attacks, threats continue
9/26/2003 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) -- Government
computers and official information are subject to a wide range of threats and
vulnerabilities that are a constant, invisible threat to penetrate military networks
and degrade warfighting abilities.
Along with those nameless, faceless hostile enemies there is also a threat from
simple computer hobbyists experimenting with readily available free software
to detect and exploit security holes in operating systems, e-mail and browser
New attacks against computer systems occur nearly as fast as software vendors
can produce security patches. Computer hackers analyze each new generation of
security patches to determine how previous security vulnerabilities were corrected.
By doing this, these computer hackers have frequently found new vulnerabilities
to exploit. Once hackers identify new vulnerabilities, they use the Internet
to spread the word to others on how to exploit these defense weaknesses. Hacker
groups even distribute free software tools that could be highly effective in
attacks against operating systems.
Software manufacturers, including Microsoft, continue to stay ahead of the hackers,
but virus-development time is becoming shorter, so new protective measures must
be developed to avoid network catastrophes.
If malicious individuals are unable to break through network firewalls to launch
an attack, they often try to bypass the strongest defenses by attaching viruses
to e-mail messages to gain access to the "inside."
As recently as July, a hacker sent out e-mails that advised recipients to visit
a phony "Windows-Update" Web site and download a security patch. When users did
as instructed, their computers secretly passed control to the e-mail originator,
who then hijacked their computers to send spam e-mails as well as establish pornographic
Web sites on the captured computers. Other e-mails have contained hidden instructions
that exploit unprotected aspects of computers.
To protect computers, users need to ensure they are running antivirus software
with current virus-definition files. These files can be checked by "right-clicking" the
computer mouse pointer on the antivirus program icon on the taskbar. That will
open the antivirus program information page. If the date of the virus definition
file is older than 10 days or if users must manually run "live update" to get
new antivirus-definition files, contact the workgroup managers for assistance.
Workgroup managers can help configure computers to automatically keep virus-definition
files current. Maintaining antivirus software and deleting suspicious e-mail
attachments or Web links from unknown sources, greatly reduces the chance the
computer might become a target or virus host.
Users need to pay close attention to the latest virus warnings and requests for
system updates. The virus creators are very smart and can readily hunt out unpatched
computers to exploit.
Information on computer-defensive postures is available from workgroup managers
or wing information-assurance offices in the communications squadron. (Courtesy
of Air Mobility Command News Service)