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Computer Security - Computer Security Programs

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The first major computer security program was developed late in the 1970s, when three Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduates created RSA encryption technology. The data-scrambling program eventually was used in leading computer platforms such as Microsoft Windows, and well-known software applications like Quicken and Lotus Notes. Computer security primarily remained a governmental concern throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The rise of corporate networks, along with the growth of e-commerce, prompted more widespread concern about computer security in the 1990s.

Companies using computers began linking them together via networks in the 1980s, and many of those networks were then linked to the Internet in the 1990s. Companies with many geographically dispersed offices were able to use the Internet to link networks. Similarly, those with employees on the road could grant off-site workers access to the intranet. In fact, according to PC Week writer Jamie Lewis, one of the Internet's most important benefits to businesses was its ability to "simplify the often expensive and complex tasks of giving remote users access to corporate networks and of linking remote sites." The fact that one of the largest problems hindering that task was security encouraged the development of virtual private network (VPN) technology, which combined "tunneling, authentication, and encryption technologies to create private sessions over the public Internet."

Another major boon of the Internet revolution, the rise of e-commerce, also brought with it major security headaches. To make a purchase online, shoppers were normally required to input their credit card numbers. Eventually, even tax returns became something consumers could transmit via the Internet. To protect this sensitive data, companies began seeking sophisticated security systems. Most online merchants began using data encryption programs, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Secure Electronic Transactions (SET), and Data Encryption Standard (DES) to protect personal information transmitted over the Web.

The most popular method of computer protection among home computer users is anti-virus software. Companies including Symantec Corp. and Network Associates offer anti-virus applications that scan every file on a disk or on a computer's hard drive for infected material, alerting users if corrupted files are found. To keep pace with a the continual development of new viruses, many computer security software firms allow users to periodically download from their Web sites software upgrades which recognize newer viruses. Firewalls, once mainly used for computer networks, also have become popular with home users, particularly those who use cable modems and digital subscriber lines for uninterrupted online connections.

Other software options—mainly used to protect larger computer systems—include Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), content filtering software, sand-boxing software, and behavior analysis software. IDS is considered one of the best protection methods for large networks. With an IDS in place, system administrators can monitor network requests and detect large-scale malicious attacks. Content filtering software is advanced anti-virus software that reads compressed files and allows IT managers to set specific filtering parameters to block threatening e-mail. Sandboxing software protects against malicious codes by creating an isolated space within a computer where suspicious code can run, before it has a chance to interact with the main operating system. Still in its infancy in 2001, behavior analysis software protects computer systems by monitoring entire networks and checking every command of all operations.

Because many malicious hackers eye security systems not as a deterrent but as a mere obstacle to overcome, the numbers of computer security breaches may continue to rise. However, as long as hacking attacks persist, both individuals and businesses will continue to invest in programs and software designed to protect systems from unwanted intruders. In fact, while many computer industry experts believe that avoiding all hacking activity is nearly impossible, Datamonitor predicts that spending related to computer security will grow from $10.6 billion in 2001 to $22.3 billion in 2004.

FURTHER READING:

Blakey, Elizabeth. "Commit a Cybercrime? You're Hired!" E-Commerce Times. July 17, 2000. Available from www.ecommercetimes.com.

Costello, Sam. "'Code Red' Raises Disclosure Flags." InfoWorld. July 20, 2001.

Enos, Lori. "'Mafiaboy' Denies New Hacking Charges." E-Commerce Times. August 4, 2000. Available from www.ecommercetimes.com.

Hesseldahl, Arik. "Profiting From the Worm." Forbes.com . July 31, 2001. Available from www.forbes.com.

Lewis, Jamie. "VPNs: Fulfilling the Internet's Promise." PC Week. June 1, 1998.

Mandeville, David. "Hackers, Crackers, and Trojan Horses." CNN In-Depth Reports. March 29, 1999. Available from www.cnn.com/TECH/specials.

McCartney, Laton. "A Safety Net." Industry Week. April 21, 1997.

Morgan, Lisa. "Intrusion Detection Systems." InternetWeek. January 8, 2001. Available from www.internetweek.com.

Phillips, Ken. "Security Begins at Home." PC Week. August 5, 1996.

Salkever, Alex. "Patches Don't Make a Security Blanket." BusinessWeek Online. August 7, 2001. Available from www.businessweek.com.

——. "Scared of 'Zombies'? You Should Be." BusinessWeek Online. May 30, 2001. Available from www.businessweek.com.

Tinnirello, Paul C. "Internet Security: Are We Scared Yet?" PC Week. November 4, 1996.

Trigaux, Robert. "A History of Hacking." St. Petersburg Times. 2000. Available from www.sptimes.com.

Vamosi, Robert. "Alternative Protection Against Malicious Code." ZDNet., May 21, 2001. Available from www.zdnet.com.

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