“Let’s refresh our memories. The Net (Internet) began 25 years ago as a communications system set up by the [United States] Defense Department to link computers at universities with those at other defense research centers. This network deliberately had no central locations, so in case part of it got knocked out in a nuclear attack, the rest of the Net would continue to operate. Since then, the Net has expanded to include universities, corporations, and government agencies around the globe. Individuals get access to the Net through one of these organizations or via a third-party service provider. But with no central governing authority, users have been free to add computers and services to the Internet virtually at will — resulting in near anarchy today!
“These days , the Net is undergoing massive changes. Thousands of new users sign up each day, and more and more companies are doing business over the wires, leading to network traffic jams and debates over access restrictions and usage fees. As government and big business spar over the future of the much-hyped information highway, many fear that the anarchic freedom of the Net may be nearing its end!
“And just the idea of instantaneous information being literally available at everyone’s fingertips, the American imagination has been captured. I would think that uncapitalistic democracies and other countries, in general, that have imaginations, cannot freely express them as America does. You know what I mean. The promise of a limitless electronic frontier – over 20 million users at this writing – is still growing faster than ever, creating mammoth electronic traffic jams on phone and computer networks.
I. Secure Distributed Computing
“The advent of the global Internet has brought about a significant change in the way people communicate and do business. Yet as this global village expands, so does the number of less than honest citizens. Furthermore, much of the hardware and software that constitutes the Internet was designed with only the trustworthy user in mind. As a result, intruders can invade the privacy of network communications as well as read or alter stored information. 1
A. Networks and Computer Security
“At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, computer-system administrators have been coping with problems of security for more than 10 years. In 1983, in collaboration with IBM, the Digital Equipment Corporation undertook “Project Athena” to provide advanced computing power to students and faculty. Athena is based on the client-server model: users work stations (the clients) do most of the computing, but specialized machines on a campus-wide network handle file storage, printing and other needs. This model has since become a widely used paradigm for much of the Internet!
“When users sit down at a terminal, for example, they “authenticate themselves” by typing an account name and password. Only the owner of a particular account, or case in speaking of the legal assistant, would and should know its password. So, the two in conjunction suffice to identify the user to the system.
“It is important to know that the user assumes that s/he is communicating with the intended computer. If the terminal is connected directly to a specific computer, the user knows that the terminal speaks for that system. When users dial a mainframe via modem, they trust the telephone company to connect the telephone call to the computer system that corresponds to the dialed number.
“As long as a computer’s internal security is not sabotaged, the mutual trust between user and mainframe remains in force until the user logs out. The system assumes that all the keystrokes it receives have been typed on behalf of the user. And the user assumes that all information appearing on the screen comes from the appropriate computer system.
“Now, let’s assume that employment of humans, especially college-graduating humans, will not be eliminated by this superhighway. “Estimates from state to state on the number of jobs that the superhighway projects and competition from local telecommunications companies will create are in the tens of thousands per state. Critics are quick to deflate the numbers to more modest proportions, but the expectation of new jobs within the telecommunications industry is never disputed. 2
“Well now, I for one could dispute that phraseology, but that would constitute another research project! On the positive side, one employable aspect involves the placement of the fiber-optic network throughout the nation.
“And with all these humans speeding on this Information SUPERhighway, it will be difficult to set any speed limits on it! The limits soon will be raised from the 14,400 and 28,800 bits per second speeds that most computers are using. For instance, AT&T Paradyne, based in Largo, Florida, has introduced a new 33,600 bps (bits per second) modem. This speed can transmit about 42,000 words per minute. “The faster speed should help accelerate the transfer of medical images over the telephone, as well as improve desktop videoconferencing, mobile computing, [paralegal researching and indexing,] and interactive games.
II. New Laws
“Now that software is available, creating international standards, new laws will become a major issue. Laws will have to be “revamped.” There are a lot of issues relating to privacy, security, and liability associated with information that may be private or confidential. There are also a lot of regulations — legislational types of issues — in terms of intellectual property rights for information that is made available electronically that can be copied and distributed very easily.
“For example, when there were no automobiles and people were only travelling at a peak speed of five or ten miles an hour, there were far less accidents, and now that we have automobiles, it’s changed our way of life. On the other hand, we have had to work out liability insurance and automobile inspections and driver testings and point systems, emergency vehicle laws, right of way….4
“One Great disadvantage of this ever-increasing superhighway trend is the fact that users will be constantly accessible in their homes, cars, or just about anywhere they go via personal communicators (cellular phones). All in all, the United States Constitutional laws were not drawn up to protect the country’s citizenry from privacy break-ins in their computer systems, never mind their on-line information!
“At this point, the important thing to consider is that the ‘highway’ is still in the works.
III. New Words
“On the perspective of disadvantages versus advantages, legal assistants as well as people in general, especially students, will need to know what the heck futuristic novices-to-experts are talking on-line about.
