Term Paper on Internet Security

This essay has a total of 1562 words and 7 pages.

Internet Security

He doesn't wear a stocking mask over his face, and he doesn't break a window to get into
your house. He doesn't hold a gun to your head, nor does he ransack your personal
possessions. Just the same he's a thief. Although this thief is one you'll not only never
see,but you may not even realize right away that he's robbed you. The thief is a computer
hacker and he "enters" your home via your computer, accessing personal information -- such
as credit card numbers which he could then use without your knowledge at least until you
get that next credit card statement. RichardBernes, supervisor of the FBI's Hi-Tech

squad in San Jose, California, calls the Internet "the unlocked window in cyberspace
through which thieves crawl" (Erickson 1). There seems to be an unlimited potential for
theft of credit card numbers, bank statements and other financial and personal information
transmitted over the Internet.

It's hard to imagine that anyone in today's technologically oriented world could function
without computers. Personal computers are linked to business computers and financial
networks, and all are linked together via the Internet or other networks. More than a
hundred million electronic messages travel through cyberspace every day, and every piece
of information stored in a computer is vulnerable to attack (Icove-Seger-VonStorch 1).
Yesterday's bank robbers have become today's computer hackers. They can walk away from a
computer crime with millions of virtual dollars (in the form of information they can use
or sell for an enormous profit). Walking away is precisely what they do. The National
Computer Crimes Squad estimates that 85-97 % of the time, theft of information from
computers is not even detected (Icove-Seger-VonStorch 1). Home computer users are
vulnerable, not only for credit card information and login IDs, but also their files,
disks, and other computer equipment and data, which are subject to attack. Even if this
information is not confidential, having to reconstruct what has been destroyed by a hacker
can take days (Icove-Seger-VonStorch 1). William Cheswick, a network-security specialist
at AT&T Bell Labs, says the home computers that use the Internet are singularly vulnerable
to attack. "The Internet is like a vault with a screen door on the back," says Cheswick.
"I don't need jackhammers and atom bombs to get in when I can walk in through the door"
(Quittner 44). The use of the Internet has become one of the most popular ways to
communicate. It's easy, fun, and you don't have to leave your home to do it. For example,
the advantage of not having to take the time to drive to the bank is so great that they
never consider the fact that the information they store or transmit might not be safe.
Many computer security professionals continue to speak out on how the lack of Internet
security will result in a significant increase in computer fraud, and easier access to
information previously considered private and confidential (Regan 26).

Gregory Regan, writing for Credit World, says that only certain types of tasks and
features can be performed securely. Electronic banking is not one of them. "I would not
recommend performing commercial business transactions," he advises "or sending
confidential information across networks attached to the Internet" (26). In the business
world, computer security can be just as easily compromised. More than a third of major
U.S. corporations reported doing business over the Internet up from 26 percent a year ago
but a quarter of them say they've suffered attempted break-ins and losses, either in
stolen data or cash (Denning 08A). Dr. Gregory E. Shannon, president of InfoStructure
Services and Technologies Inc., says the need to improve computer security is essential.
There are newly released computer tools intended to help keep the security of your PC
information, but which can just as easily be accessed by computer hackers, as this
information will be released as freeware (available, and free, to anyone) on the Internet
(Cambridge 1). These freely distributed tools could make it far easier for hackers to
break into systems. Presently, if a hacker is trying to break into a system, he has to
keep probing a network for weaknesses. Before long, hackers will be able to point one of
these freeware tools at a network and let it automatically probe for security holes,
without any interaction from themselves (Cambridge 1). Hackers, it seems, have no trouble
staying ahead of the computer security experts. Online service providers, such as America
Online, CompuServe and Prodigy, are effective in providing additional protection for
computer information. First of all, you need to use a "secret password" a customer ID that
is typed in when you log on to the network. Then you can only send information, and
retrieve your own e-mail, through your own user access. Sometimes the service itself is
even locked out of certain information. CompuServe, for example, with its 800 plus private
bulletin boards, can't even read what's on them without gaining prior permission from the
company paying for the service (Flanagan 34). Perhaps in an attempt to show how
secure they are, these information services will give out very little information about
security itself. They all take measures to protect private information, and give frequent
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