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Internet security

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Internet security

The Internet is the community of the future, but if security measures are not put in place and enforced, then it will become more of a slum and less of a community. The primary question is, therefore, who has the obligation to put these security measures into place? Is it the individual users of the computers and the Internet? Is it the responsibility of the companies that develop the different computer applications to place certain security measures in place? Or is it the responsibility of the governments of the world to unite and create rules and regulations that secure the Internet and guard the citizens of the world from the malicious activities of the hackers? In my opinion, the responsibility belongs to them all. Security on the Internet is a very important issue in the world today. Billions of people have an on-ramp to the Information Superhighway, and more are finding one every day. The Internet transcends geographical locations, and is the first example of a true global village. Unfortunately for regular users of the Internet, much like the real world, criminals exist on the Internet as well. "Hackers," the computer wizards who use their knowledge for evil, are rampant on the Internet. Sometimes they do seemingly harmless acts, such as just going into a computer system and observing, but at other times, they steal, destroy or alter data. On some occasions, these cyber-felons perform even more malicious acts, such as infecting systems with "viruses," computer programs that "infect" the systems by latching onto other programs and eventually destroying them. Another favorite activity of the hacker is to gain access to the computer system and then manually either delete files or cause the computer to do "strange" things, such as placing messages on the screen that either make no sense or have an unusual meaning. Before we look at who has the responsibility to protect the end user, we must first look at what the truth is behind all the "security breaches." There is almost regular notice in the media of a "backdoor" or "bug" in a program: an error in the coding of the program that allows the knowledgeable hacker to access the computer system of someone using that program. Most frequently, we hear about this regarding a World Wide Web browser, such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Netscape's Navigator. While we associate Microsoft and Netscape with the United States, they are used internationally. Netscape and Microsoft both have large market shares in countries such as Japan and Canada, as well as all throughout Europe. A prime example of the sorts of bugs found is one which recently affected Microsoft's Internet Explorer. On May 8, 1997, C-net's online news service,, reported that yet another bug had been found in Internet Explorer. According to the article, "The glitch could allow a malicious Web site to execute any program on a user's computer without permission, including deleting files and uploading private information." The article continues to describe how Microsoft had found out about the bug, and would very shortly have a fix available on their web page. However, further reading of the article, brings some interesting points into view. The article describes how the "glitch" launches a PowerPoint presentation. PowerPoint is an application included in Microsoft's Office Suite; however, not everyone either has this program or chooses to install it. In other words, the only way for the "glitch" to affect a user is if PowerPoint has been installed on the individual computer system. That important item of information failed to make it into the more mainstream reports, such as the television news, leaving the uninformed worried about a "glitch" that had no affect on them. This caused thousands of people to hurry onto the Internet to find a patch to the "glitch," thereby slowing down the connections to the Internet. More recently, on June 12, 1997, the Associated Press reported on a bug in Netscape's Navigator web browser. According to the article, the glitch "lets Web site operators read anything on a hard drive of a personal computer logged onto the site." PC Magazine and CNNfn ran their own tests for the bug and determined that even firewalls (security measures put in place to try to protect against just this type of security breach) were not effective in protecting against this bug. Unfortunately, this article, much like most articles about software bugs that are from mainstream media sources, offers no technical information about the bug and, therefore, it is hard to determine what the reality is behind this bug. This is the type of article that the typical Internet user sees and most likely will frighten them enough to make them take time away from their usual regimen to find a patch for the bug. This may become an enormous waste of time and resources since these users do not realize that this bug most likely does not affect them or their computer systems. Another popular form of scaring the public is virus hoaxes. According to the National Computer Security Association, ten hoaxes currently are making their way around the Internet, most of them by E-mail. One of the most popular hoaxes is the "Good Times" virus. "This hoax originated back in 1994. Created as a joke by some students at Swarthmore College, it has caused quite a stir in the Internet community. Claiming to be the first multi-platform virus and able to create massive destruction to whatever hard drive it might infect, the recipients of this message were in a panic. We have seen this particular hoax rise and fall in circulation. It circulates all over the USENET groups and every once and a while it springs to the surface and makes its rounds, most likely due to new users that 'get on the net' and have no idea that these types of messages are false. Give someone an idea and they'll run with it; that's the true result of this hoax. Good Times is the first generation of hoaxes. Granted there were a few before this, but they were not as proliferated as this one" As one can see from this, people are as easy to fool in the computer world as they are in everyday life. This is just one of the