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CIS 552 Harvard University Week 5 Viruses and Malicious Code Discussion

CIS 552 Harvard University Week 5 Viruses and Malicious Code Discussion


Week 5 Assignment – Viruses and Malicious Code


In light of our successful efforts in countering attacks from foreign actors, the joint task force has once again sought our expertise in enhancing their cybersecurity defenses. This time, the focus is on safeguarding their systems against potential cyberattacks by nation-state actors on national soil and fortifying their defenses in case of a compromise in network security controls. Drawing on our knowledge and experience, we will explore various threat vectors and recommend controls to bolster their security posture.

Threat Evaluation: Viruses, Malicious Code, and Hoaxes

Viruses and malicious code pose significant threats to computer systems and productivity. These threats typically involve the insertion of code into legitimate programs or files, which can propagate across a network or system, causing a range of adverse effects. These effects can include data loss, system instability, and the theft of sensitive information. To mitigate these threats, organizations should employ:

  • Antivirus Software: Deploying robust antivirus software can help detect and remove viruses and malicious code. Regular updates are crucial to stay protected against new threats.
  • Email Filtering: Implementing email filtering solutions can help prevent the delivery of infected attachments and links, reducing the risk of users inadvertently executing malicious code.

Virus hoaxes, although less damaging, can also impact productivity by spreading false information and causing unnecessary panic. Education and awareness campaigns are effective controls to mitigate this threat, ensuring that users are cautious about forwarding unverified information.

Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks and Blended Threats

Denial of Service (DoS) attacks aim to disrupt the availability of a service or network by overwhelming it with a flood of traffic. These attacks can paralyze critical systems, affecting operations and productivity. Controls to mitigate DoS attacks include:

  • Traffic Filtering: Employing intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS) to filter incoming traffic, identifying and blocking malicious traffic patterns.
  • Load Balancing: Distributing traffic across multiple servers can help absorb excess traffic during an attack, maintaining service availability.

Blended threats combine multiple attack vectors to exploit vulnerabilities comprehensively. These threats can be particularly challenging to detect and mitigate. To defend against blended threats:

  • Network Segmentation: Segmenting the network into isolated zones with strict access controls can limit lateral movement for attackers attempting to blend various attack techniques.
  • User Training: Continuous training and awareness programs can educate users about recognizing and reporting suspicious activities, reducing the success rate of blended attacks.

Trojan Horse vs. Standard Virus

A Trojan horse is different from a standard virus in its method of operation. While both are malicious software, the key distinction lies in how they trick users into executing them:

  • Trojan Horse: This malware disguises itself as a legitimate program or file, often relying on social engineering tactics to deceive users into executing it. Once executed, it can perform a range of malicious actions, such as stealing data, granting unauthorized access, or installing additional malware.
  • Standard Virus: Unlike Trojans, viruses attach themselves to legitimate files or programs, infecting them. They then propagate to other files or systems through infected files. Viruses often replicate themselves and can execute without user interaction.

Controls to defend against Trojans include:

  • Application Whitelisting: Allowing only approved applications to run can prevent the execution of unauthorized programs, including Trojans.
  • User Education: Training users to be cautious about downloading and executing files from untrusted sources can reduce the likelihood of falling victim to Trojan horse attacks.

Threat Vectors and Controls

Threat Vector 1: Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks involve the use of deceptive emails or websites to trick users into revealing sensitive information or executing malicious code. To mitigate this threat:

  • Email Filtering: Implement advanced email filtering solutions that can identify and block phishing emails.
  • User Training: Conduct regular phishing awareness training for employees, teaching them to recognize and report phishing attempts.

Threat Vector 2: Zero-Day Exploits

Zero-day exploits target vulnerabilities in software or hardware that are not yet known to the vendor. To mitigate this threat:

  • Patch Management: Maintain an up-to-date inventory of software and hardware, and apply security patches promptly when released.
  • Intrusion Detection: Employ intrusion detection systems to monitor for suspicious activities that may indicate zero-day attacks in progress.


In conclusion, viruses, malicious code, DoS attacks, Trojan horses, and blended threats pose significant risks to computer systems and productivity. Employing a combination of technical controls, user education, and vigilant monitoring can help organizations mitigate these threats effectively. By considering threat vectors and implementing appropriate controls, the joint task force can enhance its cybersecurity posture and be better prepared to defend against nation-state cyberattacks and other potential compromises of network security controls.

CIS 552 Harvard University Week 5 Viruses and Malicious Code Discussion



Week 5 Assignment – Viruses and Malicious Code


Since you did such a superb job in mitigating attacks from nefarious foreign actors, the joint task force has asked for your assistance once again with a new issue. They have asked you to assist in hardening their systems to withstand cyberattacks that nation-state actors may conduct on national soil or to protect them if, for some other reason, their network security controls are compromised. Based on what you have learned thus far, suggest other threat vectors and what controls could be used to further mitigate those threats.


Write a 3-4 page report in which you answer the following:

Evaluate the threat posed by viruses, malicious code, and virus hoaxes, and the extent of their effect on computers and productivity.

Analyze denial of service attacks and blended threats.

Analyze the operation of a Trojan horse and how it is different from a standard virus.

Analyze two threat vectors and what controls could be used in order to further mitigate those threats.

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