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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Internet Security

The Internet came into existence with the view to bring the world closer. It is a very dynamic environment where there is no boundary of place and time for any user. Initially, Internet was conceptualized for a limited number of users and hence it was designed without taking any security aspect into consideration. The increased popularity of Internet made it an open ground for hackers, viruses, bugs; which compromised the basic motives for which the computers and Internet came into existence.

Birth of the Internet and Concerns
Though information sharing started taking place via computers in the ’60s called the ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency Network) and the e-mail system was conceived in 1969, when it was termed as the electronic post office, the term ‘Internet’ was first used in 1982. The world was made familiar with the term ‘computer virus’ for the first time in 1983 by Fred Cohen. Robert Schifreen and Steve Gold were arrested for compromising with Prince Philip’s Prestel mailbox. The first PC virus called ‘Brain’ was created in Pakistan in 1985. By 1987, with the growing number of Internet hosts and the personal computer industry; number of people got access to Internet, which was a unique experience. With such a wide and open platform to use, the Internet was no longer safe. Privacy and security concerns started mushrooming and the terms ‘hacker’, ‘cracker’ and ‘electronic break-in’ were coined, when Robert Morris launched the Internet worm that spread across 1/10th (6000) of the Internet hosts. He was then sentenced to three years probation, 400 hours of community service and $10,000 fine.

CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team)
As the safety concerns over the Internet started increasing, CERT was formed in 1988, which was to be the focal point of the computer security concerns of the Internet users. This team actively spread computer security awareness among users and started conducting research that was targeted to improve the security of existing systems.

By 1992, the number of Internet users swelled by 341% since the restriction on the commercial use of Internet was lifted by the National Science Foundation in 1990 and Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist in Switzerland first wrote the code of the World Wide Web in 1991, many companies, organizations and individuals hosted their websites. However, hackers started working widely around 1995 and altered the websites of the U.S. Justice Department, the CIA and the U.S. Air Force. This was followed by number of virus attacks and worms that affected computers and operating systems since the late ’90s. Even today, Internet systems cannot be deemed foolproof, and always need a security back-up to save the computer systems. As such threats were unfolding and making headlines in the press, they needed to be tackled and also raised alarms to develop security systems, this is when Firewall started its evolution.

Firewall
November 2, 1988 changed the Internet user experience forever. Peter Yee at the NASA Ames Research Center reported an incident in the TCP/IP Internet mailing list that Berkeley, UC San Diego, Lawrence Livermore, Stanford, and NASA Ames were attacked by Internet virus. This is when, those who built and contributed to the Internet and its users felt unsafe of their web presence. Other viruses followed suit and started attacking systems. This prompted the making of a Firewall. This term literally means that it is a wall or barrier between the house and the garage or between apartments that will control the time of a raging fire from entering another premise, or a precautionary distance between an automobile engine and its driver. This concept was executed in the virtual world in the form of the first network firewalls in late 1980s, which were routers that were used to separate networks into smaller LANs. This avoided various networks from being affected at the same time. However, the first security routers were used in the early 1990s which worked on the filtering rules that could detect harmful pages or sites and could block them from the system. These were effective but limited. Thereon, Firewalls also emerged with technology and security needs. Firewalls are the checkpoints that impose restrictions on the incoming and outgoing packets in public and private networks based on IP source ad TCP port number. Packet Filters, Circuit-level gateways, Application-level gateways are some of the types of firewalls.

Antivirus
Most viruses in the ’80s were relatively less harmful to the systems, as they were limited to self-reproduction and had no specific damage routine written in the code. However, this scene changed when more programmers became aware of virus programming and started building viruses that manipulated and destroyed data on infected computers. This aroused the need for something like an anti-virus, which would render safety to the systems and networks. Though it is a topic of debate over who was the first to invent the anti-virus code or software, early records from the 1980s credit Bernd Fix of having first publicly performed the removal of computer viruses in 1987, also there were two anti-virus applications that were developed for the Atari ST platform in the same year. Many inventors had picked the academic papers to develop strategies for anti-virus by Fred Cohen I 1988. Desperate need to get a breakthrough with anti-viruses, a mailing list called the VIRUS-L was started in 1988 on the BITNET/EARN network where new viruses and possibilities to eliminate them were discussed. These discussions led to two of its members – John McAfee and Eugene Kaspersky to form software companies that even today develop and sell anti-virus software.

