The Role of Operating Systems in Security

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  • 0:04 Operating System & Security
  • 0:50 Maintaining Security
  • 4:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In this lesson, we'll explore the role of operating systems in maintaining the security of computer systems. We'll talk about methods like backups, firewalls, and protection against viruses and intrusion detection that help in securing our systems.

Operating System & Security

The operating system can be described as the life of a computer system. It's the primary software component that is loaded into the system which allows the system to become operational and controllable. It manages all the programs and applications on the computer. Being the control center of the computer, its role in the overall security of the system is paramount.

Computer security is basically the maintenance of system integrity, availability, and confidentiality. The security within a computer system can be divided into various layers such as maintaining the physical security of the system, the security of the information the system holds, and the security of the network in which it operates. In all of these areas, the operating system plays a vital role in keeping the security.

Maintaining Security

Let's now take a closer look at how an operating system maintains security, starting with information security:

Information Security

This entails security of all data, application, and the operating system itself from attack. Threats may occur deliberately or due to error by humans, malicious programs or persons, or existing system vulnerabilities. The following measures highlight the role of the operating system in maintaining security of the information:


Authentication is one of the protective methods used by OS to ensure that the user accessing a program is authorized or legitimate. OS provides authentication using a number of techniques:

  1. User names and passwords - these are names and passwords registered with the operating system to whom it allows access at the time of login.
  2. Key Cards - these are physical cards programmed by the OS with unique identifying information that allows the user to login to the system.
  3. User attributes - The operating system registers unique physical characteristics of the user (called attributes) to identify him at login. These may include fingerprints, signatures, and eye retina patterns.

Backup and Restore

Now, let's look at backup and restore functions:

The OS has software modules that allow the user to take backups or make a copy of data and facilitate successful restoration of these backups whenever needed. These files may be stored off-site (which is the best security policy) or on-site. Backups can be the following:

File backups that entail backing up of data, files and folders associated with applications and programs. These can be saved within the system or to an external data storage. And,

System Image Backups that entail backing up of the OS along with programs, applications, and files. It facilitates a successful restore of the entire system to its original state. This is necessary in the event the OS itself is corrupted or crashes or some irreversible disaster occurs due to physical threat. Image backup will ensure a complete roll back of the whole machine.

Intrusion Detection and Prevention

Now, let's take a closer look at intrusion detection and prevention:

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