Other cyber security threats

Weak/default passwords

Some of the most common passwords are surprisingly simple. Examples include 123456 and qwerty. Most computer systems will provide a default password when first set up. If these are not changed, this puts computers at risk.

There are some simple rules to follow to make it harder for a computer to crack a password:

  • have a password that is six or more characters long
  • include upper and lower letter case letters
  • include numbers
  • include symbols
  • avoid information that may be easy to guess such as relatives’ names or birthdays
Computer screen showing strong password next to weightlifting equipment

Another way to make a password more difficult for computers to crack is to combine multiple random words that have personal significance, but are not related. In the example below, the password could be horseguitar.

Boy in bedroom playing the guitar with a picture of a horse on the wall.

Misconfigured access rights

Access rights set up what can and cannot be seen when someone logs into a system. If these are not set up correctly in an email server, a person may be able to see someone else’s emails. If a person accesses an account that they do not have permission to see, they might be breaking the law. Read more about this in the ethical, legal, and environmental impacts of digital technology study guide.

Removable media

Removable media refers to storage devices that can be removed from the computer system. This includes:

  • USB memory sticks
  • CD-ROMs
  • DVDs
  • external hard drives

If removable media contain malware, it will attempt to move onto a system when connected to a computer, and then onto any other connected devices. If a computer is connected to others on a network, this could mean that the virus reaches hundreds of machines.

Unpatched/outdated software

Patching is the process of updating software to fix a problem or add a new feature.

Many programs will automatically update to make sure they have the latest patches installed. This helps to ensure the program runs correctly and protects the computer from new threats. Most anti-virus software will frequently update itself so that it is able to recognise the latest computer viruses and malware.

These updates will always be one step behind the people creating the malware, but regularly updating and patching software will reduce the vulnerability of a computer system.

Computer screen with 'install updates' notification and 'update' button.