many hoaxes going around the Internet and it is interesting that it has been active for three years now. The trick is that the message sent out changes occasionally. The original message was just a warning about it and everyone quickly realized it was a hoax. The message said "What makes this virus so terrifying, said the FCC, is the fact that no program needs to be exchanged for a new computer to be infected." To those of us who have been using computers and the Internet for a long time, this is obviously impossible, but to those Internet users who are not as computer savvy, this seems frighteningly real. Since it seems real to them, imagine how distraught they are when they cannot find a protection against this virus. The other frightening thing is that sometimes the more destructive hackers take these hoaxes and make them realities. Recently, one of the hoaxes, the AOL4FREE hoax, claimed that if you got an E-mail message discussing getting free access to America Online and open the message, it will open a window and delete all the files on the hard drive. The original version of this hoax stated how no virus programs could detect it, including the one that comes with Windows 95. The better informed of us knew that it was a fake, since there is no virus program included with Windows 95. Recently however, someone took this hoax, and made it a reality. A message now is going around the Internet with an attached file called AOL4FREE.COM. This file is really just a program that calls another program that actually does delete all the files on a hard drive. Recently, the Social Security Administration made available on their web site a service that was supposed to allow people to get information about their Social Security status. To get this information, all that was necessary was for the user to supply some demographic information. Unfortunately, this information was available on other sites on the Internet, thereby making the information easily accessible. The Social Security Administration took this feature off their web site immediately, but was in trouble with United States citizens nonetheless for putting up this information on the site to begin with. The main part of the responsibility to protect the users of the Internet lies with the users themselves. Computer users themselves must be ethically responsible enough and knowledgeable enough to use computers correctly. If they are not sufficiently prepared for the Internet, then they are putting themselves into a situation analogous to a man walking into the middle of a gunfight without a bulletproof vest. People in different countries see different levels of need for protection. I surveyed some "Net-izens," people who spend much time on the Internet, to find out how they protect themselves. I surveyed six Americans, including myself, three Canadians, three Europeans, and three Japanese. While this may seem like a small cross section of people, they seem representative of most of their respective countries. The one thing that all these people share is that they are not people who use the Internet exclusively for business. They all use it for entertainment purposes as well. Of all the questions asked, only one was universally agreed upon; of those surveyed, no one encrypts important data files. I assume that they do not do so because they realize that there is no one who would want to get to their individual data files. The majority of people surveyed have some form of virus protection on their computer system, the most widely used one being McAfee's Virus Shield. Only one person who did not have any virus protection on his computer and he was from Japan. From what I gathered from the people surveyed in Japan, different people have different views as to the level of security needed on their personal computers. The one who had no form of virus protection is only on the Internet via e-mail, and views no attached files. For that reason, he has no need to worry about a virus coming onto his system via the Internet. Of the rest of those surveyed, most update their virus protection data files once a month. It is important to keep these files updated if one is a frequent and/or heavy Internet traveler because new viruses are being created every day. Only one American surveyed uses a credit card for purchases on the Internet. Most people never use their credit cards on the Internet because they are afraid that someone may be able to intercept the data transfer and grab the information about their credit card and be able to use it falsely and illegally. While most people do check once a month for updates to their programs that are supposed to protect against bugs and backdoors, the majority never bother to download those upgrades as these programs do not seem important enough nor are they felt to apply to these users. Some of the responsibility for security on the Internet must, however, lie with the companies that produce computer programs. These companies have a responsibility to make sure that the programs they sell will not have adverse effects on the user's computer system. As was mentioned above, "bugs" and "backdoors" are frequently in the news media. The companies that release these programs must make sure that there are no bugs or backdoors, and if it is later determined that there is one, they must provide their customers with an upgrade immediately. Microsoft was very quick in fixing a recent bug. Once the bug was known publicly, there was a patch (repair) available for it within a matter of hours. Microsoft may have an extensive track record of bugs and backdoors in their programs, but they have a great history of quick repairs as well. Netscape Corporation, Microsoft's chief competitor in the "Browser Wars," has a much worse track record for repairing their glitches. When a bug was found recently in Netscape's Navigator web browser, the company was very apprehensive about the situation and claimed that they did not have ...

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Keywords: internet security software, internet security antivirus, internet security companies, internet security threats, internet security research group, internet security protocols, internet security kaspersky, internet security free

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