If you've been diligent about keeping up to date on computer security issues, you probably are aware that the number of attempts by hackers to violate home computer systems has been on the rise. However, according to an experiment performed by the BBC News Website team, the number of regular attacks on unprotected computers is far higher than many anticipated.
The experiment showed that the average home computer is at risk of being attacked more than 50 times a night. The BBC team set up a “honeypot, " a computer that is programmed to masquerade as a vulnerable system but that actually tracks and records attacks made on it, and hooked it up to a broadband internet connection for seven hours. According to the BBC website, the honeypot used was “a PC running Windows XP Pro that was made as secure as possible. This ran a software program called VMWare which allows it to host another ‘virtual’ PC inside the host. " Using VMWare, the experimenters then installed an unprotected version of Windows XP Home, configured to mimic characteristics of an average home computer. During the seven-hour time span, 53 attacks were made on the system - one about every 12 to 15 minutes.
Scary? Yes. Especially when considering the types of attacks:
- 36 “warnings" and ads for fake security software, which likely were links or download buttons for spyware or other malware. Remember the “don't click the popups" rule? This is why.
- 14 worm attacks - 11 by “Blaster" worms and 3 by “Slammer" worms, both of which would have rendered the machine useless.
- 2 port scans were attempted, most likely by hackers looking for vulnerabilities.
- 1 attempt at a computer hijack, which, if successful, would have left the computer under control of the hacker who made the attempt.
- Install antivirus software that scans for and removes viruses, spyware, and adware on your computer.
- Install a popup blocker.
- Install and run a firewall to keep hackers and attackers at bay.
- Install a threat scanner to periodically scan for malware.
- Update your software and computer programs regularly.
- Don't open emails or follow links sent to you from unfamiliar sources.
- Don't download files or programs from unknown sources.
- Avoid websites notorious for adware and spyware, such as adult sites and gaming sites.
- Don't click on popup ads or security “warnings. "