Computer Security and Safety are critical in the modern computer era. Understanding some history of the internet and computing will help you better understand the vulnerabilities. When I first started working with computers, there were no internet connections. Therefore, except protecting the computers from outside access, there was very little concern for Security and Safety for the computer itself. As ARPA net and DARPA net were being developed, the access to the network was limited and very little thought went into protecting the computer directly. The basic languages (like Algol and C) that were used to create the more modern Operating Systems were extremely flexible. Algol and C are closely related, C being derived from Algol. Algol is the language that Burroughs used to develop their Operating System, while C was used to develop UNIX (which is the basis for UNIX SYS 5, UNIX BSD, and LINUX Operating Systems. Eventually, C++ was developed, based on C, and is the modern language used (in combination with C) as the base for many Operating Systems (O/S) like Microsoft DOS and Windows as well as the Macintosh O/S. In the older versions of C and C++, programs could easily access any memory location in the computer. This allowed some engineers to modify the O/S on the fly, which is very convenient but also could be a bit dangerous for people who did not have noble intentions. Modern compilers have attempted to limit the locations that program developers can access, but good hackers can find ways around these limitations. So be careful of the programs you download. Ben Larkin will be adding a section on hacking security later. As the World Wide Web (WWW) was developed, more concern for Security and Safety have also developed. However, all of the early development has left many vulnerabilities in modern computers. The following sections are covered in this article.
- The Internet
- Internet Access
- Safe Browsing
- Parental Controls
- Online Bullying
- Remote Computer Access
The internet was started to connect government, industry, and universities and was given a big boost first when the USSR launched Sputnik in 1957 and again when President Kennedy promised to put a man on the moon by 1969. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) was started about 1957. In 1961, with President Kennedy’s announcement, DARPA was expanded to include civilian companies and universities. Later the D was dropped and the name became ARPA net. The network grew and connected our country from coast to coast. In the 70s, Universities started taking these ideas and connecting their own university campuses outside of the ARPA net. As traffic increased, certain companies became the hubs or nodes for the internet. When I worked for Tektronix in 1978, they had a $38,000 monthly phone bill because all the internet traffic through Oregon went through their phone system. This has since changed. In the early 80’s many companies started producing personal computers (PCs) and people wanted to connect their computers to the outside world. This led to the development of the World Wide Web and the need for easy access.
The first access to the Internet was through companies like AOL and Juno that provided software to access the internet through Phone modems. You had to have a landline and a phone handset that could be cradled in the modem. At this point, it was hard for a person to hack into a PC. One problem being that the speeds were so slow that it would take forever to do anything. If any of you have used a modem, you know how long it took to load a page. Eventually, the phone company came up with forms of what is now called DSL. Soon the cable companies developed access through their cables and satellite television companies added access through their satellites. With easier access outward, malicious access inward started being more of a problem. Also, with the development of the World Wide Web, the number of sites to browse increased dramatically. Therefore, extensions were developed to help users determine what the purpose of each site was. The first few were all United States centric. For example,
.gov was strictly for the United States of America’s government. A German government entity would have to end with
,gov.de. The most common endings were
.net Each country outside the United States had their own suffix and sometimes used the three common suffixes in front of the country suffix, like
.org.de. Most countries have their own two letter suffix. It is now being pushed for the United States to adopt the
.us suffix. But that will probably never happen. The United States has controlled the internet since its inception, but at one point President Obama was trying to give that control away. I am not sure of the status of that transition at this time.
Browsing is what we all do on the internet. This is where we need to be careful. For example, government websites end with
.gov. However, there are other suffixes available and often people will purchase a website with the same name as a government website with one of the other available suffixes. Be careful of these alternate sites, some might be legitimate businesses trying to gain more internet traffic, but others might be nefarious and wanting to suck you into something not so good. Also, most popular sites have sites that are easily accessed by making a common misspelling of the actual website name. To avoid some of these sites, I have set my Parental Control to adolescent mode so that it will block the worst sites that I have no desire to see.
E-Mail was one of the first applications developed for the World-Wide Web (WWW). It was in use long before the WWW, but it was not as easy to use. Remember how I talked about the web being divided into regions with hubs, like Tektronix. You had to specify each hub an e-mail must pass before it got to its destination. The order listed had to be the reverse order, with the last address appearing like the way e-mails appear now. For example, to reach my friend in New Jersey, I would use an address like (the node names have been purposely altered and the number of hubs have been purposely shorted:
This means that the e-mail would go from Tektronix in Oregon to HP in Boise to the University of Chicago to Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, to Burroughs in Pennsylvania, and finally to AT&T in New Jersey. To say the least, SPAM was not a problem at this time because it was so hard to send an e-mail.
E-mails are the most vulnerable entry point for SPAM and Viruses. Be careful what you open, especially if your are using your parents’ system. There are many nasty programs that can be downloaded onto your system that wish to do your system harm. Some may be disguised as simple games, but the fun the makers of such games have in mind is for them and not for you. Be careful.
Parental Controls are a great way to avoid going to inappropriate sites. I use it for my own protection. It is a great tool. If your parents have not already set up parental control, talk with them about it. If need be, set it up yourself. Tell them that your computer instructor uses it for his accounts and is a great tool for preventing the opening of sites that can be malicious, as well as inappropriate. It is a great tool, so use it.
Bullying of any form is wrong, whether it is on the playground or on the internet. Please think before you act. If you are thinking about doing something or saying something, ask yourself first how you would feel if someone else did or said that to you. Words can be just as destructive as actions, especially if they are endured over a period of time. The internet is a great place for learning and social media can be entertaining, but hurtful messages have no place on social media. Are you a person who builds up others or tears down others? The choice is yours. As was said in
Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade,
Choose Wisely. Everything you post will remain out there forever. The joke at HP about posting something was:
Is that really something you would want your grandmother to see? Please only post things you want your grandmother to see and that are kind and uplifting to others.
All computers should have a good firewall. Firewalls are designed to block bad e-mails and prevent viruses from infecting your system. Both Microsoft and Apple have built-in firewalls. Sometimes there is a need to strengthen that protection. There are many network security/firewall companies out there. Norton Antivirus and McAfee are two of the largest. I personally use AVG which I believe is a Dutch company. AVG has both a free version and a subscription version. I started out with the free version, but eventually switched to the paid version. There are many other companies available from whom to choose. Do research with your parents on which company would be best for you and your computer(s).
The main purpose of a firewall is to prevent unauthorized access to your computer and block viruses from infecting it. Since most people have information on their computers, like finances, that they would not like other people to access, having a good firewall is important. One area that firewalls often protect is in reviewing incoming e-mail. E-mail is one of the major entry points for unwanted viruses. Normally, a virus is downloaded by opening an attachment that comes with the e-mail. If you are not sure who sent you the e-mail, do not open any attachments. More sophisticated hackers say that they can infect your systems by you simply opening your e-mail. I personally have not verified this, but I usually just delete e-mail from people I do not know. If that is a problem, I just block that person from my e-mail in basket.
The amin problem with most firewalls is bloat. To protect you more, the software sometimes grows to require many of your computers resources. Each company has a redesign on a regular basis to maintain the current level of protection while reducing the amount of code and execution time required to perform these safeguards. The other problem is allowing your firewall to get out-of-date. New viruses and other hacks are devised frequently, so the firewall software must be updated often to have the latest protects.
This is a document under development. The main point is to be cautious on-line. There are people out there who would like to do harm to others. Do not be a victim and especially do not be a perpetrator. Be safe on line.