Internet Protection Essay, Research Paper
Thesis: Specific solutions will help people to deal with security threats from Web criminals.
A. What makes the Internet so vulnerable to attackers?
B. Understand the term of “hacker.”
II.Four things hackers usually do and provide solutions.
A. Hackers take advantage of software bugs and solutions.
B. Spreading virus through e-mail and solutions.
C. Hacking business Web site and solutions.
D. Stealing credit card number and solutions.
III. Be a knowledgeable Web user and take personal responsibility.
A. Be aware of the rumors on the Web.
B. Apply security measurements to fit your need.
A. Logical appeal.
Internet security is something that has been a problem since the mid 90s. Millions of new users are connecting to the World Wide Web every year. The Internet transcends geographic 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. As we have entered the 21 century, specific solutions will help people to deal with the security threats from Web criminals.
First of all, let’s take a look at what makes the Internet so vulnerable to electronic mischief:
Unlike centralized networks operated by commercial online services such as Compuserve and Prodigy, the Internet is a decentralized system spread out cross millions of computers worldwide. Each of these machines has its own passwords and security procedures-or lack of them. In some cases, the Internet is only as strong as its weakest link, and intruders who break into one part of the system can rapidly gain access to much of the rest of it. ( Stallings 20)Electronic criminals, known as hackers, are the people who use this defect of the Internet to illegally gain access to enter another’s electronic system to obtain secret information or do damage on the network. Sometimes these criminals do seemingly harmless acts, such as just going into a computer system and observing, but at other times, they steal, destroy, or alter data through the Web. Before we can stop these crimes from happening, we must understand the four different things a hacker usually does to “hack” your computer and steal your information.
There is almost regular notice in the media about a “backdoor” or “bug” in a program, this is an error in the coding of the program that allows knowledgeable hackers to access the computer system of someone using that program. Most frequently we hear about this regarding a Word Wide Web browser, such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. While most people associate Microsoft and Netscape with the United States, they are used internationally. Netscape and Microsoft both have large market shares in countries such as Canada and China, as well as throughout Europe. Therefore, it gives the hackers a chance not only to break into a site in America, but also most of the sites in the world through a software bug. On May 8, 1997, an online news service, News.com, reported that another bug had been found in Internet Explore. According to the article, “the glitch could allow a malicious Web site to execute any program on a user’s computer without permission, including delete files and upload private information” (Lash and Wingfield n.p.). It is very dangerous because this means, once you have connected to the Internet, the files on your hard drive are not safe any more. If the hackers are only interested in your secret files, they can upload them to the Internet first and access the information he or she has just uploaded. If the hackers are not only interested in your information but also want to do damage on your computer, the situation becomes even worse, they can just delete every program you have.
Fortunately, once the bug was known to the public, 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. Therefore, here are my suggestions: First, people should regularly check the updates to their programs. If there are some new “patches” found, download and install them on your computer immediately. Secondly, it should be common knowledge for every Web user to know that you should always back-up your important files, either on paper or the disks that are separate from your computer. It is the most effective way to protect you against most of the attacks.
Hacking into a Web site such as a bank or a big company 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 to do this. The latest news is that one of the Microsoft’s internal computer networks was hacked by malicious attackers. According to that article, “Ira Winkler, a security analyst at Internet Security Advisors in Sevrena Park, Md., said the Microsoft hack ‘ appears to be a very complicated and successful attack.’ The hackers did a lot of work to do this without getting detected’”(Weiss & Rosencrance 6+).
Presently, the most common tool for a business Web site to deal with such a threat is to use a Firewall. As the name implies, a Firewall is the system to set up specifically to shield a Web site from abuse and to provide protection from attackers from other computers on the network. Although there are hundreds of different types of Firewalls available on the market, from my own experience, all Firewalls share two basic functions:
one, to block traffic, and the other, to permit traffic. Some Firewalls place a greater emphasis on blocking traffic, while others emphasize permitting traffic. The most important thing to remember is that a Firewall only works after you have designed an access control policy that best fits your needs. I believe the Microsoft break-in last month is probably not due to Firewall itself but a poor access policy. In theory, nobody can break a Firewall if you have a perfect access policy.