Installing an anti-virus software on individual computers, using tools like firewalls, cloud anti-virus, on-line scanners, etc are being increasingly used for security purposes. These tools come with their own share of benefits and disadvantages like an expensive renewal, for example. Every facility comes with its own drawbacks. Like the innovation in computer technology gave rise to the Internet facility, it was bugged with security concerns. When the tools for protection from these threats evolved, they too have certain limitations or are still progressing. Yet, we cannot do away with both these facilities.

Positive Effects Internet

Internet, as we know, is a large network of networks, which communicate with each other by means of data packets. By definition, it is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the TCP/IP protocol to communicate. The Internet is regarded as the largest information base. And today, it has become an integral part of our lives. Its access methods have also evolved over time, starting from dial-up connections, slowly graduating to broadband, developing further into wireless access, and then to cellular technology. With the increasing and improving means of accessing the web, its use and popularity also grew. Owing to its easy availability, high access speeds, and the variety of services offered, Internet is the need of the day.

We depend on it in more ways than one. We access news websites to update ourselves about the current affairs, we rely on the communication platform it offers to communicate with the world. Be it using a social networking website to post what’s happening in our lives, or using an application like Skype or Viber to talk to our dear ones; web is the medium. Be it to access information or to entertain ourselves, Internet is our first choice. We use it to order food and we use it to shop
for clothes; we use it to read books and to play games. Right from money to medical help, everything is just a click away, thanks to the Internet. It has surely affected the society positively.

Positive Effects

The Internet can be looked at as the means to Access, Express, Impress, and do much more. It is a storehouse of information and perhaps the biggest knowledge base that is easily accessible to just anyone in the world. It gives everyone accessing it, a platform to share their views with the world. Right from personal information to huge employee databases, it can house any and everything. There is no restriction on the type of data that can be stored and accessed via the Internet; which is to say, the files can be of any type (text, audio, image, video, etc.) And the web is a big eCommerce hub; you can shop for just anything online.

The Internet is widely used to store and access information. Email accounts have such great storage capacities that they can store much more than just written communication. Then you have tools like Google Drive, which let you store gigabytes of information online. Cloud computing allows huge storage of data that can be accessed remotely. It relies of sharing resources, thus ensuring their optimum use.

Owing to the increasing volumes of useful information that the web hosts, it can be considered as a knowledge base. From craft ideas for kids, to spiritual guidance, there are several websites ready to help you for free. There are those which give DIY procedures, health tips, and investment advice, thus proving to be of help in daily living. You have a question? Search engines are here to answer. Type in a simple search query in one of them, and they will fetch you thousands of relevant results in microseconds. This increases the speed of information access, and makes it easy for anyone to find answers.

The Internet provides some of the most effective means of communication. Emails and instant messages have made online communication possible. Social networking and blogging websites, and discussion forums have proved to be the best platforms for expression. People in different parts of the world can collaborate over the Internet. They can exchange views, share information, and work together over the web. Professionals working at distant locations can collaborate their efforts, thanks to the Internet. It has brought the world closer, and made far-off places more reachable.

The web serves as the biggest source of entertainment these days. Songs, movies, and even episodes of TV series can be downloaded. Or they can be streamed and enjoyed online. Also, there are several online games that are a recreational means for many. Plus, there is entertaining content; gossip, controversies, stories, riddles, jokes, and more to browse through and be entertained. Some websites host fun activities like grooming a pet, painting pictures, solving puzzles, and so much more. There are portals offering you personality tests and quizzing you to let you know which cartoon character or celebrity you resemble. Fun!

