Operating system (OS) security is a means to protect one’s OS from all kinds of threats. The OS, of course, is the user interface (UI) that allows a user to interact with his or her computer. He or she types in commands for the system to execute.

Operating system security includes all of the preventive and control measures one puts on his or her computer to safeguard it and other connected devices (e.g., printer, etc.) that contain confidential information that hackers would likely steal, modify, or delete if the system is compromised.

Think of operating system security as all of the procedures (e.g., going through a security check at a building entrance, etc.) and measures (e.g., locking out all unauthorized personnel from internal staff-only rooms, etc.) that building managers and staff employ to keep thieves and other unwanted people out of office premises.

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What Is Operating System Security

Many threats, typically cyber, can affect a computer OS. These include various types of malware that can disrupt an infected system and all the devices connected to it. This fact makes operating system security a must not just for companies but individuals who use their personal devices for work and private financial and other confidential transactions.

What Cyber Threats Can Operating System Security Protect Against?

Operating system security can safeguard computers from threats like:

  • Trojans: These gather user login credentials and send them to malicious users or hackers so they can take control of the infected computer.
  • Trap doors: These do not interrupt how a program is designed to work but get in through gaping security holes in its code so their controllers can control it without alerting the legitimate user.
  • Logic bombs: These cause a program to misbehave only when specific conditions specified by the hackers are met, making them much harder to detect than other threats.
  • Worms: These generate multiple copies on a system and can infect connected devices. Each copy uses system resources, thus preventing all other processes from getting the resources necessary to run. As a result, they can shut down the infected computer or even the entire network it is connected to.
  • Port scanning: This is a means employed by hackers to detect system vulnerabilities to attack the system.
  • Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks: These usually prevent users from using their computers by using up all their resources, thus slowing or even shutting them down.

How Can You Ensure Operating System Security?

Various ways to employ operating system security exist, including beefing up authentication measures and using one-time passwords, which we discussed in more detail below.

Beefing Up Authentication

Authentication simply matches an identified computer user with the programs installed on a particular system. In this case, the OS is programmed to ensure that the current user is running a program that he or she is authorized to. OSs typically authenticates users via:

  • Username-password combinations: Users need to enter an OS-registered username and matching password to log in to a computer.
  • User cards or keys: Users need to punch a card into a slot or enter a key generated by a key generator (e.g., a dongle, etc.) that works with the OS to log in to a system.
  • User attributes: These can include a fingerprint, an eye retina pattern, or other biometric signature that a user needs for an input device connected to the OS to log in to a computer.

Using One-Time Passwords

One-time passwords give additional security when used alongside standard authentication. One-time password systems require users to input a unique password each time they log in to a system. Once a one-time password is used, it cannot be used again. One-time passwords can come in various forms such as:

  • Random numbers: Users can, for instance, get cards that have numbers printed on them. Each number has a matching letter. When they log in to a computer, it will ask them for the numbers corresponding to randomly chosen letters.
  • Secret keys: Users are given a piece of hardware that creates secret IDs mapped to their user credentials. The system will ask them for the secret ID that the device generates.
  • Network passwords: Some applications send one-time passwords to users via their registered mobile phone numbers or email addresses. They need to enter this password before they can log in to a computer.

Given that hackers attack every 39 seconds, knowing the answer to “What is operating system security?” is critical if individuals and companies alike want to stay protected from breaches.