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Vulnerabilities, Exploits & Malware

A Vulnerability is a flaw or feature of a system that exposes it to possible attack by a bad actor.

Vulnerabilities can be caused by bad user behavior, poor IT administration or inadequate application development and testing.

User Examples:

  • Using websites that transfer usernames and passwords in clear text. (more)
  • Not keeping software up to date. (more)
  • Not running virus detection and firewall software
  • Using compromised websites
  • Downloading compromised content (includes using BitTorrent software (more))
  • Responding to fake email messages (phishing a form of ‘social engineering’)
  • Clicking on links or content attached to compromised emails

IT Administration Examples:

  • Misconfiguration of systems such as leaving the default settings untouched on a network router.
  • Setting incorrect permissions associated to a file or directory.
  • Lacking the appropriate IT network protection. For example, the network does not have a firewall or the appropriate equipment/process to defend against a Denial of Service attack.

Application Development & Testing Examples:

  • Design flaws in software or hardware.
  • Bugs in software or hardware firmware such as:
    • Buffer overruns - Buffer overflow is caused when a piece of code does not adequately check for appropriate input length and the input value is not the size the program expects.
    • Insufficient input/authentication validation - A program fails to validate the input sent to the program from a user. An attacker can exploit an insufficient input validation vulnerability and inject arbitrary code, which commonly occurs within web applications.

Exploit – The act of taking advantage of a vulnerability.

Types of exploits:

  • Zero-Day (more)
  • Pharming (more)
  • Phishing (more)
  • DNS poisoning (more)
  • SQL injection (more)
  • Cross Site Scripting (more)
  • Scanning (more)
  • Denial of Service (more)

Malware – The tool (usually software) used to exploit a vulnerability in a computer, mobile device, computer system, or computer network, in order to damage or to take control over its operation.



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