance will be required for an enterprise such as a court.

Your Personal Firewall

Newer computers running Microsoft Windows and Apple OSX operating systems turn on your personal firewall by default; or at least ask you to do so.  If you want to check, the following web pages are provided as an example. If you have a different version, these pages can get you into the correct section of their websites.

Further, if you want to check your home network router, you can use Gibson Research Corporation's ShieldsUp! service to run a test.  Please note that if you decide to do so please read all the warnings on the page before you do so.  The test can be found at:

I have used Gibson Research software since the 80's and can give them a complete endorsement. 

More on Passwords

And last, security blogger/author Mark Burnett has written a post on the 10,000 worst passwords after analyzing his collection of over 6 million.  You can download the list from the web page linked above. But please note that there are, shall we say, adult themed words included.  He explains why in the comments section.  

Stay safe out there.

Previous articles in the series are linked below:

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