Malicious Programs Description

By: Jesse Miller

The most sophisticated types of threats to computer systems are presented by programs that exploit vulnerabilities in computing systems.

Threats can be divided into two categories those that need a host program and those that are independent. The former are essentially fragments of programs that cannot exist independently of some actual application program, utility, or system program. The latter are self contained programs that can be scheduled and run by the operating systems.

The former are fragments of programs that are to be activated when the host program is invoked to perform a specific function. The latter consist of either a program fragment or an independent program that, when executed, may produce one or more copies of itself to be later activated on the same system or some other systems. Logic bombs or Trojan horses belong to virus or worms.

A trapdoor is a secret entry point into a program that allows someone who is aware of the trap door to gain access without going through the usual procedures for security access. Trapdoors have been used by programmers for debugging and testing programs. Debugging and testing are usually done when the programmer is developing an application that has an authenticated procedure that requires user to enter many different values to run the application. The trap door is a code that recognizes some special sequence of input, or that is triggered by being run from a certain user ID or by an unlikely sequence of events. Trapdoors become threats when they are used by programmers to gain unauthorized access. It is difficult to implement operating system controls for trap doors. Security measures must focus on program development and software update.

The logic bomb is code embedded in some legitimate program that is set to "explode" when certain conditions are met. Presence or absence of certain files, a particular day of the week or date, or a particular user running the application can be used as triggers. Once triggered, a logic bomb may alter or delete data of entire files, cause a machine to halt, or do some other damage.

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Bacteria are programs that do not explicitly damage any files. Their sole purpose is to replicate themselves. A typical bacteria program may do nothing more than execute two copies of itself simultaneously on a multiprogramming system or perhaps create two new files, each of which is a copy of the original source file of the bacteria program.

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