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What is Data Tampering? - Definition & Prevention

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 will learn what data tampering is in computer security. We will look at the implications of data tampering and examine the different methods applied in computer security to combat it.

Data Tampering: Definition

Data tampering is that act of deliberately modifying (destroying, manipulating or editing) data through unauthorized channels. Data exists in two states; in transit or at rest. In both instances, data could be intercepted and tampered with. Digital communications are all about data transmission.

For example, in the instances where data packets are transmitted unprotected, a hacker can intercept the data packet, modify its contents and change its destination address. With data at rest, a system application can suffer a security breach and an unauthorized intruder could deploy malicious code that corrupts the data or underlying programming code. In both instances the intrusion is malicious and the effects on the data always dire. It is one of the biggest security threats that can face any application program or organization.

Data tampering: Prevention

Data tampering is all about successful illicit system intrusion. So the first line of defense is handling the 'getting in' part. However, there are other areas of system vulnerabilities that are also addressed.

Firewalls

Important files, databases, programs and applications have to be locked down behind a firewall in parallel with operating systems/platform security. A firewall is an electronic barrier to a system and its programs. It may be hardware or software designed for network security and uses various preset criteria to control incoming and outgoing traffic. Controlling network traffic is the first line of defense in preventing unauthorized system access.

Authorization

Every system or program comprises resources which have to be accessed by various entities. However, like in any organizational structure, not everyone has access to everything by virtue of their rank and responsibilities. Some people are more privileged than others. The same is true with computer resources. Authorization in a computer system or application program is the process of granting access rights to programs or users of a system to the different resources the system holds. It directly restricts or allows what and how much of a resource is made accessible to different users. The wrong users with the right to perform certain functions or access certain resources could pose a big problem for the system; imagine what damage a malicious intruder could do with those access rights. This restriction serves as a preventive measure to illicit intruders who have compromised the system using certain access rights.

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