Communications, Networking & Security Research Paper Starter

Communications, Networking & Security

One of the keys to success in most twenty-first-century businesses is the ability to exchange data and information quickly and accurately. Networks of computers enable organizations to better perform their tasks and meet the needs of their customers. Networks are particularly useful for enabling fast transmission of messages, information, and documents and for allowing virtual meetings over long distances. Such technologies are not without their drawbacks, however. Networks are at risk from numerous threats both internally and externally. Although network threats continue to evolve, there are a number of general precautions and specific technologies that can be used to reduce network security risks.

Keywords Firewall; Hacker; Information Technology; Network; Security; Virus

Information Technology: Communications, Networking


Most organizations need to be able to access data and communicate within the organization or between the organization and outside agencies. The drycleaner on the corner needs to be able to quickly locate the customer's contact information as well as the customer's clothes. The mom-and-pop grocery store needs to know what items it has in stock, what items it needs to order, and to communicate with suppliers so that it can continue to serve its customers. Banks need access to multiple types of sensitive personal and financial information about their customers and be able to account for every cent in a customer's account. Engineering firms need to be able to share and coordinate information between employees and work teams, order supplies and equipment, and communicate with customers and government agencies. No matter the type of organization, information management and communication are vital to success in the twenty-first century. Today's technology offers organizations better ways to communicate and manage and exchange information than ever before. The ability to network or electronically link computers together further enhances the organization's ability to optimize these technologies to enhance performance and improve viability in the marketplace. In the information age, communications networks have become a necessity for most businesses to facilitate information flow, reduce data transmission time, and enable employees across the company or across the globe to work together more effectively.

There are a number of impetuses to the use of communications networks in organizations. One of these is the trend toward globalization in which businesses no longer operate only locally but have customers and operations across the world. This trend creates an interconnected, global marketplace operating outside the constraints of time zones or national boundaries. To be successful in the global marketplace, businesses also need to be able to communicate and exchange information outside of these constraints.

In addition, the increasing use of high-speed communication technologies for information exchange has changed the expectations in many industries. Businesses are no longer willing to wait for information to be delivered via the mail but need and expect it immediately in order to keep their processes going. The increasing ability to communicate has also resulted in enterprises becoming more aware of what is going on in other departments and functions within the organization as well as forming strategic alliances with other enterprises for their mutual benefit. This trend extends to suppliers and agencies that have an impact on the enterprise's functioning.

Communications networks can be used for a number of purposes. One of the most common uses of network capabilities is the electronic transmission of messages and documents. These capabilities include email, voicemail, electronic document exchange, electronic funds transfer, and Internet access. In addition, communications networks can be used for purposes of e-commerce to buy and sell goods or services, including products and information retrieval services, electronically rather than through conventional means. Networks also support group activities such as the ability to hold meetings with participants at geographically dispersed sites. Audio and videoconferencing capabilities combined with electronic document exchange capabilities can obviate the need for extensive travel to meetings.

Although data communications and networking bring capabilities to businesses that enhance performance and allow them to do things that were previously more laborious and time-consuming, the use of this technology is not without its risks and complications. Without adequate safeguards in place, networked computers are open to both external and internal attacks. Such attacks can affect the validity of data, the reliability of network processes, and harm not only the organization's reputation and ability to do business but the customer's security and safety as well. The impact of security breaches on the customer can range from false charges to the theft of sensitive information or even identity theft of the individuals whose data are contained in compromised databases. Therefore, it is essential that a business protect its information technology assets. The destruction or sabotage of information technology hardware, software, or data can be expensive for the organization. However, software not only can be erased, it can also be altered or corrupted so that it produces invalid results or so that the system becomes unreliable or unusable.

Threats to the enterprise's network security can come not only from external hackers who gain access to the system illegally but from the business's own employees as well. The enterprise must protect its data and processes from both sources of threat. Another way in which computer systems and networks can be vulnerable is through computer viruses and worms. These are malicious programs or pieces of code that are loaded onto a computer without the user's knowledge and against the user's wishes that alter the way that the computer operates or that modifies the data or programs that are stored on the computer. Simple viruses can be self-replicating and use up a computer's memory or otherwise slow down or disable a computer; more complex viruses can transmit themselves across networks and bypass security systems to infect other computers or systems, corrupting or erasing programs or data. Computer viruses can be loaded onto the computer intentionally by internal or external hackers, but also through the receipt of infected email attachments.

There are a number of types of computer crimes to which an enterprise may become susceptible if sufficient security measures are not in place. One category of computer crime involves the unauthorized entry of criminal hackers into the enterprise's computer system. Piggybacking is one type of crime in this category. In piggybacking, the criminal uses the codes or passwords of an authorized user to gain illegal access to the system. Piggybacking is also used to refer to the unauthorized use of a terminal in the system. Another type of computer crime involving illegal access is entry through a trapdoor. These are unknown entry points into a program or network that allow criminals to gain access to and control the system.

A second category of computer crime involves intentional damage to the system's data. Data diddling involves the changing of data and information before they enter the system. As opposed to honest mistakes or keyboarding errors, data diddling is intentionally done with the purpose of damaging the ability of the enterprise to do business. Similarly, data leakage is the intentional erasure or removal of files or even entire databases from a system...

(The entire section is 3367 words.)