The Internet has redefined business. Huge money transactions can be carried out online; that includes payment of bills, sale and purchase of commodities, and bank transactions. As consumers are turning to the Internet to buy goods, businesses are promoting themselves using the same medium. Fields like online marketing and internet advertising have boomed because of the growing use of the Internet. Products and services can be advertised more effectively over the web. Through tools like RSS feeds, newsletters, and online advertisements, the Internet has made it easier for the business to reach potential customers and also promote their brand.

When we talk of the positive effects of the Internet on different aspects of society, the education, health, and finance sectors are the first few things that come to mind. It was the development of the Internet that made online education and distance learning possible. Computer-aided education made learning fun. It brought interactivity in teaching methods and also helped teachers provide better education to the students. Thanks to the Internet, medical professionals can be reached faster, seeking opinions has become easier as medical reports and/or patient records can be sent over long distances in seconds. Similarly, financial advice is just a few clicks away, thanks to online services provided by professionals in the field. The most valuable gift that the Internet has given society is increased awareness. Due to the many web sources providing informational or educational content, a general awareness among people has increased.

Today, the Internet is a part of every sphere of life. It does have disadvantages, but its positive effects on society outweigh the negative ones, if it is used wisely. If exposed to the world wide web at the right age, children can benefit from it in several ways. If you know what to use it for, Internet is a good thing.

History Email

Electronic mail, known commonly by its abbreviation ’email’, is probably the most used medium of communication today. 50 years ago, had someone said that it would be possible to instantly deliver documents to a recipient sitting half way across the globe, he would have been a laughingstock. However, email came, saw, and conquered the world wide web. Today, it offers so much more than just written text communication. Its ability to securely forward multimedia, photos, software, etc., has made it a popular choice. It’s rightly said that ‘necessity is the mother of all inventions’, and we humans have always found a way whenever the need arose. The history of email communication is very interesting and intriguing. Let’s go back to the days when the Cold War was at its peak.

An Overview of the History of Email

Following the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, the Pentagon initiated a program to design a network whose main aim was to withstand a nuclear attack. Though, the Pentagon insisted that this was not a military program and gave it a scientific angle. This network came to be known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network or ARPANET, after the program’s completion by 1969. Evolution of email is said to have started much earlier than ARPANET, though.

In 1965, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was the first to demonstrate the use of an email system, known as MAILBOX. This was before the Internet came into existence and therefore, this system was used to send messages to different users on the same computer.

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson, a former MIT student, was working on the TENEX operating system for BBN technologies, as an ARPANET contractor. While using a local email program called SNDMSG, Tomlinson created the first email application when he patched a program called CPYNET to the existing SNDMSG. This introduced the capability to copy files through a network and Ray notified his colleagues by sending them the first email. It’s said that the first message sent by Ray was ‘QWERTYUIOP’, which is formed by the entire first row characters of a standard keyboard.

The history of email addresses can also be attributed to Tomlinson. He chose the ‘@’ symbol to provide an addressing standard in the form of “user@host”, which is in use till date. This is why Tomlinson is called the ‘father of email’ and is credited with its invention.

By 1974, email in its improved form was being used by the US military and became the savior of ARPANET, who’s importance was continuously declining. From here on, things developed at a brisk pace. By 1975, efforts to organize the email bore fruit. A general operating area, known as email account, for a user who wants to avail this service, was created. Access controlling was done by giving the user a secret password, which only he/she would know. Separate folders were created depending on the purpose. Inbox for incoming messages, outbox for outgoing messages, etc.

Year 1976 was a watershed year in the history of email marketing. Services were being offered in commercial packages and per-minute charges were applicable to those using these services. This led to the requirement for offline reading, which meant that users could now download their emails on to their personal computers, and then read them leisurely without using and paying for the airtime. This led to the development of applications, which were similar to what Microsoft Outlook can do today.

