Home » Internet Privacy: Is the Internet Really Safe?

Internet Privacy: Is the Internet Really Safe?

With every generation, they bring with them a new invention, to advance us both technologically and scientifically, and thus make life better for us all. Technology, as defined in the New Lexicon Websters Dictionary of the English Language, is “the science of technical processes in a wide, though related field of knowledge. Technology, then can be anything as long as it helps us advance in some way. The technology of the 21st Century is the Internet or cyber space. The Internet was invented in the late 1960s. Back then, the Department of Defense called it

ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency network) and it was intended to link research facilities, defense contractors, and government agencies. The first public demonstration of ARPAnet was in 1972 and technicians proudly displayed a network that connected 50 universities and research facilities. Today there are millions of computers on the Internet. Electronic mail (e-mail) and Usenet (short for “user network”) news groups were the first applications. Telnet gave a researcher on one campus the ability to use a computer on another campus. The University f Minnesota developed a “gopher” program to help users find information and “go for” it.

Forerunners of todays Web-based search engines included Archie and Veronica. Those who named the services were at least inventive. The classified ARPAnet spawned an unclassified Milnet together known as DARPAnet. In the late 1980s, the National Science Foundation built Marsh 2 NSFnet. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration cobbled together a network. These, and a variety of regional networks, were consolidated to create the Internet under NSF supervision. Today the government is more or less out of the picture.

Local Internet service providers (ISP) and Internet presence providers (IPP) collect fees from users and pay network operators for access to the system. Its more chaos than organization, but somehow the Internet manages to function. It is the new “place to be” where business can advance and people can interact worldwide at the click of a mouse. This almost unlimited access to information has revolutionarily changed the world. There are millions of Internet members worldwide and that means it may be viewed by some as a very profitable arena. In any area where there is money there are almost always criminals.

The modern criminals of the world are behind computer screens. Whether they appear to be credible individuals, corporations or organizations, that they are constantly seeking and finding a quick way to make money and often by doing so they are breaking ethical rules of society (even though it is hard to determine the ethics of the Internet). One of these crimes is the violation of the privacy of others. Many times previously I have logged on to the Internet and just like most people, I have felt safe. After all, I am the only one viewing my mail or simply cruising the net. When I am urfing the Internet I think I am the only one that knows where I have been and assume that no one is tracking me.

After all, the things I have just mentioned only happen in the movies, they are Enemy of the State type of things, and could not possibly happen to you. Am I right? Wrong. By holding this thought one is including themselves “in a large group of consumers, world-wide, who are unaware of the multitude of information they are placing on the World Wide Web, simply by using it as it was designed to be used. All it takes is a visit to any site to place personal Marsh 3 nformation about yourself on the Internet for millions to access.

To understand the Internet requires one to view it not as a one way street, but as a two-way road. The one way view of the Internet is that it provides us with information and entertainment. This generally is what many people use the Internet for, and, though it is not totally wrong, there is much more to it. While an individual is surfing the net, the people that maintain the web sites are also getting information about you. It is a two way street because you get what you want and they get what they want; information.

Which side gets the most information is very debatable, solely on the premise of how much you treasure your privacy. It is disturbing to know that one can be tracked all over the World Wide Web just from their mouse clicks. This may be happening to many of us, our browser alone simply gives us away. Just from our browser, someone who wants to, can probably find out “which computer you are coming from, what software and hardware you are using, details of the link you clicked on, and possibly even your email address. This is a lot of information about us that we may not want out there for millions of others to access .

Your browser is giving all this information out through cookies. On the WWW, a cookie is a block of data that a web server stores on a client system. When a user returns to the same web site, the browser sends a copy back to the server. Cookies are used to identify users, to instruct the server to send a customized version of the required Web page, to submit account information for the user, and for other ( unknown) administrative purposes. “A cookie is a unique identifier that a web server places on your computer: a serial number for you personally that can be used to retrieve your records from heir databases. It’s usually a string of random looking letters long enough to be unique. If you Marsh 4 cannot surf the Internet without half the consumer-retailing world knowing about it, what happened to privacy? When I view a particular page that is of interest to me and I want to get some more information on the products that web sites offer, I usually fill out an on-site registration form. By innocently providing the information to the company, I am under the assumption that they will only send the information I need to me and that they are under an ethical code to respect my privacy.

Today the world of the Internet, ethics might as well be a dream. The forms we complete online may ask for basic information like name, address, phone number, email address, and maybe even personal interests. To the unaware consumer, all this information is most likely being gathered for marketing purposes and is often sold to other interested parties willing to buy it. The information along with those of hundreds of others, so that companies may push their products upon you. There are companies emerging all over the Internet that can get access to almost any piece of information on you that you probably consider private nd hold dear. The Internet has unleashed a new beast, a beast that has no name but that has absolutely no respect for privacy. For example, if tomorrow morning the United States Postal Service announced that all mail had to be sent in clear envelopes, there would be a huge ruckus.

