Saturday, May 08, 2010


If there was any doubt on when we would finally embrace digitization then it was dispelled by the rapid TV digital switchover. Accessing the internet via the conventional computer monitor will soon be old hat. You will soon be able to access the internet through various ubiquitous devices such as your television, mobile phone, car, refrigerator and other common interfaces.

Local content will be widely available and we shall be surfing popular websites regularly. A good example will be the advent of programming on demand. This is where digitization will allow you to access Citizen TV, through your television, and download that episode of Papa Shirandula that you missed due to the recent matatu strike.

Websites will therefore become focal points for entertainment, communication and education. They will consequently be a battleground and will provide various opportunities for cybercrime such as fraud and identity theft to name but a few.

Websites are deliberately infected with malware (Trojans or spyware) that downloads itself into visitors’ computers. The malware then takes up control of your computer or device. The scope to exploit both the infected computer and its owner is almost limitless. It is therefore important to know how websites are attacked.

A web attack has three phases which every web surfer should know. The first stage of a web site attack is the decision. The attacker decides exactly why they would want to gain access to your computer or a business system. Acquisition of bank account or credit card passwords/PINs is a common motive.

The second stage is the hit. The attacker entices or compels potential victims to download the malware, after visiting the infected site. Malware has however become more sophisticated. This means that no action is required on the part of the web visitor to become infected. Instead a concealed malware program automatically installs itself on your computer simply as a result of visiting the infected website.

The third and final stage is the aftermath. After the malware has infected your computer or device it proceeds to execute the programmed instructions. It collects personal information, opens ports that allow the cyber crook to further access your computer, modifies settings and records your actions. The aftermath will expose you to fraud, blackmail or having your computer become a botnet that can be used to send spam or forward stolen data.

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