State of the Internet

What are Networks?


Definition of a Network - Connection between two or more computers through a cable or some type of wireless connection. It enables users to share hardware, software and information.

LAN stands for Local Area Network, a network that connects computers in a limited geographical area e.g. a home, a school or an office building. Each computer on the network is referred to as a node and often shares resources e.g. printers, with other computers on the network. A local area network can be wireless in form (WLAN).

WAN stands for wide area network, which connects computers over a wide geographical area. Computers are connected to one another via phone lines, cables and radio waves. It can be one large network or a number of LAN's joined together. The Internet is the world's largest WAN.

Client / Server networks are established so that one or more computers act as the server in order to control the network. The client request services from the server.external image Sample%20Network%20Diagram.jpg

Servers control the network is several ways. Firstly they control access to the networks resources e.g. hardware, software and files. The server can also provide centralised storage for the network and store program files, data and information. Some servers are dedicated to a single purpose e.g. print servers manage client printing across the network, database servers may store data for a specific database program that runs on the network, file servers may store files for access by the the clients of the network.

Clients are the computers on the network that request services from the server. The clients may be connected physically to the network or are wireless.

sysadmin Access permissions

Benefits of networks


  1. Sharing of hardware e.g. printers, scanners, storage space. This can save a business a lot of money.
  2. Faciltating communications e.g. email, information / data exchange
  3. Sharing of software e.g. you can distribute a software program for use across a network and also install any updates
  4. Sharing data and information e.g. access to databases, company reports etc.
  5. Transfer funds - electronic banking and e-commerce





EDI

Network Standards


Ethernet

TCP/IP


Bluetooth

How Bluetooth Works - TechStuff



Threats to a Network


Power failure - need for UPS (Uninterruptible power supply) which provides emergency power by supplying power from a separate source when utility power is not available. It differs from an auxiliary or emergency power system or standby generator, which does not provide instant protection from a momentary power interruption. A UPS, however, can be used to provide uninterrupted power to equipment, typically for 5–15 minutes until an auxiliary power supply can be turned on, utility power restored, or equipment safely shut down. While not limited to safeguarding any particular type of equipment, a
UPS is typically used to protect computers, data centers, telecommunication equipment or other electrical equipment where an unexpected power disruption could cause injuries, fatalities, serious business disruption or data loss. UPS units range in size from units to back up single computers without monitor (around 200 VA) to units powering entire data centers, buildings, or even cities.

Computer crime - Illegal acts involving a computer. Different from criminal activity that occurs online, known as cybercrime.

Hacker(s) - person(s) who accesses a computer network illegally although it is often used a a glorified term to denote computer enthusiasts. A hacker may claim to breach security in order to improve security. This is a particularly interesting way to defend the ethics of hacking. Some hackers, however, are hell-bent on destroying data, stealing information or performing malicious acts; these people are sometimes referred to as crackers.

Corporate espionage - occurs when rival companies may pay employees from rival companies to deliver them specific information, which may include accessing unauthorised areas of a network to obtain that information.

Malware - collective term for viruses, worms and trojan horses. These can be delivered to a network intentionally or unintentionally by a user bring a flash drive with infected files to work and placing them on the network without knowing that the virus was there in the first place. Signs of the effects of malware on a computer system - screen display alter e.g .messages / pictures - random music or sounds - memory used up - existing programs and files disappear or do not work - files become corrupted, won’t open or data disappears - unknown files or programs appear - system properties change (major problem for networks). The total effect of malware on a computer system is often termed the payload.

Excellent Video Introduction to many of these key terms

Viruses, Hackers & Spam: Computer Security And Malicious Software


Backdoor programs - these can be written into programs in order for users of a program to by-pass security and authorisation. While these programs can be useful in addressing problems quickly and with minimal fuss, they are also open to abuse.

Distributed Denial of Service attacks

How Zombie Computers Work - HowStuffWorks.com



Consequently security and maintenance of a network must be high and ongoing.

Use of email - never open emails that are not from a TRUSTED SOURCE. Most viruses that come through emails are attached to files such a Word documents or are in attached program files .exe.There are options on some email programs, such as Microsoft Outlook, to preview the email before opening it, if the user is unsure as to the content and source of the email. Although some viruses are now produced to open even in a preview.