That would involve everyone from a custodian to the president of a major organization; this is because we all have something that is private to us that we do not want strangers to know about. It is very disturbing that “when it comes to protecting your privacy, banks and brokerage firms tend to squirm. By law hey must record your Social Security number, the marker that can unlock the data in all too many other accounts (Forbes pg. 187). ”

If your money is not safe, if one knows how much money you Marsh 5 have then you are at a disadvantage. In my opinion I feel everything is measured by the contents of your bank account, to achieve the dream many work hours and hours upon end to make ends meet and to have the products of all their labors exposed to the whole world can be a very painful thing. Recently MSNBC published an article about a man named Glen Roberts who lives in Oil City, in northwestern Pennsylvania. Mr. Roberts had obtained through legal means, thanks to the Internet and, to be more specific, the electronic Congressional Record, to obtain the social security numbers of prominent United States citizens. Roberts then displayed these numbers on his web site to display to the world how unsecured the Internet really is. “This is not some secret military document that someone hacked into, and these are not the Pentagon Papers,” Roberts said. “This is information that is put into public libraries all across the country with taxpayer dollars” (www. msnbc. com).

After reading the article on he MSNBC web site I searched or Roberts page and found it. From there I was able to discover the social security numbers of many prominent members in our society including General Colin L. Powell (social security number 113-28-4024) and Bill Gates (social security number 539-60-5125). These and many others are all available from Roberts Internet address: http://www. glr. com/media. After viewing the contents of this web site I thought that if the social security numbers of prominent U. S. citizens are openly available to anyone, then what would prevent the numbers of normal, everyday citizens (like me) from being available?

Many experts agree that once you have the social security number of an individual you have the key to their whole life. No safeguards are being taken to adequately protect people. The Internet, in my opinion, is a young domain and many are taking advantage of it by breaking strict moral and ethical values. Marsh 6 To prove my point on how unsecured the Internet is and how the privacy of others is not being protected I took the liberty of finding out what information I could find on myself. In exactly one minute (I timed myself) I came up with my address, phone number, and a map of the own I live in. If I had continued my search further I know I could have found more, information and also invaded my own privacy. Security has become one of the primary concerns when an organization connects its private network or and individual logs on to the Internet. Regardless of the business, an increasing number of users on private networks are demanding access to Internet services such as the World Wide Web (WWW), Internet mail, Telnet, and File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

In addition, corporations and individuals want to offer WWW home pages and FTP servers for ublic access on the Internet. Network administrators have increasing concerns about the security of their networks when they expose their organization’s private data and networking infrastructure to Internet crackers. To provide the required level of protection, an organization needs a security policy to prevent unauthorized users from accessing resources on the private network and to protect against the unauthorized export of private information. Even if an organization is not connected to the Internet, it may still want to establish an internal security policy to manage ser access to portions of the network and protect sensitive or secret information. The Internet can be a dangerous place and we need to be careful. I am sure the foundering fathers of our country did not take into account the invention of the computers, let alone the Internet. What they did believe in, and took great pains to protect, was a Constitutional right to privacy. Government legislation must continue. Last year for the first time, the federal government implemented a privacy law aimed specifically at web sites, the Childrens Marsh 7 Online Privacy Protection Act.

Current Legislation includes the McCain-Kerry bill which would require companies to reveal who is collecting information about consumers, what kind of information is being collected and whether consumers must divulge personal information to get access to the site. It would also force Web sites to ensure the security of harvested consumer information; demand that Web sites let consumers limit how their personal information is used for marketing purposes; and levy fines of $ 22,000 for each violation, up to a maximum of $ 500,000. Billy Tauzin, a member of Congress from Louisiana, said If we are going to have a ubiquitous -commerce for this country, we need some common standards on privacy. There are hundreds of web-based email services that appear to offer anonymity, however few really do. These include names such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Excite and many more that could be listed. In each of these cases, the user is allowed to create a personal user name that he uses for his messages. Unfortunately, through sign-up procedures and logging, it is amazingly simple to determine your Internet service provider or ISP, and even your true identity, when you use these services.

For the obvious reason, there is no point in wasting time dealing with those types of services. As the user, it is your responsibility to know that your Internet anonymity is only as secure as the service’s privacy policy. You should always familiarize yourself with the usage and privacy policies of any E-mail or Internet service you consider using. Who wants to know what you’re saying? It might be a nosy fellow employee, your employer, your ISP, a competitor, friend, or legal team. Regardless of who wants to, it is remarkably easy for someone else to read what you write.

It is common sense to protect information that you dont want others to know, and people should ensure that they go to some lengths to do so. There are a large number of nonprofit organizations that specialize in protecting your right to privacy. It is time well spent to Marsh 8 visit these sites, as you can learn what the current laws are, what is being proposed, and what is being done to protect privacy. There are other reasons to protect your privacy. The important principal is that you have a right to privacy as long as that right is used within the bounds of the law.

Seeking privacy should not make you feel guilty. Privacy should be expected and demanded. The reasons might be as simple as preserving your right to express unpopular opinions without being subjected to persecution, or as serious as communicating sensitive business information, revealing credit card numbers, legal discussions with your accountant, or keeping your true identity from a secret government. Regardless of your reasons, privacy is your right. Contrary to what some governing bodies might want the public to believe, not all those concerned with security and privacy are hackers or terrorists.

In conclusion, despite its size and rapid growth, the Web is still in its infancy. We are just beginning to learn how to develop more secure software and we are beginning to understand that for our future online, we need to incorporate security into the basic underpinnings of everything we develop. Today, no one method of Internet security can stop a hacker from intruding on our privacy. Our goal as time goes on and we increase our technological knowledge of the Internet, should be to raise our standards of security in everything we do whether on our personal computers or while surfing on the Internet.

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