The Internet has become a greater medium of communication, data exchange, and entertainment over the past 5 years. With this widespread growth of Internet access, there come growing pains. These growing pains come in the form of people who are up to no good and want to ruin everybody elses experience on the net. High-speed connections also make it a very easy way for hackers to attack your pc in your daily life. In this report, I will discuss the types of Internet connections that are commonly used by consumers. I will also talk about the kinds of hackers that are out there. Each hacker has his or her own reason for doing it and by knowing that, prevention can be made simpler. I will discuss the types of Internet security programs that are available to everyday users. There are also hardware devices that arent as common in the home, but I will discuss their importance also. Finally, I will tell you how easily these programs can be implemented.
I.Types of internet connections
b.Permanent “all-the-time” connections
The Internet was a very unknown term to people ten years ago. This new information superhighway was reserved only to those who had the income or the need for data exchange between corporate locations. In the mid 1990s, companies like America Online and Prodigy created a easy connection to the Internet. These connections were called dial-up connection. They made use of a modem connected to your pc and by using your phone line, connected you to their services. In this early age of dial-up connections, the availability and ease for people to obtain access to your information was enormous. Bank records, shopping habits, and credit card information became common ground for people who hacked into personal computers. As the Internet spread to locally owned ISPs, or Internet Service Providers, the backing of huge companies like AOL and Prodigy fell away to cheap local connections. With the widespread growth of mom and pop ISPs comes an increased security risk. People became responsible for their own Internet security. Companies like Microsoft and Netscape, who were the original creators of the Internet browser, had to take matters into their own hands.
The creation of high-encryption Internet surfing had begun. As soon as the late 1990s rolled around, these two companies had come up with ways to prevent unauthorized use of personal data such as credit card and social security numbers. This new technology was called SSL, or secured socket layer, technology. This technology made it possible for a pc to transmit encrypted data from one point to another. If it was intercepted mainstream, the information would be useless to those who grabbed it. When this new technology was made public, a great sense of security plagued the Internet public. Banks and many merchants rushed to put their presence out on the web. With this security came an increased interest to those who were not yet on the Net. This technology is still with us today, but has been overhauled over the past few years. Hackers have found away though each SSL technology, but with constant monitoring by both businesses and software developers, this security is here to stay. To date, this innovation has made the dial-up connection one of the most popular ways to get on the Internet.
The next type of connection is the all-the-time permanent connection. This new type of Internet connection was reserved just recently for the people who could afford it of those businesses that had a lot of stake in the Internet. College campuses have made this a must in all on-campus housing and classrooms. With this need for all-the-time connectivity, many risks and security loopholes are present.
Permanent connections come in many forms. In the corporate and educational environments, the internet is piped in usually with a frame connection, which can be up to 500 times faster that a modem. In my experience, most businesses and schools choose this type of connection due to its reliability and speed. In the home, new technologies have brought high-speed right to your desktop. A new technology in this area is called DSL, or digital subscriber line. This connection runs along your phone line in a digital spectrum of bandwidth. Currently, speeds up to 100 times the modems we have now can be obtained. Also, the cable modem has become a new friend to the Internet. Customers can now receive cable TV along with high speed Internet all on the same line! Finally, a new exciting technology is coming along for Internet access. This technology is totally wireless. Usually done with a microwave frequency, customers can send and receive data without any wired connection to the Internet. This will become more widespread as time goes on.
As with the dial-up connection, a permanent connection has the same security loopholes for hackers but with a greater risk. This greater risk is caused by the connection being on all the time. With a dial-up connection, your identity to the network changes every time you dial up. With these permanent connections, your identity is usually kept the same along with your connection being live 24 hours a day. (PCWorld Online) Most people do not turn off their pcs, so the threat of being discovered and hacked into is present all the time. At work, I have seen time and time again people who have been careless with their permanent connections. People have uploaded viruses and even went to the point of corrupting and destroying data on their pc. I will later discuss measures that can be taken to prevent this disaster from happening.
In order to understand Internet security, you must try to understand the people that are out to try and get through to your computer. I will briefly describe these troublemakers to you. The first type of hacker is the out-for-fun hacker. These people are usually harmless to your computers data, but they have a history of doing things that can be annoying, expensive, and time-consuming to fix. These people are those who send you email messages that include Trojan-horse programs. These programs are real tiny modules that set out to do a specific task without you knowing about it. A common one that I see all the time is the Happy 99 virus. This virus is a mini program that prevents you from getting email. I have had customers that come in to the store complaining up and down that we did something to their computer. When they realize it was a virus causing it all, they step back and realize that the viruses out there are for real because most of those out there do not take it seriously. Brent Blood, an employee at Velocity. Net, told me that he regularly gets customers who get many different kinds of viruses. The most common one he sees is a virus that sends emails to all the people in your address book. They could be forwarded from a personal email you received or something that you didnt want anyone to see. These hackers get a laugh when embarrassing things happen like this to people. (Blood)
The most harmful hacker today is the remote access hacker. These hackers look for openings in corporate and personal computers and make a home in these loopholes. When a person is connected to the Internet, they are given an identity that those who have experience can find. With the permanent connections, they are even easier to track down. Programs have been created to mass search for people who have files being shared and important data that is sitting out waiting to be hacked. (Secure-Me.Net) These people can record your keystrokes and get credit card numbers and passwords. Once they have these, their terror can begin. Companies and even individuals have been taken to the bank with electronic theft. Money can disappear from accounts and huge charges can be rung up on credit cards. These hackers are hard to trace, but when they are found, most of the time they are young people. The most harmful are usually in their early 20s.
These measures of protection on the Internet consist of three basic concepts. The first concept is one that I personally recommend to my customers. This is a very simple, but important, thing to do. This would be simply turning off the pc when not in use if you have a permanent connection. Also, if you are using a dial-up, disconnect from the Internet when you walk away from your pc. These two important steps provide fewer opportunities for hackers to get into your pc when you are away. By not giving a nosy hacker the extra time to find the computer, you are giving yourself a leg up on internet security.
The other measures of protection take some form of investment. These methods use either actual hardware or software that you can buy. The most popular method for home security is a software solution. My recommendation is Norton Internet Security by Symantec. This program is new to the company. Norton has been well known for their great virus protection and now they are leading the way with Internet security. This program plugs all the security holes in your computer and even notifies you when someone tries to get into your computer and its data. These programs are fit to be installed by the average user. The instructions are clear-cut and many problems can be fixed with online help and technical support.
A more expensive solution to security is hardware based. Many corporations who have a fast connection to the Internet usually use a device called a firewall. This device blocks all incoming traffic from the net to the computers in a companies network. By stopping intruders at the point of entry, all possibilities of outside threats are no more. The key to the success of firewalls is a proper installation. Many people improperly install these hardware products and the problems soon crop up when intruders find it easy to get into the critical data of an individual or a whole company. With proper professional installation, these devices will permanently keep out intruders.
In conclusion, the Internet is a new and exciting tool to use in everyday life. Like many other things, there are a few people out there who try to spoil it for everyone else. By taking the measures that I have suggested, you are not only protecting yourself. You are protecting your investment in PC hardware, software, and personal information. With a little bit of knowledge and the tools to do the job, you can help to prevent a hacker from getting into your world on the Internet.
Internet Connection Safety. PCWorld Online. April 3, 2000.
Why Should I Worry?. Secure-Me.Net Online. September 1999.