The Internet has changed the way that many of us do business and live our lives. The Internet is invaluable for the swift transmission of documents and other information through e-mail, voice mail, video teleconferencing, and other communication methods. Other uses of the Internet include electronic data exchange, electronic funds transfer, and e-commerce. Although the capabilities and benefits of the Internet are manifold, its use is not without risk, however. One of the keys to reducing cyber crime over the Internet is to make it difficult to break into the connected computer and thereby make it a less attractive target. The Internet has many exciting applications including grid computing in which multiple computers are used during times when they would normally be idle. This application of the Internet allows data to be processed for an application that requires more speed or other capabilities than could be available in some cases — even on a supercomputer.
Keywords Application Software; Browser; Cyber Crime; Data; Database; Grid Computing; Hacker; Hyperlinks; Information Technology; Network; Processing; Server; Supercomputer; Virus; World Wide Web
Business Information Systems: Internet Computing
Just as the microprocessor before it, the Internet has changed the way that many of us do business and live our lives. Letter writing has nearly become a lost art and fax machines seem destined for the museum as we send messages and documents across the street and across the globe with unparalleled speed and accuracy. Items ranging from books to groceries to furniture can be purchased — and the resultant bills paid — online from the comfort of one's own home. The need for much business travel has been reduced by high speed audio/visual communications that can link participants around the world via the Internet into a teleconference. College students and apprentice sailors alike can forgo the time and effort of commuting to class and conforming to the schedule of others by taking online courses at times that are convenient for them. Knowledge workers can avoid the stress and hazards of rush hour traffic and commute from the breakfast table to the home office without ever changing out of their fuzzy slippers. In these ways and more, the Internet is transforming life in the 21st century.
History of the Internet
In its essence, the Internet is a network of computer networks not owned by any one institution or organization. The development of the Internet is guided by the Internet Society; a group of volunteers. The International Architecture Board deals with issues of standards and resources while the Internet Engineering Task Force handles the day-to-day issues of the Internet. It is estimated that there are over one billion pages on the World Wide Web today and that traffic on the Internet doubles every nine to 12 months. However, it was not always this way. What we think of today as the Internet was started in 1969 by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the US Department of Defense. Then called ARPANET, its purpose was to enable research scientists to more easily communicate with each other. The original ARPANET included only four computers on its network. By 1971, however, this number had increased significantly, with approximately 24 computers at 15 sites. Within the next 10 years, this number increased to 200 hosts. During the 1980s, an increasing number of computers using different operating systems were added to the network. In 1991, the first web browser was released, allowing users to access what we know today as the World Wide Web (Internet Basics, 2001).
The Internet is invaluable for the swift transmission of documents and other information.
Communication capabilities include e-mail, voice mail, and video teleconferencing. Electronic mail (e-mail) allows users to transmit and receive written messages and attachments of various text, graphic, or other documents. E-mail is exponentially faster than traditional mail, a fact that allows businesses to be more efficient by cutting down response time to messages and receiving documents and information needed for work performance in a timelier manner. Although this can be invaluable when communicating locally, it is essential to organizations that desire to be competitive in the global marketplace.
Long Distance Group Activities
Another popular use of the Internet is the support of group activities such as hosting meetings and conferences with participants at geographically dispersed sites. This use of information technology includes audio and videoconferencing capabilities combined with electronic document exchange capabilities that can obviate the need for extensive travel to meetings. Through the use of the Internet, voicemail messages can be delivered not only to individuals, but also to large groups of people. Video teleconferencing allows the participants to not only be heard at remote locations, but to be seen as well. This technology is often combined with electronic bulletin boards that allow users to post documents electronically, allowing group members to participate fully; sharing not only audio and visual communications in real time, but sharing documents as well.
Electronic Data Exchange
Other uses of the Internet include electronic data exchange and electronic funds transfer. Electronic data interchange is a standard format used in exchanging business data such as price or product identification number. Electronic data interchange technology is particularly important in international commerce where paperwork required for international trade creates costs of up to seven percent of the value of the items being traded. With this technology, shippers, carriers, customs agents, and customers call can send and receive documents through electronic funds transfer, thereby saving both time and money for international transactions. In addition, electronic funds transfer — the electronic movement of money over a communications network — is now an integral part of financial transactions. For example, the automated teller machines (ATMs) are now ubiquitous and have a global presence. Credit card transactions are settled by electronic funds transfer between the user and the issuer of the credit card, payroll checks can be transferred into workers' bank accounts using direct deposit, and government support can be delivered by electronic funds transfer onto debit cards recipients may use for purchases or bill paying.
Because of such funds transfer technologies, the Internet is also increasingly used for e-commerce to buy and sell goods or services — including products and information retrieval services — electronically rather than through conventional means. E-commerce (i.e., electronic commerce) is the process of buying and selling goods or services — including information products and information retrieval services — electronically rather than through conventional means. E-commerce is typically conducted over the Internet.
Risks of Internet Use
Although the capabilities and benefits of the Internet are manifold, its use is not without risk. Networked computers are open to attacks from cyber criminals and need to be protected. Security breaches can affect the validity of data and conclusions, the reliability of processes, and harm not only the organization's reputation and ability to do business, but also the customer's security and safety. Hackers can gain access to sensitive or proprietary information or can alter or corrupt software programs so that they produce invalid results, rendering the system unreliable and unusable. Identity theft is no longer the province of credit card thieves; rather, a single hacker with illegal access to a database containing customers' personal information — including social security numbers, addresses and birth information, and passwords — can exploit the credit and even the raid bank accounts of thousands of victims. Fighting cyber crime requires rapid responses to hacking incidents. The security of computers and computer networks is multifaceted and depends on the vigilance of operating system and software developers, law enforcement, merchants and financial institutions, and individual computer users.
Reducing the Chances of Cyber Crime
One of the keys to reducing cyber crime is to make it difficult to break in; thereby becoming a less attractive target. Although it is not possible to make a computer connected to the Internet completely hacker-proof, there are a number of security approaches that can make hacking more difficult, thereby reducing the threat of cyber crime.
- User identification and authentication is frequently required for many Internet applications. User identification typically consists of the use of user names and passwords. However, these simple tools can be very easy for a cyber criminal to break. To help thwart cyber crime, many companies require the use of longer character strings, the inclusion of numbers as well as letters, making them case sensitive, and requiring that they be changed at regular intervals (e.g., monthly, annually). For businesses where security is paramount, a smart card system can be used as part of an encryption system that uses public keys that are known to everyone and private keys that are known only to the recipient of the message.
- Authorization controls include firewalls (special-purpose software programs or pieces of computer hardware...
(The entire section is 4214 words.)