The internet and computer networks have been around for a long time. During the many years there have been extensive updates and new technologies that have allowed millions around the world to communicate. Networking has brought upon the "dot.com" revolution, and helped bring many small businesses to the online world. Though networking has brought many new and exciting technologies, it has also led to a very dark side. Viruses, Spyware, and Adware are a few different malicious programs released upon businesses and home networks everyday. This problem has arisen to such a level that there is a separate division in the FBI to counter these crimes and vulnerabilities. The world relies on these networks everyday. Every time you go to the bank, or make a call on your cell phone, there is a computer network somewhere in the process being used. The security side has its own tricks of the trade to counter these criminals such as: firewalls, antivirus software, and encryption to name of few. How does network security work, and what is being done to instill protection to our businesses and home users?
A computer network is a way of linking computers in an effort to allow users to share information (Maiwald et al, 2003). Ever since the beginning of computer networks, there has been the need for security. Just like banks, and cities there are need for security to protect valuables and to keep things running smoothly. Computer networks are exactly the same way, they are in a way like a completely sophisticated city. Computer networks also need security to protect information, and data from falling into the wrong hands. To understand the how security works in the computer world, you have to first understand how and what a network is.
Today, there are basically four different ways to establish a network, each providing their own unique way of connecting multiple computers in the effort to share information. First is the power-line, which allowed users to create their networks by using only their power outlets. This meant no unnecessary re-wiring or expensive installs. Power-line networking provided speeds up to 350 kbps (kilo-bytes-per-second) which was kind of slow at the time, though very cheap. The best part of this was that all data that would flow through this network system had to be encrypted, which provided an extremely secure network. Phone-line was number to be used to create a network. It was setup through the phone-lines. This was also relatively cheap because, if you had a phone-line, you had the basics for the network. Speeds jumped up from Power-line to 10 Mbps (Mega-bits-per-second). It even supported 25 devices, which was good for a small business at the time. The third way to connect was Ethernet, which is the most widely used today. This was connected to using special cables called cat-5' which was just a bigger phone-line connector. This supported an unlimited amount of devices to connect between. It also provided extremely fast 100 Mbps speeds. The last network technology is a new one, called Wi-Fi. This was revolutionary because it allowed a user to connect networks without wires. It used the same radio frequencies that cordless phones used, and provided speeds that are now reaching over 125 Mbps (Maiwald et al, 2003). This increased freedom and was extremely fast. It also had a wide array of security feature at its disposal.
Now that the basics of connecting networks are understood, there were two main ways to organize all of the computers. LAN, Local Area Network, was basically a way for a number of devices to communicate that are relatively close together. This was particularly good for small workplaces, and even home users. On the other hand, What if a business needed to communicate over large areas? WAN, Wide Area Network, were used to provide the special need of the individuals that wanted to have a more geographically dispersed network. It would now allow data to be shared across large areas.
Hackers have been on the rise over the past few years, society has over analyzed their intentions on what a hacker really is and what they do. Hackers have caused billions of dollars, and have destroyed valuable information. There are many different ways to alter or gain access to a particular network system. Viruses and worms are a couple of common malicious codes used to damage network systems. So, what is a virus? A program that replicates to another program stored on the infected computer system and will erase data, which sometime leads to a hard-drive to be reformatted, causing complete data loss. Viruses are extremely dangerous and can cause major havoc for networks. Worms are like viruses, but instead of destroying files, it will reside in the computer's memory and will consume all of the system's resources. This causes major hiccups and slows down and even halts other tasks. SPAM, a new kid around the block' is now becoming a major cyber threat. SPAM comes in the form of unsolicited e-mail messages that contain information that is too good to be true' these so-called messages usually containing viruses. If SPAM is targeted towards a specific place, it can crash the networks and cause major headaches. Another newcomer is called Spyware, this is embedded into a program, and will spy or steal information from the targeted system. These can be used to gain passwords, and other valuable information. These Spyware' programs are usually invisible and can not be detected with out the use of special detectors, making this extremely hard to detect (Bhasin et al, 2003).
How does an average user, or business protect themselves form these types of attacks? There are currently three that are very effective at securing networks. The first is a Firewall, which can be either be a software program, or a hardware device. The way it works is simple, when configured the firewall monitors all in and outgoing transmissions all information is passed through the firewall, and if it notices any of its rules are broken it denies access. The rules, which define what is and isn't allowed through the network, are setup by the individual who installed the system. Firewalls provide exceptional security and the level of protection can be altered up and down to suit the needs of the network. The next tool used for protection is antivirus software this utility searches the system for all types of viruses, SPAM, adware, and spyware. This program along with a firewall provides exceptional security and will help alleviate most network attacks. Finally, there's Encryption, which is completely different from the rest. This provides an alternate route for securing data without the use of software, or hardware. When encrypting data for a network your basically just scrambling up everything, in such a way that an unauthorized user couldn't decipher the information without the use of an algorithm. Algorithms, are small procedures that are used to solve problems. In this case it's used to decode, or gain access to the secured information. If you do not have the correct algorithm the information will be scrambled and meaningless. Encrypting provides an effective, yet secure network.
Computer networks are changing the face of our world. They provide up to date sock information, and keep our finances at our banks running smooth. Like everything else on earth, there are individuals that want to destroy and gain access to data. Having network security; firewalls, encryption, and antivirus software provides a fighting front to help home users and businesses to keep hackers at bay. Even, as network technology grows there will always be a need for security, and protection.