Use of macros - when programmers write macros for specific applications they can place malware within. This maware is released or triggered once the macro is run on the program. Users should have their macro security setting switched on that allows the option of either enabling or disabling the macros. Again there is a need to clarify whether the program is from a trusted source or not.

Antivirus programs - these identify and remove viruses but many also work to identify and remove trojans and worms. It is important to continually update, although this is often automatic, the program as they are written prior to new malware being introduced. Popular virus programs include McAffee, Norton and Kaspersky. Viruses commonly have a signature, which is a pattern of code unique to that type of virus. Antivirus programs scan for such code in order to identify and remove the virus. Antivirus programs may also innoculate files by copying their properties to see if the virus tampers with the file. If files are infected, antivirus programs may quarantine that file in a portion of the hard drive so that the virus cannot infect any more files to safeguard data.

Firewall programs can also be installed to secure the network to filter incoming information, which is commonly done with the use of a proxy server. Personal firewalls can be built that set certain conditions and parameters for incoming information based on preferences. Firewalls also onitor transmissions to and from a computer and may inform the user or system administrator of attempted intrusion.

Proxy server

How Proxy Servers Work - TechStuff

Audit Trail - The audit trail contains the information of each access to the network. Audit trails can be used to trace unauthorized activity and they often act as a deterrent to people acting inappropriately.

Login, passwords, cards and biometrics are other methods of preventing unauthorised access to a network.



Issues with Network Monitoring

Evaluate our ability to monitor users of a network

The ability of system administrators to monitor the use of a network by its individual clients is very important in maintaining the safety and working order of a network. However this process can be, in some cases, an invasion of privacy, not to mention quite costly for the network owner. Monitoring a network has positive impacts on the speed and safety of a network, but also helps to maintain a healthy working environment within the workplace. In essence, the ability to monitor a network is becoming more and more necessary in a society that is becoming more technologically aware.

In terms of the technological options available for monitoring a network there are a number of software packages available for monitoring a variety of different activities. For example, user of a network may have their internet access, programs used, time logged on and off and email attachments as well as correspondents monitored while using a corporate network. These measures are taken in order to ensure that inappropriate use of the network is not undertaken in the workplace, and also to ensure that harmful files and attachments do not enter the network. A virus is one of the biggest threats to any network, so ensuring files from un-trusted sources are deleted immediately is imperative. For this reason, removable devices used by employees are also monitored as to what is being uploaded and downloaded. Lastly, a software package is available that monitors the key strokes of a user, which is known as ‘key-logging’. This means that if suspicious activities are suspected by a particular user, this users key-log can be analysed to assess their intent.

Why is it important to monitor a network? Firstly, monitoring a network ensures the security and safety of the data of a business and thus their reputation. It can prevent information leaks and stops viruses infiltrating the system and damaging data. Secondly, a monitoring system ensures that users in the workplace are engaging in appropriate activities on the network, and are thus using their working time in accordance with the businesses wishes. The monitoring software also acts as a deterrent in this fashion, making users think twice before they attempt to use the network for inappropriate practices. Lastly, monitoring the network of a competitive business can in many cases prevent corporate espionage, whereby members of the business or another business try to steal data in order to damage the reputation or work of that business.

The monitoring of a network is not just applied to LAN networks used for business, but also to WAN networks, the largest of which is the Internet. The US government is constantly monitoring the Internet to filter out harmful or inappropriate material. Currently, network experts around the world have been monitoring the appearance of child pornography on the internet with a vision to completely abolish these websites in the near future. The monitoring of the internet is extremely important especially in the case of some of the sensitive material that is uploaded from extremists in the middle-east and should not be viewed by members of the public.

If a business or organisation wish to monitor a network, they must consider the ethical and social issues that associate with this action. First and foremost, the company must devise a policy as to why the monitoring will take place. This will outline the conditions of the monitoring, ensuring users that their security and safety as well as the security and safety of the business is of primary interest. If users are aware of the conditions of the monitoring, they will be more likely to accept it gracefully. The punitive consequences of breaching the policy must also be outlined and enforced for the system to work.

