Friday, April 30, 2010

Internet Security

However, while using the Internet, along with the convenience and speed of access to information come new risks. Among them are the risks that valuable information will be lost, stolen, corrupted, or misused and that the computer systems will be corrupted. If information is recorded electronically and is available on networked computers, it is more vulnerable than if the same information is printed on paper and locked in a file cabinet. Intruders do not need to enter an office or home, and may not even be in the same country. They can steal or tamper with information without touching a piece of paper or a photocopier. They can create new electronic files, run their own programs, and even hide all evidence of their unauthorized activity.

Basic Internet security concepts:

The three basic security concepts important to information on the Internet are:


Concepts related to people using this information are authentication, authorization, and nonrepudiation. When information is read or copied by someone not authorized to do so, the result is known as loss of confidentiality. For some types of information, confidentiality is a very important attribute. Examples include research data, medical and insurance records, new product specifications, and corporate investment strategies. In some locations, there may be a legal obligation to protect the privacy of individuals. This is particularly true for most banks and loan companies, debt collecting agencies, businesses that offer credit to their customers or issue credit cards, hospitals, doctors' offices, and medical testing laboratories, individuals or agencies that offer services such as psychological counseling or drug treatment and agencies that collect any form of taxes.

Information can be corrupted when it is available on an insecure network. When information is modified in unexpected ways, the result is known as loss of integrity. This means that unauthorized changes are made to information, whether by human error or intentional tampering. Integrity is particularly important for critical safety and financial data used for activities such as electronic funds transfers, air traffic control, and financial accounting.

Information can be erased or become inaccessible, resulting in loss of availability. This means that people who are authorized to get information cannot get what they need. Availability is often the most important attribute in service-oriented businesses that depend on information (e.g., airline schedules and online inventory systems). Availability of the network itself is important to anyone whose business or education relies on a network connection. When a user cannot get access to the network or specific services provided on the network, they experience a denial of service.

To make information available to those who need it and who can be trusted with it, organizations use authentication and authorization. Authentication is proving that a user is whom he or she claims to be. That proof may involve something the user knows (such as a password), something the user has (such as a "smartcard"), or something about the user that proves the person's identity (such as a fingerprint). Authorization is the act of determining whether a particular user (or computer system) has the right to carry out a certain activity, such as reading a file or running a program. Authentication and authorization go hand in hand. Users must be authenticated before carrying out the activity they are authorized to perform. Security is strong when the means of authentication cannot later be refuted - the user cannot later deny that he or she performed the activity. This is known as nonrepudiation.

Why should we be concerned about Internet security ?

It is remarkably easy to gain unauthorized access to information in an insecure networked environment, and it is hard to catch the intruders. Even if users have nothing stored on their computer that they consider important, that computer can be a "weak link", allowing unauthorized access to the organization's systems and information. Seemingly innocuous information can expose a computer system to compromise. Information that intruders find useful includes which hardware and software are being used, system configuration, type of network connections, phone numbers, and access and authentication procedures. Security-related information can enable unauthorized individuals to get access to important files and programs, thus compromising the security of the whole system. Examples of important information are passwords, access control files and keys, personnel information, and encryption algorithms.

Internet security abuse is often reported in the media. Nobody on the Internet is fully or completely immune to a security breach. Those affected include banks and financial companies, insurance companies, brokerage houses, consultants, government contractors, government agencies, hospitals and medical laboratories, network service providers, utility companies, the textile industry, universities, and wholesale and retail trades.

The consequences of a break-in cover a broad range of possibilities: a minor loss of time in recovering from the problem, a decrease in productivity, a significant loss of money or staff-hours, a devastating loss of credibility or market opportunity, a business no longer able to compete, legal liability, and the loss of life.


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