Security on the Internet
How do you secure something that is changing faster than you can fix it? The Internet has had security problems since its earliest days as a pure research project. Today, after several years and orders of magnitude of growth, is still has security problems. It is being used for a purpose for which it was never intended: commerce. It is somewhat ironic that the early Internet was design as a prototype for a high-availability command and control network that could resist outages resulting from enemy actions, yet it cannot resist college undergraduates. The problem is that the attackers are on, and make up apart of, the network they are attacking. Designing a system that is capable of resisting attack from within, while still growing and evolving at a breakneck pace, is probably impossible. Deep infrastructure changes are needed, and once you have achieved a certain amount of size, the sheer inertia of the installed base may make it impossible to apply fixes.
The challenges for the security industry are growing. With the electronic commerce spreading over the Internet, there are issues such as nonrepudiation to be solved. Financial institutions will have both technical concerns, such as the security of a credit card number or banking information, and legal concerns for holding individuals responsible for their actions such as their purchases or sales over the Internet. Issuance and management of encryption keys for millions of users will pose a new type of challenge.
While some technologies have been developed, only an industry-wide effort and cooperation can minimize risks and ensure privacy for users, data confidentiality for the financial institutions, and nonrepudiation for electronic commerce.
With the continuing growth in linking individuals and businesses over the Internet, some social issues are starting to surface. The society may take time in adapting to the new concept of transacting business over the Internet. Consumers may take time to trust the network and accept it as a substitute for transacting business in person. Another class of concerns relates to restricting access over the Internet. Preventing distribution of pornography and other objectionable material over the Internet has already been in the news. We can expect new social hurdles over time and hope the great benefits of the Internet will continue to override these hurdles through new technologies and legislations.
The World Wide Web is the single largest, most ubiquitous source of information in the world, and it sprang up spontaneously. People use interactive Web pages to obtain stock quotes, receive tax information from the Internal Revenue Service, make appointments with a hairdresser, consult a pregnancy planner to determine ovulation dates, conduct election polls, register for a conference, search for old friends, and the list goes on. It is only natural that the Web's functionality, popularity, and ubiquity have made it the seemingly...