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What Is Computer Security?

By Gabriele Sturmer
Updated May 17, 2024
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Computer security involves protecting computers and networks from malware, hackers and other threats while maintaining privacy on the Internet and on physical systems and networks. Both physical and digital factors are considered, because either can cause a system's integrity to be compromised. Major areas covered include physical access security, operating system security, data integrity and protection, and network access and intrusion. The goal of computer security is to lessen these risks as much as possible and to use countermeasures to fix security issues as quickly as possible.

Physical access is one of the most critical factors in securing computer systems and networks. Even if one takes measures to encrypt data and block network access, these will be pointless if someone steals the physical system or gains direct access to it. Physical security involves securing the building containing the computer by using special doors, identification processes and security cameras. It also involves training employees not to give their passwords to strangers and to recognize social engineering techniques.

Operating system security is another important factor of computer security. If an attacker gains control of a person's computer, he or she can control the victim's operating system, steal data and destroy important information. Security holes are found in most common operating systems, so vendors periodically release patches users can install to better secure their systems. Viruses and spyware also present a risk to many operating systems, so virus protection software is needed to prevent data loss and unauthorized access. If a computer is in an area with a lot of people around it, users should also use complex passwords to prevent unauthorized users from making changes or reading sensitive data on their computers.

Computer hard drives, optical media and flash storage often contain personal information, so computer security emphasizes protecting these items with encryption that improves the security of data by making it unreadable to unauthorized parties. Many operating systems have features that can encrypt single files or entire hard drives. Special hardware is available that can encrypt data even when accessed on a different computer.

Securing computer networks is critical to computer security. Hackers who find information on a company's network can use tools to gain access to other computers and servers. A firewall helps to block network access and can be configured to various levels of security. Wireless networks also have encryption features that can protect data and prevent unauthorized network access.

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Discussion Comments

By honeybees — On Sep 06, 2011

I know some people who are will have a separate computer for all of their online banking and bill paying. They don't use this computer to browse the web, check their email, get on Facebook or anything except paying their bills.

When it comes to using your computer and security, I don't think you can be too careful. I know that I am much more conscious of it than I used to be.

All it takes is for one person to get your information and your life can become a mess in a hurry. Making sure your computer is secure and taking the necessary precautions is pretty important for anyone who spends time online.

By John57 — On Sep 05, 2011

I think it is more important than ever to have good computer security. Many people do online banking, pay their bills online, complete their taxes and buy merchandise with credit cards.

All of these activities make it easy for hackers and identity thieves to get access to your personal information.

Ever since I have used computer security software on my computer I have used Norton. So far I have never had any problems and just make sure I update every year with their new version for the best protection.

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