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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.

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.

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.