Is the Internet really safe?April 9, 2011 —
The Internet has certainly come a long way since its birth in 1969. If you were to go back in time and take a look at the Internet in its nascent stages, you would be surprised at how limited it was. It would probably be a page full of text with links, and those links probably took you to more websites with text on it. The Internet in its early stages would probably seem very dull and boring to us, not to mention unorganized (Google did not exist back then). however, for the people living at that time, the Internet was truly revolutionary. It improved the way people shared information with one another!
As time went on, and as technology progressed, the Internet became more sophisticated. A website was no longer a page filled with text and links. It started to have pictures, interactive components, videos, to name a few. In fact, the Internet is a pretty versatile tool nowadays. Not only can you find information on it in an organized manner (thanks to Google), but you can watch videos, listen to music, chat with people, play games, go shopping, read news, check email…the list just goes on and on! If you think about it, we rely so much on the Internet, that we simply can’t imagine what it would be like living one day without it! We have become dependent on it, and it has become a part of our lives.
All of you know what I’m talking about. With the rise of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, along with some cool Google services such as Blogger, Picasa, Google Docs, Google Reader, and YouTube, we all have this strong urge to stay up=to-date on the latest subjects and issues going on in the world. If we were to suddenly have the Internet and all of its features taken away from us, we would probably go into withdrawal, much like how a drug addict goes into withdrawal if he/she does not consume a certain amount of the drug. I have not yet tried going one day without using the Internet or any electronic devices, but I can tell you all that I would not make it.
As technology continues to improve and progress, so does the Internet and its capabilities. Pretty soon, the Internet may undergo a radical change, one that may change the way we “surf the web”. However, it is important to know that in any environment, real or virtual, there are always dangerous hazards that could harm individuals. Where there is good, bad will always follow along. You might be wondering, “How could the Internet be such a bad thing?”
Technically speaking (no pun intended), the Internet itself is neither good nor bad. It’s just a tool, a resource that we now use in our everyday lives. But like any tool, it’s purpose can vary. While the average user may use the Internet to stay up-to-date on the latest news, another may use it to advance his own greed and desire. We have a come a long way with the Internet, such that it no longer just stores information; it also stores personal information, information about us. This is where things can get messy.
Social networks are a popular target for hackers. Why? Because social networks contain a plethora of personal information about users: birth dates, current residence, relationship statuses, phone numbers, addresses, etc. You may not think that your personal information would be of any use to a hacker, but they can. Your birth date can be used to access your bank account. When you call a bank and ask for access to your account, the bank takes several measures to make sure that the person on the phone is really you. Your birth date is one of things the bank asks you. What they don’t ask you for is your account number. And that is one way to determine if the person you’re talking to over the phone is really a bank accountant. Bank accountants do NOT ask for your account number when trying to confirm your identity.
Some believe that it is impossible for a hacker to steal personal information about you, because the social network sites are protected by usernames and passwords. The hacker would have to know those two pieces of information in order to advance into your social network account. Well, they may not have it directly, but they can certainly get it. Your username and password are stored on a server that hosts the social network. A hacker can easily break into that server and steal usernames and passwords. Social network sites will always tell you to keep your username and password confidential. They also tell you to create a password that nobody can guess. However, even if you do all that, a hacker can still break in. This applies not just to social networks, but to any website that contains valuable information.
So, is the Internet really a safe place? No…it isn’t. However, that does not mean we should be afraid of it. Computer hackers do offer one advantage: they remind us of how vulnerable and unsafe the Internet is, and they reveal weaknesses in websites that would otherwise go unnoticed. In fact, not all hackers are bad. Computer scientists that work for security firms are considered hackers, simply because their job is to try to hack into a website and find its weaknesses. However, those hackers are working for a common good. They are trying to keep the Internet as safe as possible.
The Internet is not a safe place, but that does not mean we should avoid it. What it does mean is that we have to be careful. The next time you sign in to Facebook, it might be a good idea to remove some bits of personal information from your account. Your friends may call you paranoid, but at least they can’t call you a victim of a crime.