Information technologies can be misused to invade users’ privacy and commit computer crimes. Spyware is software that secretly gathers information about users while they browse the Web. This information could be used for malicious purposes. Spyware can also interfere with users’ control of their computers, through such methods as installing additional software and redirecting Web browsers. Some spyware changes computer settings, resulting in slow Internet connections, changes to users’ default home pages, and loss of functions in other programs.
Adware is a form of spyware that collects information about the user (without the user’s consent) to determine which advertisements to display in the user’s Web browser. In addition to antivirus soft-ware, an ad-blocking feature should be installed in your Web browser to protect against adware.
Phishing is sending fraudulent emails that seem to come from legitimate sources, such as a bank or university. The e-mails usually direct recipients to false Web sites that look like the real thing for the purpose of capturing personal information, such as Social Security numbers, passwords, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers. Spear phishing is the same as phishing. The difference is that the attack is targeted toward a specific person or group.
Pharming is similar to phishing in that Internet users are directed to fraudulent Web sites with the intention of stealing their personal information, such as Social Security numbers, passwords, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers. The difference is that pharm-ers usually hijack an official Web site address by hacking a domain name system server, then alter the legitimate Web site IP address so that users who enter the correct Web adderss are directed to the pharmers’ fraudulent Web site. Baiting is similar to phishing attacks. What distinguishes it from phishing is the promise that the baiter gives to the recipient.
Computer fraud is the unauthorized use of computer data for personal gain, such as transferring money from another’s account or charging purchases to someone else’s account. Many of the technologies discussed previously can be used for committing computer crimes. Another computer crime is sabotage, which involves destroying or disrupting computer services. Computer criminals change, delete, hide, or use computer files for personal gain. Usually called hackers, many of them break into computer systems for personal satisfaction, but others seek financial gain.
In recent years, ransomware has been created, which is a type of malware designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. Hackers and computer criminals have been using ransomware to receive money from both individuals and corporations. A comprehensive security system protects an organization’s resources, including information, computer, and network equipment.