Types of Computer Security

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  • 0:03 Types of Computer Security
  • 0:21 Physical Security
  • 1:48 OS Security
  • 2:58 Access Control
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Delony

David is a freelance writer specializing in technology. He holds a BA in communication.

From financial records to national defense, computers play a critical role in many activities, and with this power comes the need for security. In this lesson, you'll learn about the different types of computer security and controlling access from inside and out.

Types of Computer Security

When you work in information technology (IT), it's important to keep your computers safe from people who wish to do your organization harm, whether from the inside or outside. This means looking at everything from the security of physical machines to the safety of operating systems and hardware.

Physical Security

Whatever kind of computers you have, you might think that the biggest threats to your machines and information might come from outside the organization; however, the biggest threats could actually come from people physically accessing the machine rather than hackers coming over the Internet. That's why physical security, or controlling who gets access to a computer, is so important.

A data center is vulnerable to people walking up to servers and changing settings, and rebooting or turning off machines. That's why most of them require some kind of credential and procedure for gaining entry into a locked server room, like having a system administrator scan a company I.D. card.

The increasing use of mobile devices comes with a lot of physical security risks as well. Someone using a company-issued laptop or tablet might go to the restroom in a coffee shop only to come back and find that a machine with sensitive data has been stolen. In one real life incident, an agent for the United Kingdom's MI5 agency had a laptop stolen from a bar, while another former head of the MI5 had one stolen from an airport. Not only are security incidents like these embarrassing, but also have the potential for grave consequences.

One defense is using mobile device management software, which can track the location of devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets and perform a remote wipe if they're reported missing. This means that all the data will be erased, making these devices useless if they fall into the wrong hands.

OS Security

Modern operating systems are built with security in mind. One of the most important features is the use of permissions. Under a permissions control scheme, users are only allowed to modify files if they've been given prior approval. Permissions can be allocated to the whole system, or groups and individual users. For example, a user working on a physics project at a university might be allowed to change files on a physics department server as they pertain to that project, but not be allowed to change the operating system files.

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