Objective 6.6: Threat Mitigation
Objective 6.6: Identify common security threats and mitigation techniques
A denial-of-service attack (DoS attack) or distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS attack) is an attempt to make a computer resource unavailable to its intended users. Although the means to carry out, motives for, and targets of a DoS attack may vary, it generally consists of the concerted efforts of a person or persons to prevent an Internet site or service from functioning efficiently or at all, temporarily or indefinitely.
One common method of attack involves saturating the target (victim) machine with external communications requests, such that it cannot respond to legitimate traffic, or responds so slowly as to be rendered effectively unavailable. In general terms, DoS attacks are implemented by either forcing the targeted computer(s) to reset, or consuming its resources so that it can no longer provide its intended service or obstructing the communication media between the intended users and the victim so that they can no longer communicate adequately.
Firewalls have simple rules such as to allow or deny protocols, ports or IP addresses. Some DoS attacks are too complex for today's firewalls, e.g. if there is an attack on port 80 (web service), firewalls cannot prevent that attack because they cannot distinguish good traffic from DoS attack traffic. Additionally, firewalls are too deep in the network hierarchy. Routers may be affected even before the firewall gets the traffic. Nonetheless, firewalls can effectively prevent users from launching simple flooding type attacks from machines behind the firewall.
Intrusion-prevention systems (IPS) are effective if the attacks have signatures associated with them. However, the trend among the attacks is to have legitimate content but bad intent. Intrusion-prevention systems which work on content recognition cannot block behavior based DoS attacks.
A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer without the permission or knowledge of the owner. The term "virus" is also commonly but erroneously used to refer to other types of malware, adware, and spyware programs that do not have the reproductive ability. A true virus can only spread from one computer to another (in some form of executable code) when its host is taken to the target computer; for instance because a user sent it over a network or the Internet, or carried it on a removable medium such as a floppy disk, CD, DVD, or USB drive.
In order to replicate itself, a virus must be permitted to execute code and write to memory. For this reason, many viruses attach themselves to executable files that may be part of legitimate programs. If a user attempts to launch an infected program, the virus' code may be executed simultaneously.
In order to avoid detection by users, some viruses employ different kinds of deception. Some old viruses, especially on the MS-DOS platform, make sure that the "last modified" date of a host file stays the same when the file is infected by the virus. This approach does not fool anti-virus software, however. Some viruses can infect files without increasing their sizes or damaging the files. They accomplish this by overwriting unused areas of executable files. These are called cavity viruses. Some viruses try to avoid detection by killing the tasks associated with antivirus software before it can detect them. As computers and operating systems grow larger and more complex, old hiding techniques need to be updated or replaced. Defending a computer against viruses may demand that a file system migrate towards detailed and explicit permission for every kind of file access.