Many people today are familiar with the Internet and its use. A large number of its users however, are not aware of the security problems they face when using the Internet. Most users feel they are anonymous when on-line, yet in actuality they are not. There are some very easy ways to protect the user from future problems.
The Internet has brought many advantages to its users but has also created some major problems. Most people believe that they are anonymous when they are using the Internet. Because of this thinking, they are not careful with what they do and where they go when on the "net." Security is a major issue with the Internet because the general public now has access to it. When only the government and higher education had access, there was no worry about credit card numbers and other types of important data being taken. There are many advantages the Internet brings to its users, but there are also many problems with the Internet security, especially when dealing with personal security, business security, and the government involvement to protect the users.
The Internet is a new, barely regulated frontier, and there are many reasons to be concerned with security. The same features that make the Internet so appealing such as interactivity, versatile communication, and customizability also make it an ideal way for someone to keep a careful watch on the user without them being aware of it (Lemmons 1). It may not seem like it but it is completely possible to build a personal profile on someone just by tracking them in cyperspace. Every action a person does while logged onto the Internet is recorded somewhere (Boyan, Codel, and Parekh 3).
An individual's personal security is the major issue surrounding the Internet. If a person cannot be secure and have privacy on the Internet, the whole system will fail. According to the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), any website can find out whose server and the location of the server a person used to get on the Internet, whether his computer is Windows or DOS based, and also the Internet browser that was used. This is the only information that can be taken legally. However, it can safely be assumed that in some cases much more data is actually taken (1). These are just a few of the many ways for people to find out the identity of an individual and what they are doing when on the Internet.
One of the most common ways for webmasters to find out information about the user is to use passive recording of transactional information. What this does is record the movements the user had on a website. It can tell where the user came from, how long he stayed, what files he looked at, and where he went when he left. This information is totally legal to obtain, and often the webmaster will use it to see what parts of his site attracts the most attention. By doing this, he can improve his site for the people that return often (Boyan, Codel, and Parekh 2).
There is a much more devious way that someone can gain access to information on a user's hard-drive. In the past, the user did not need to be concerned about the browser he used; that changed when Netscape Navigator 2.0 was introduced. Netscape 2.0 takes advantage of a programming language called Java. Java uses the browser to activate programs to better enhance the website the user was viewing. It is possible for someone to write a program using Java that transfers data from the user's computer back to the website without the user ever being aware of anything being taken. Netscape has issued new releases that fix some but not all of the two dozen holes in the program (Methvin 3).
Many people do not realize that they often give information to websites by doing something called direct disclosure. Direct disclosure is just that, the user gives the website information such as their e-mail address, real address, phone number, and any other information that is requested....
Cited: January 26, 1997: 1-4.
Methvin, David W. "Safety on the Net." Windows Magazine Online (1996): 1-9.
November, 1995 Feature PC World Online November 1995 1-3.
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