Module 6 – Malware and Hacking

Roblyer and Doering (2014, p.224) invoke the 17th century English philosopher, Francis Bacon’s famous and oft quoted aphorism “scientia est potentia” (“knowledge is power”) to connect the idea that the 21st century Information Society provides freedom to acquire virtually limitless knowledge to empower the individual. This heady take on the Information Society is not universally accepted; Devo, the American new-wave band warned us already 40 years ago of developing a man-as-machine persona replete with red flowerpot headgear, ridiculous jumpsuits and robotic movements (http://academic.eb.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/levels/collegiate/article/110283).

Roblyer and Doering (2014, pp. 234-236) provide some insight into the less savoury side of the Information Society: accessing sites with inappropriate material such as pornography; safety and privacy issues including online predators, cyberbullying and unscrupulous advertisements; fraud including identity theft; copyright and plagiarism; and computer viruses and hacking.

This blog explores malware and hacking and reviews a number of strategies that students can use to protect themselves and reduce the risks associated with malware and hacking. Bertino (2016) warns us that there are malicious parties with significant resources and sophisticated technical capabilities who carry out carefully planned and long-lasting attacks on computer users. She also points out that some of these attacks may come from insiders. Two pernicious types of attack are phishing and malware. Phishing involves masquerading as someone else, often with a fake website, to trick someone into revealing personal information that can then be used to for a variety of malevolent purposes including fraud (www.20thingsilearnered.com/en-US/malware/2). Malware is any malicious software designed to damage, destroy, disrupt operations or spy on the user; for example, viruses that harm software and hardware (Roblyer &  Doering, 2014, p.26). Hacking involves someone gaining entry to a user’s device to steal data or commit malicious acts (Roblyer & Doering, 2014, p.28). Bertino outlines one such malevolent purpose as mounting botnet attacks in which parties use upwards of millions of victims’ computers to launch denial-of-service attacks and distribute spam. She points to how the scale of such attacks can be used to influence public opinion by disseminating skewed or false information. Patnak (2016) discusses the sophistication with which criminals operate to infect computers with malware and recommends that one should only open documents and access websites that one is certain are legitimate. Patnak’s analysis is disturbing to the extent that his analysis makes one nervous about using one’s computer. He highlights a range of strategies for users to protect themselves and which can also be taught to students: use strong personal passwords, do not use the same password for all applications, install and use antivirus and antimalware protection, keep security patches up-to-date, avoid shopping, sports, gaming and pornography websites, scan email prior to opening, delete all unwanted and untrusted emails do not click on weblinks to unknown sources, do not respond to strange messages, scan all files before transferring to your computer, block unwanted outbound communications, install software only from trusted websites, use intrusion prevention mechanisms, do not post confidential information in social networking and do not be too trusting.

References:

Bertino, E. (2016). Security Threats: Protecting the New Cyberfrontier. Computer, Vol. 49(6), 11-14. Retrieved January 4th, 2017 from CSU Library.

Patnak, P.B. (2016). Malware a Growing Cybercrime Threat: Understanding and Combating Malvertising Attacks. International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer Science, Vol 7(2), 9-11.  Retrieved January 4th, 2017 from CSU Library.

Roblyer, M. & Doering, A.H. (2014). Integrating education technology into teaching: Sixth Edition. Essex, UK: Pearson Education.

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Author: simonromijn

Science Teacher

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