Internet Security 2 Essay, Research Paper
As we head into the next millennium many people are beginning to question the computer systems that so many of us depend on. This is not the first time that people have become scared at the end of a century, let alone a millennium. People have always had on thing or another to be worried about at these turning points in time. When people first heard of the Y2K problem they began to realize just how big of a problem security is on these systems. Not only do we depend on these systems for information; our entire lives are on computers. The nation began to acquire a sense of urgency to fix this problem because they thought about just how vulnerable we are; from bank records and accounts to their driving history and insurance information. There have been countless cases of breaches in security, including theft of money, because of the lack of security on the Internet. I feel that the need for greater security measures on the net is increasing as we move towards the millennium and bigger security problems are created as we depend on computers more and more everyday.
Computer Systems these days are protected in one of two ways, or both. The first is through passwords. Passwords work only to a certain extent. Many people lack the forethought to make their password something that is not easily guessable. Your name, birth date, or anything that could be guessed with a little bit of thought is a bad idea. The other way to protect a network is to use a firewall. This technology is often effective but can be bypassed, and is often picky about what to let through. In my opinion firewalls give a false sense of security and cannot be used as a sole means of protection. Given enough time most decent computer science majors or anyone really familiar with networks can bust through a firewall. This is why any thing important should be kept in separate folders with their own passwords or kept in an offline source.
Although I found many great cases of Internet crimes I have found the following quite interesting. There was a case in 1993 in which investigators in New York City found that three city Employees had found a flaw in city s real estate tax computer system and erased 20,000,000 dollars in overdue property taxes (Intranet Security XVII). Now, the implications of this crime are endless. If this break-in would have gone unnoticed it would have set off a whole domino affect on the tax system. These taxes that were erased go to the state and in turn the state pays the government part of the taxes. This undoubtedly would have continued if they went without getting caught and eventually would have driven up taxes for everyone else. In this instance the company and many other people were lucky to have caught the criminals, but just imagine how many of these crimes go unnoticed.
Another case is when the corporation Citibank had an incident in 1995 in which Russian hackers (a term on the Internet and computer world meaning breaking into another person s computer) stole over 10,000,000 dollars in fraudulent wire transfers by exploiting a hole in its systems provision for money transfers (Intranet Security XVII). This problem is what I think would be one of the best arguments for increased security on the Internet. This money is just ordinary people s money like yours and mine; for people to just be able to go in and take whatever they want is a scary thought.
An even greater argument for the security increases is in the statistics of the people that are doing the crimes, Hackers . In release 2.1 by Esther Dyson she says nearly every two out of three people that “hack” into the government s computers succeed and three out of four that do succeed are never caught (327). This is a major security breach. The book claims that hackers can easily access extremely important information or data. This does not only happen on the government s computers but businesses, corporations, non-profit organizations, and more. Only computers running certain software, which allows users on the Internet access to their information, are susceptible to hackers. A majority of hackers do not affect anything important; although, only the most knowledgeable and experienced hackers can affect anything important, if they do manage to access and change information, it is normally quickly remedied.
People hack for various reasons on the Internet. A majority of hackers break into secure places just to be able to say, “I broke in there.” This is a bragging right among the hackers world. The tighter the security on the site, the more they are able to brag about being able to break into it. The Pentagon is a favorite place of hackers. Hackers figured that this would be like the Fort Knox is to thieves. The Pentagon is one of the most insecure places on the Internet. Every two out of three people that try to break in, accomplishes the small feat; although, they never get to any of the important information. The computers at the Pentagon that hold secure, important data are not even connected to the outside world in any way. This includes modems, which run over phone lines, and any network such as the Internet. The only way for a hacker to break into the Pentagon s top secret files would be for them to physically be standing at a terminal in the Pentagon. These terminals are kept under twenty-four hour surveillance by guards and require special codes to gain access. So the hackers do not gain any important information in breaking into the Pentagon s computers.
Hacking into a site such as a bank where you can make thousands or millions of dollars is the supreme goal for most hackers on the Internet. Usually only the hackers with enough experience and knowledge attempt this. People can easily be caught at this if they leave signs of their “breaking and entering” in the bank s computers (Dyson 338). If they are caught, they can be prosecuted by the bank and the federal government and spend many years in jail for this serious offense. Hacking into a bank almost equals the penalty for murdering someone. This is why only the premier hackers will attempt this act.
Hackers usually do not affect a normal person on the Internet. If a person does not run any programs that would allow others to access information on their computers, then they do not have to worry about their data being compromised on the Internet. The people that run the computer systems at corporations connected to the Internet usually make back-ups of all their files at least once a day. This back up copies all changeable data from the computer to a removable storage device such as a tape back-up drive. These back-ups are the only true way to ensure that you will not be missing anything in the future. If a hacker changed something on a company’s computers, the systems administrator would be able to restore the information from the back- up the computer automatically created earlier. Software companies have made extensive research into security issues on networks, the Internet being one colossal network. These companies specialize in security software for Internet servers. They hire hackers to program and test their software. Although they go through such great attempts at security we are lacking that one great breakthrough that sends us into the next millennium with confidence of our security.
The last and what some people consider to be the worst of the security problem is computer viruses. Computer viruses have been around for a decade but they became infamous when the Michelangelo virus caused a scare on March 6, 1992(Dyson 265). According to the National Computer Security Association in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, there are six thousand known viruses worldwide and about two hundred new ones show up every month (Booht 51). These viruses are spread quickly and easily and can destroy all information on a computer’s hard drive. Although we do have programs to detect viruses and repair infected files the technology could not possibly keep up with two hundred new viruses every month. These viruses are a huge problem of being on the net; I myself have downloaded a few viruses that have caused quite a deal of problems. Once again, the only way to keep your computer truly safe is to constantly back up everything that you do; if I had not done that I would have had a lot of problems when I downloaded those viruses.
The changing of the millennium has brought about awareness to mostly everyone about the problems with computers. Considering the extent of how important computers are in our lives it is great that the change has opened peoples eyes to the possible implications that security, or lack there of could cause. Many times in the past the panic at the turn of the century was unnecessary, but this one is probably the most realistic worries ever. Internet security is one thing that cannot be overlooked, we use these machines so much that it becomes second nature and you do not even think about what would actually happen without computers. I feel that when we reach a new breakthrough in security it will open the doors for so much more to happen on the Internet.
Booht, Stephen A., “Doom Virus” Popular Mechanics 1 June 1995.
Dyson, Esther. Release 2.1. Broadway Books New York 1998.
McCarthy, Linda. Intranet Security Sun. Microsystems Press New York 1998.