Secondly, the company must assess the cost of the software associated with monitoring a network, and decide whether the benefits of this will outweigh the cost.

To aid in keeping the network safe, employees should be educated on only accepting files from trusted sources and never starting a computer with a removable device inserted.

While the advantages of monitoring a network are vast, there are a few disadvantages that must be considered. If employees know they are being watched, the moral in the workplace may go down and thus productivity decreased. Some employees may even feel that their privacy has been invaded and want to quit. However, the likeliness of this is low and most employees will accept the monitoring gracefully.
The last ethical issue to consider is who will monitor the network, the data, and how much control over the network this person will be given. Should this be the network administrator’s job or the boss of the business?
In summary, our ability to monitor a network is vital to the efficiency and safety of an organisation. It is especially important in reference to the internet, which could become extremely unsafe if damaging materials are not monitored.


Issues with Network Access

Evaluate the ability of systems administrators to implement different levels of access across networks.

The main advantage to having a networks administrator is that the responsibility of the network is placed upon one person. A network administrator is: a modern professional responsible for the maintenance of computer hardware and software that comprises a computer network. One benefit of a central responsibility is that the maintenance of the network is clear cut, and everyone’s ‘role’ is defined. For example - in any given network, let’s say a school’s network, there is often one main server, which everyone has central access to. A server is: a dedicated computer which controls all network access. The two main network administrator responsibilities is making sure the network is firstly secure, and secondly operational.

In contrast, a peer to peer network, such as a group of computers in a family home, everybody has equal control. This means that often, rather the responsibility placed on everyone equally, people will often assume, someone else will pick up the slack. And, in a peer to peer network, there is often no ‘go to guy’ that is, if a user of a peer to peer network has a problem, there is no-one who has more power than he, to get help from. Using the school again as the example; if a user, such as a student or teacher loses their password, the network administrator can easily reset the password.

This means that the data sent between computers on a client network with a network administrator is secure from; viruses and malware and unauthorised access or hacking. The physical hardware will also be maintained, and when there is a network failure, the person who has to go and solve it, knows their duty.

In a client network, the Administrator’s responsibility of security and that the network continues to operate also includes internal safety. As, there are many risks that come from within the network itself. Such internal responsibilities can be; Ensuring employees use their time efficiently, and do not have access to illicit or illegal material. And that no disgruntled employees are able to do any malicious harm to the network. Such as introducing foreign objects into the network, which may contain viruses.

The actual ability for a network administrator to implement different levels of access, is the main tool used to ensure internal security, and in many cases can be very beneficial. In any business or corporation, there are many different employees, all of which have very specific roles within the company. Although the control of an administrator may lead to an invasion of privacy, (for example, the administrator could monitor your emails) this control could in fact be preserving privacy. One common example of this is a hospital. You have many different employees, for example, you have a finance department, and the actual medical wing. What right does anybody of the financial department have to look at the medical records? None, obviously. Another example; within a school, should students have access to exam and test resources stored on the school network? Most definitely not.

Although this sort of power means that appropriate access is given to those who need it, and the safety of the information on the network is secure, it can also be open for abuse. If a network administrator has control of what you could call the backbone of efficiency in many work places. This administrator also has inadvertent control of the efficiency and operation of a given work place. In such a modern society, nearly everything is based on a network of computers. Examples of these networks range from; airport control, traffic lights, police station databases and computers, school networks and businesses. Such abuse of power could be; invasion of privacy, corporate espionage, or plain out favouritism, or personal vendettas.

A network administrator can easily monitor and have access to very privileged information, and there is a chance that they can abuse this. For example, a network administrator could easily give himself access to the medical records of a police station, to see his neighbour’s criminal record, which is ethically wrong. The ability to ‘distribute’ access can also mean that the administrator can target a specific user, and greatly reduce their access, an example could be; if a network administrator had a grudge against a student currently taking their education, the administrator could reduce the students storage on the server, delete their files, or take away their internet privileges. However, this can also be used as a punishment for students, for playing games, or storing illicit or illegal information on the server.