Requirement for protocols was felt almost immediately, and in 1972, file transfer protocol (FTP) was put in use to send email messages. The main drawback here was that FTP created a separate mail for every recipient and then dispatched it, which resulted in loss of precious memory space. This prompted the creation of the more efficient SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) in the early 1980s, which became a standard protocol to be used in sending email messages. However, the initial versions of SMTP failed to control the cases of forgery and it proved to be a naive protocol in the verification of the authenticity of a user. Viruses, worms, and spammers began exploiting these loopholes in SMTP and even though, many new and improved versions have been released, this problem continues till date.

If SMTP is used to send messages, POP (post office protocol) was a standard for receiving emails. This protocol is used by clients to retrieve messages from the mail server using a connection. Currently, the third version, namely POP3 is in use. One drawback of POP is that it does not support offline retrieval of messages. This demerit has now been overcome, by the more capable IMAP (Internet message access protocol).

History of Spam

Talking of emails, we cannot do without mentioning spam or bulk mail or commercial mail. With more than 85% of emails sent around the world being spam, it’s very important to know the background of spam. Most of us think that spam is quite a recent phenomenon, but you will be surprised to know that the earliest documented spam was sent way back on May 3rd, 1978, by a DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) employee using the SNDMSG application. He sent a marketing proposal to almost 400 ARPANET users, but the message was received by only 320 addresses, as that was the addressee limit of the application. Today, email spam is at its worst, with about 100 million spam mails being sent a day.

There’s so much more about the origin and timeline of email, but these were the most important landmark events. Looking at its current usage, we can only add that instant messaging via email is here to stay.

What is a URL ?

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It specifies the global address of web documents and web resources. The basic reason behind locating or identifying a resource on the web is access or communication. Interaction between web users and the Internet resources is possible, only if each resource on the Internet is identified in a standardized manner. A URL serves this purpose. Let’s look at the different parts that compose it and what purpose each of them serves.

The first part of the address is the protocol identifier. HTTP and FTP are examples of protocol identifiers, which indicate the protocol in use. More rightly known as the scheme, this part of the URL denotes how to connect to the web resource. It is not case-sensitive but the canonical form is lowercase.

The second part of a URL is the resource name that comprises the IP address or the domain name of the web resource. It denotes where to connect. The domain name may be followed by a port number which is separated by a colon. When specified, a connection to that port number is established. If the port is not specified, the browser connects to the default http port which is 80.

The domain name may be followed by a path when a particular resource such as a file or a page needs to be retrieved. This part of the URL specifies what to retrieve. It is case-sensitive. On servers based on Microsoft, it is not. A URL may consist of a fragment identifier which denotes a specific location on the page. If it is a part of the URL, the browser displays that specified part of the page.

A uniform resource locator is synonymous with uniform resource identifier that is abbreviated as URI. By definition, URI is a string of characters that is used to identify resources on the Internet. Either it is the uniform resource locator or a uniform resource name (URN).

Typically, HTTP is the first part of a URL. As you know, it is the protocol identifier. It is followed by a colon and two forward slashes after which comes the domain name of the resource to be located. URLs are commonly referred to as website addresses. To reach any particular website, you need to type its URL in the address bar of your browser, which then retrieves the desired page for you.

An internationalized resource identifier (IRI) is a type of URL that includes Unicode characters. It allows one to create URLs using one’s local alphabet. The domain name is known as an internationalized domain name (IDN). It is converted into punycode, wherein Unicode characters are represented as ASCII characters that DNS supports. When a user specifies a URL in the local alphabet, it is converted to Unicode, and characters that are not a part of the URL character set are converted to English letters using percent-encoding.

Tim Berners-Lee and the URI working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standardized the Uniform Resource Locator in 1994. The Domain Name System created in 1985 was combined with the file path syntax.

This was a brief explanation of the meaning of URL. You should go through these basic Internet terms, if you wish to introduce yourself to other web-related concepts.