Home > Articles > Security > General Security and Privacy

This chapter is from the book


Computer security attempts to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of computing systems and their components. Three principal parts of a computing system are subject to attacks: hardware, software, and data. These three, and the communications among them, are susceptible to computer security vulnerabilities. In turn, those people and systems interested in compromising a system can devise attacks that exploit the vulnerabilities.

In each chapter of this book we include a list of the important points you should have learned in this chapter. For example, in this chapter we have explained the following concepts:

  • Security situations arise in many everyday activities, although sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between a security attack and an ordinary human or technological breakdown. Alas, clever attackers realize this confusion, so they may make their attack seem like a simple, random failure.
  • A threat is an incident that could cause harm. A vulnerability is a weakness through which harm could occur. These two problems combine: Either without the other causes no harm, but a threat exercising a vulnerability means damage. To control such a situation, we can either block or diminish the threat, or close the vulnerability (or both).
  • Seldom can we achieve perfect security: no viable threats and no exercisable vulnerabilities. Sometimes we fail to recognize a threat, or other times we may be unable or unwilling to close a vulnerability. Incomplete security is not a bad situation; rather, it demonstrates a balancing act: Control certain threats and vulnerabilities, apply countermeasures that are reasonable, and accept the risk of harm from uncountered cases.
  • An attacker needs three things: method—the skill and knowledge to perform a successful attack; opportunity—time and access by which to attack; and motive—a reason to want to attack. Alas, none of these three is in short supply, which means attacks are inevitable.

In this chapter we introduced the notions of threats and harm, vulnerabilities, attacks and attackers, and countermeasures. Attackers leverage threats that exploit vulnerabilities against valuable assets to cause harm, and we hope to devise countermeasures to eliminate means, opportunity, and motive. These concepts are the basis we need to study, understand, and master computer security.

Countermeasures and controls can be applied to the data, the programs, the system, the physical devices, the communications links, the environment, and the personnel. Sometimes several controls are needed to cover a single vulnerability, but sometimes one control addresses many problems at once.

Throughout this book we use a scenario-based format to explore examples of attacks and countermeasures that can control them: First the attack that could or did occur; then the weakness that allowed the attack to succeed, with perhaps some attention to tools, techniques, or knowledge the attacker needed; and finally the countermeasures that can or could offer protection. When possible we present a range of countermeasures so you have a palette of options to apply to future scenarios or situations outside this book. As you look at countermeasures, keep in mind the balance between risk and control: Does this situation warrant that level (degree, severity, cost) of countermeasure and are there simpler countermeasures that would provide adequate security?

Because the book is organized around types of attacks, we describe vulnerabilities and countermeasures relevant to the specific attacks. Some countermeasures, such as authentication and access control, are effective against many attacks; consequently, we sometimes (as with access control) introduce the topic in one chapter and expand upon it in later chapters. In other cases, as with program development controls, we explore the topic once and simply refer to it when it is relevant in a later scenario.

We think the threat–vulnerability–countermeasure structure gives you the opportunity to analyze these cases on your own. You may think of vulnerabilities we have not listed, and you will almost certainly be able to think of additional countermeasures that could be effective. Computer security is always changing to address new attacks and new technological advances; you do not learn one set of tools or one approach and say you know all there is to know. The breadth and nature of attacks continues to change and grow, as do the means of defense. Our goal is to help you to think critically and creatively in order to be able to address ever-changing threats.

Several themes recur throughout the book: privacy, legal matters, economics, ethics, usability, and forensics. These areas are tangential to security: Each is an important area of study by itself, but at points throughout this book, one or another will be relevant to a particular topic. Rather than have a chapter on each that might get lost or overlooked, we treat these topics when they are relevant, as part of the flow of the main chapters. This arrangement emphasizes that these themes relate to the core content of computer and information security.

To give you additional practice analyzing security, we include three chapters, which we call interludes, in which we present just a bare scenario and invite you to derive the threats, potential vulnerabilities, and countermeasures. The three topics are cloud computing, electronic voting, and cyberwarfare; these interludes are placed among the other chapters.

We also conclude each chapter with exercises to help reinforce what you have learned and let you apply that knowledge in different settings.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020