Although this ability to implement different levels of control is a double-edged sword, the increased efficiency of having a network administrator, in comparison to one without; like a peer to peer network, far outweighs the possibility of abuse of power. The potential for abuse of power can be circumvented by have one or more administrator, both with equal total control. The physical limitations of a client server network are also much less than that of a peer to peer; sheerly because the network traffic can be easily managed. Such as print queues, and internet bandwidth.

Issues with Network Failure

Given the chance of network failure discuss whether we should use networks?

Networks have been used by humans for decades to easily link people together and assist in the transfer of information. Ever since the invention of networks there have been problems which eventuate in the operating of them, some instances of this have caused massive damage to the network’s users and even people around the network. There are clearly many benefits which networks can offer to a whole range of different people, but at what cost do these come? And what potential is there for, when network failure occurs, massive scale damage to people and infrastructure.

There are a few different ways in which a network can fail. Physically, components of the network can be damaged or poorly manufactured and these can cease to function causing compartmented or entire network failure. These failures are easily averted by monitoring the quality of the components used to build the network. Simple tests can be run to make sure that the communications channels, the routers and any other physical network infrastructure is functioning as it was intended to do. Also, simple system maintenance can greatly reduce the risk of hardware component failure. Real time monitor the performance of the hardware during the running of the network also allows for failures to be detected immediately so that a solution can be found as quickly as possible, and the impact of the network failure greatly diminished. Network architecture can also be designed so that hardware components are in low-risk areas so that the chance of outside factors impairing the network is lessened. For example, placing a protective metal housing around outside cabling will deter natural elements interfering with the network.

Software is as crucial to the functioning of a network as is hardware, and just like hardware software is susceptible to failure. Software failure can have major impacts on a network, sometimes even more significant than that of hardware failure. Software can fail in several different ways; old software can become incompatible with newer versions of software and hardware. Although this is fairly easily overcome by regularly updating the software, a service often offered free across the internet with purchase of a software package. Software can also fail due to faulty programming, this can either be due to a flaw in the initial program or a faulty update released for a program. There are ways that Software can be checked before it is deployed onto a network, where it has the potential to cause most harm. ‘Pilot’ or ‘lab’ deployments allow for network administrators to test the effect of installing a program on a select network section to see if it has any adverse or harmful affects to the machines themselves. Although this is sometimes not viable for smaller networks as they do not have sections which they can risk going down.

While networks can physically fail, they are also susceptible to a less visible and therefore more dangerous threat from external sauces. External threats can come in many forms, the one thing they share in common is that they all need a way of infiltrating a network, but once inside can be very hard to remove. The biggest access point posed to a network is an internet link and there are many threats which are posed from the internet. Network failure can be caused by Malware getting into the network and slowing down hardware and corrupting files and program. A simple firewall which is kept up to date can help to prevent these external threats from getting into a network. Also, a basic training in the use of things such as emails and the correct discretion in downloading files can greatly reduce the risk of threats being brought into a network. The internet is not the only way that threats can enter a network, alien devices which are brought into the network such as CD’s, FlashDrives and portable hard drives can hold damaging material which can easily make its way onto a network. Educating people in files that should not be uploaded onto a network as well as setting file credentials which must be met for uploaded files can near to eliminate the risk of network failure due to external threats.

Networks provide countless benefits to many different groups of people, increasing the speed and scale of communication. Networks have helped to lessen the digital gaps which accompany physical separation allowing different offices and branches to be linked together. Networks also allow for mass scale collaboration and sharing of data, giving access for large number of people to a large amount of data. Networks have severely cut time spent and therefore greatly increased workplace productivity. Networks have also decreased the number of people needed to complete a certain task, or monitor a certain thing, as networks give widespread access to different places to a single person. This has meant that industries, governments and education facilities are all benefited as they can share resources and information between each other or amongst their own members over physical distances. This in itself has revolutionised the way in which computers are used and these particular organisations are run. Therefore, networks provide countless benefits to the organisations which employ them and should be used wherever and whenever it is practical. I have looked over some variations of network failure, and when it happens there are chances of huge ramifications. However, the chance of network failure is only slight, and there are steps which I have already highlighted (such as basic education or implementing security software) which can decrease the odds of network failure even more. This provides more than compelling evidence that the benefits of networks more than outweigh the possible cost, and even then it is more compelling as the possibility of network failure is very slight. Therefore, despite the very small possibility of network failure, they can and should be used wherever the opportunity presents itself.