The third thing a hacker usually does is spreading virus. Computer viruses have been around for near two decades. Viruses came into mass public attention when hackers used the Internet to spread viruses worldwide in the 90’s. 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 spreading quickly and can destroy all information on a computer’s hard drive. Melissa, one of the most fast-spreading viruses found last March, spread to more than 100,000 computers in three days with one site reported to have received 32,000 copies of mail messages containing Melissa on their systems within 45 minutes.(Frequently asked questions about Mellisa Virus) “I Love You” is another virus that caused enormous damages last May. According to The New York Times on Nov 5, 2000, “it costs business an estimated $15 billion damage in a short period of time” (Legomsky 9+).
Since most viruses, including Melissa and “I Love You” are spreading by means of e-mail, installing protection on your e-mail system becomes the key point of preventing the virus. Most people run a program called virus scan, like McAfee’s Virus Shield, before opening their e-mail. Although it is easy to use and does prevent 95% virus on the Web, this technology could not possibly keep up with 200 new virus every month.
I have downloaded a few viruses even after virus-scanning. Therefore, once again, remember the only way to keep your computer truly safe is to constantly back up everything that you do.
The last and most dangerous thing a hacker usually does is stealing people’s credit card numbers when they purchase online. When commerce is conducted over the Internet, a network is open to millions of potentially prying eyes. Hackers are able to intercept the data transfer and grab the information about people’s credit cards by taking advantage of some poorly secured sites. The main problem for e-commerce is that there are too many irresponsible sites so that as many as 75% of consumers are worrying about their credit card security over the Internet (McGeehan H.34+).
The best way to protect your credit card numbers is never use them over the Internet. However if you have to use one someday online, make sure it is not a debit card. “If someone gets your debit card number, they can drain all your bank accounts. With a credit card, you are protected after the first $50 of fraudulent use. You are not guaranteed that protection if you use your debt card;” cautions George Hellery, Senior consultant for Janus Associates (Delonardo 7+). Another important thing consumers need to think about is whether they are familiar with the company or not and what types of security measures they provide to protect you. Since there are too many irresponsible sites on the Internet, people should always buy their product from reliable sites like famous buy.com, or auction.com, etc.
The hackers sometimes may harm your computer severely, but at the other times, people are just frightening themselves by believing the rumors on the Web unconditionally. One perfect example is that of the virus hoax. According to The San
Diego Union-Tribune on November 9, 2000, “A rising tide of warnings about nonexistent
computer threats is proving nearly as disruptive as the actual viruses. The hoaxes have become a kind of virus themselves, passed along with good intentions but sometimes swamping computer networks” (Wilson 5+). Give someone an idea and they will run with it, that’s the true result of the hoaxes. And unlike the real viruses, people will never find a “patch” for these hoaxes which will probably cause a chaos. Therefore, the only way to deal with a virus hoax is that people must be aware of the doubtful e-mails they are receiving and think independently.
Since people all have different reasons of being online, it is very important for people to know that they should apply security measures to fit their specific needs. For example, for most of the Internet users who don’t even have a home page, there is no need for them to install Firewalls because their Web site will never be attacked by hackers. And similarly, if you never use Netscape’s Navigator, of course you don’t need to fix the bugs in it. Understand what you need is a very important step to be a knowledgeable Web user.
In conclusion, since Internet security problems are no longer far from our daily lives, it becomes more and more essential for people to know what a Web crime is, the four things a hacker most frequently does, and the most important of all, specific solutions to deal with those threats. With the proper cooperation among knowledgeable Web users, responsible on-line companies, and software producers, the Internet will ultimately be a safe and enjoyable place to be.