Chapter 15: Protecting Your Computer with Windows Defender and Windows Firewall
Many people spend a lot of time on the Internet browsing web sites, downloading
data, and never thinking of the potential problems of malicious software creeping
onto their computers. Some software simply reports your surfing habits, and other
software tries to take control of your computer. Malware consists of programs that
are suspicious in nature and have the malicious intent of infiltrating your computer
without your consent. The industry also defines malware as software with a legiti-
mate purpose that contains harmful bugs that ravage a computer.
Before the proliferation of broadband Internet connections, most malware was kept
in check by the limited bandwidth of dial-up Internet connections. When you dialed
into your service provider you were usually given a protected, dynamically assigned
address, which kept you secure because it wasn’t directly connected to the Internet
and didn’t really have the bandwidth to allow your computer to be compromised
without your knowledge. If you felt you had a security issue, you simply discon-
nected from the Internet. Then when you reconnected, your computer had a new IP
address and you had a fresh start on security. At that time, most computers were not
left online all the time and were not available for people to try to connect to and
Because broadband connections are readily available, many people today simply
leave their computers connected to the Internet all the time. This works against the
computer owner, especially if she connects directly to a cable or DSL modem. With a
direct connection to the Internet, you have left your computer open to numerous
attacks by potentially harmful users of your computer. This is where malware comes
into play. Malicious individuals have the opportunity to footprint your computer in an
attempt to find vulnerabilities, and eventually your computer succumbs to an attack,
which allows someone to load software on your computer without your consent.
Another way for malicious software to get onto your computer is via the Internet.
You may recall a time when you visited a web site and were faced with numerous
pop ups asking you to vote for a web site or install specific add-ons in order to see
the content of a web site. More than likely, you either purposefully clicked, allowing
the malicious program to load, or you were misled into clicking the wrong button
and the software loaded by itself. Many of these web sites load harmful software to
take advantage of your computer without your consent. Some even load dialers onto
your computer to use your modem to make phone calls that are then charged to you.
Other malicious programs get loaded onto a computer without the owner knowing
they are there because they are able to mask their running processes. The industry
calls this particularly heinous type of software a rootkit. Rootkits conceal their run-
ning processes and files, and sometimes they even morph process names and files to
conceal their true nature. Most of the time rootkits disguise themselves as drivers,
parts of the operating system, or kernel modules.