E-Commerce






E-commerce (Electronic Commerce) consists primarily of the distributing, buying, selling, marketing, and servicing of products or services over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks. Note: it does not have to occur just over the Internet.

E-commerce includes retail shopping, banking, stocks and bonds trading , auctions, real estate transactions, airline booking, movie rentals—nearly anything you can imagine in the real world. Even personal services such as hair and nail salons can benefit from e-commerce by providing a website for the sale of related health and beauty products, normally available to local customers exclusively.

E-commerce can be accomplished in a wide variety of ways including electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems. Modern electronic commerce typically uses the World Wide Web at least at some point in the transaction's lifecycle, although it can encompass a wider range of technologies such as e-mail as well. (Wikipedia, February 2009)

What makes some e-commerce companies more successful than others?
Top E-commerce companies analysed

Anti-spyware

This software that runs in the background while you use your computer works to combat the problems associated with spyware and protect your privacy, the functionality of your computer and allow you to use the Internet without those annoying pop-up ads. On the downside, the coverage that spyware programs give are not even and some are better than other and most do have their downsides. The link below points out some of the drawbacks with popular anti-spyware programs.
Weighing up anti-spyware programs
spyware.gif

Creating consumer confidence with SSL


SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer and is a method of encrypting your personal data when making online transactions, so that it cannot be stolen by third parties with malicious intent.
SSL your key to E-commerce security


Online Marketing


Impact of online video on TV advertising

E-banking and Finance


What is Electronic Banking?

According to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Electronic Banking (e-banking) is a range of banking services that utilises electronic equipment and includes the following:

• Telephone Banking
• NetBank (Internet banking)
• Bpay and Bpay View
• ATM
• Keycard (debit card)
• EFTPOS
• Maestro/Cirrus and Visa Plus
• AFT (Automated Funds Transfer)
• Deal Direct.

E-banking offers the convenience of conducting most of your banking transactions at a time that suits you. You can access funds and transfer funds between accounts, pay bills and make purchases 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Problems with Credit and Debit Cards

The cloning of Bank / Credit cards is still very easy, given that magnetic strip technology is quite old these days: -



How the skimming of cards works: -

Viruses, Hackers & Spam: Credit Card Skimming
Debit Card Cloning News Story



Credit Card Fraud has a huge financial impact:-
Online Merchants Lose Out to Credit Fraud

Credit Card Fraud on the Rise in the UK: -
Online Banking Fraud Rises Fast

Australia will not yet make it compulsory to use Chip and PIN technology with credit cards, unlike the UK: -
Credit Card Fraud too little to jusify Chip and PIN

Digital Signatures - authenticating your information



E-Cash, Digicash and E-money

While both E-cash and Digicash were both Eurpean companies, there names have been used to describe the way in which money is passed between people and people, people and businesses, and businesses and businesses. Being able to transfer funds electronically has many advantages, as already discussed. However, here are a couple of advantages that you may not have thought of: -

Tokyo Smart Cards to Challenge Cash
Cash Cards to Beat Dinner Money Bullies

So, what about the future of money?


The Future of Money
The Electronic Money Revolution

Summary
Banks 30 Years Ago
Banks Today
  • Banks tended to be open from 9.30am until 3pm or 3.30pm. This hasn't changed greatly today with the exception of some slightly longer hours and some Saturday openings. Public holidays that backed onto weekend would be difficult in having access to money.
  • Queues to withdraw and deposit money.
  • Banks not open when you needed money.
  • Huge amount of paper involved in transactions.
  • Cheque books and cash were the main methods of payment. Occasionally the use of a postal order would occur.
  • Paying bills would involve doing so at the bank, post office or going into a company office personally.
  • Financial transactions required to obtain / reclaim foreign currency.
  • 24 hour banking.
  • Cash and Cards are the main methods of transaction.
  • Once an account is opened with a bank, you do not need to go into the bank with the exception of depositing cheques and cash, or getting financial advice.
  • Bills can be paid online through a bank or directly to the goods / service provider.
  • You can set up regular accounts transfers.
  • No queues!!!