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Preventing worms December 12, 2013

Posted by brltkd in Security.

Malicious software, or malware, is a term used to describe software that causes damage or performs unwanted actions on a computer system [1]. While the term virus is often generically applied to malware, there are many different types of malware. Worms are a specific type of malware that can run by itself and can propagate a fully working version of itself to other machines [2]. This often occurs over network connection like the Internet. User behavior is a significant factor in the spread of worms and responsible user behavior can help stop the spread of worms.

Keeping your operating system up to date with the current security patches is essential to preventing the spread of worms. Worms often exploit weaknesses and flaws that create security vulnerabilities. Companies that develop operating systems regularly release updates to patch these holes as they are discovered. Installing these patches will close the security hole on your system so worms are unable to infect it.

Users also need to use strong passwords to secure their computers. One of the methods worms often use to access other computers is by guessing their password. For example, both the original Internet worm (Morris worm) and, more recently, the Conflicker worm used a list of commonly chosen poor passwords to attempt access [2] [3]. Using strong passwords, which generally consist of mixed-case letters and numbers that are not repeated or common words, will make it more difficult for a worm to crack the password.

File sharing is an important aspect of computer networking. This allows people to share files and other information with others. Any shared folders or other resources must be secured so only authorized users can access them. It is tempting to create a shared folder so other users can access your music collection or pictures, for example, with unrestricted access. However, this also creates an opening for worms to access your computer. Make sure the permissions are set on shares to only allow access for specific authenticated users.

Even with the best efforts to keep your system updated and secured, new security exploits are discovered every day. Antivirus software is an important line of defense for your computer. You should have a current version of antivirus software installed. This software actively monitors your computer for patterns indicating malicious activity and will often prevent and notify you of the activity. Additionally, if  your system is compromised, it will often aid in the removal of the threat. You should also enable automatic updating to make sure it stays up to date with current virus definitions to help keep your computer protected from the newest threats.

Worms have the potential to cause serious problems on your computer and to compromise your information. However, it is possible to keep your system secure and help stop their spread. Implementing these few basic steps will make your computer less vulnerable to worms.


[1] TechTerms.com, “Malware,” 2013. [Online]. Available: http://www.techterms.com/definition/malware.
[2] E. H. Spafford, “The Internet Worm Program: An Analysis,” Perdue University, West Layfayette, 1988.
[3] G. Cluley, “Passwords used by the Conflicker worm,” SOPHOS, 16 January 2009. [Online]. Available: http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2009/01/16/passwords-conficker-worm/.




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