“The following in a minor list of phrases that this researcher thought applicable for present review of the future:
- Active attackers – those who introduce false data into a network to corrupt its normal functions.
- Archie – a system that keeps track of files available for downloading on the network.
- Bliatherer – a user who takes three screens to say something when three words would suffice.
- Broadcast based – every one of the computers connected to a network cable has access to all the information that flows through that cable.
- Cyber-cad – the electronic equivalent of a lounge lizard, often seen prowling Usenet single groups.
- Cybernetic-watchdog – this namesake of the great three-headed dog that once stood guard at the entrance to the underworld is the hear of “Athena’s” security.
- eMail – provides access to regional and international mailing lists also known as listservs.
- Flame – to offend, insult, or otherwise bludgeon someone else electronically, usually in retaliation for real or imagined offenses. As in Flaming – the electronic equivalent of an old-fashioned village stoning, where the natives hurled insults and obscenities directly at your head. From time to time, flame wars still break out between rival tribes on the Net, consuming everything in their path. Getting caught in the middle of a flame war is like going to a weenie roast where you are the weenie!
- GNN – (global networks navigator) – part online newspaper, part hypertext almanac with connections to hundreds of sites on the Net.
- Gopher – a menu-based program that tunnels between different computer networks in search of information.
- Hackers – those who break into computers on the Internet by exploiting well known, yet often unrepaired, system vulnerabilities.
- Internet – an international inter connection of thousands of computers via ordinary telephone lines (also known as “the Net”); a complimentary information source; a research tool; a communication tool; provides cost-effective access to a number of substantive resources, including documents and databases.
- Kerberos – an authentication system which avoids sending readable passwords across network links.
- Key-Distribution center (KDC) – mediates all transactions by means of encrypted digital certificates we call “tickets.”
- Login name – a name by which a system knows a user.
- Lurker – someone who reads articles in Usenet groups without posting any.
- Lynx – a graphical interface used to view documents on the World Wide Web.
- Mosaic – see Lynx.
- Net-God – a long-time, revered, and usually omniscient Internet user.
- Netiquette – an informal set of rules for proper behavior on the Net, often ignored.
- Newbie – someone who is new to the Net; often preceded by the word “clueless.”
- News group – a discussion area that addresses a specific issue; are accessible via a news reader program that usually runs on the UNIX operating system; a person may ask or answer questions, post comments, or go on the rant.
- Passive attacks – simply listening to network traffic without disrupting its flow.
- PBX – Private Branch Exchange telephone systems, printers, copiers, and fax systems.
- Surfer – a Net dude/dudette.
- Spamming – spraying out messages to every newsgroup or e-mail address, not unlike flinging canned meat into the blades of a rotating fan.
- Spewer – a network user who believes everything he of she types is of interest to everyone.
- Spoofing – false identity.
- Snail-mail – United States Postal Service.
- Telepathy – Microsoft Corporation’s series of specifications describing how devices and programs on individual PC’s interact with the PBX (see above).
- Telnet – a communications protocol that lets you control another computer from a distance.
- Unix – a complex, powerful operating system used extensively on networked machines, best avoided by Newbies; the Net’s common operating system.
- Usenet – a network featuring thousands of electronic conferences on a dizzying array of topics.
- Veronica – a program that tracks down information across different computer sites using keyword searches.
- WWW (World Wide Web) – a graphical, hypertext system used to navigate the Net.
IV. The I-Way “Trend” vs. Virtual Reality
“Who’s going to pay for all this?” Geez, how many times in my lifetime have I heard that question?
“At this point in my research, I realize that people do not readily understand that they have to find a way to fund all this information. In an interactive environment, viewers can elect not to look at ads, which make them less effective as marketing tools and dulls their appeal as money-makers for the services that incorporate them. Basically, this thought pertains to the case of most magazine advertisements of which are funded by the selling of those advertisements.
“In conclusion, the information superhighway is still a network of dirt roads. Road signs are few, and finding legal information you can use can be difficult.
“Most of the law-related information online today is not very useful to the average consumer. Much of it is raw data – sort of like C-Span on cable television.
“Don’t get discouraged! There are a lot of people online to chat with. With the millions of people online nationwide, it is fairly easy to find thousands of people who share your interests and concerns. You can have public conversations and share advice, all without incurring long-distance charges. The result is similar to talk radio, except there is often no host, everybody gets a chance to be ‘on the air,’ and everything said gets preserved in a log that can be read later.
“All in all, the ease with which an intruder can perform illicit acts means that the network is not inside the security perimeter of the distributed computer environment. If the network is outside the perimeter, than one must somehow protect data packets as they carry information between workstations and servers. Every packet must be authenticated as it crosses the security perimeter represented by the network. 5
“Questions to ask could be: Will computer companies be able to understand, much less meet, the diverse needs of consumers? Will these companies be big players in the convergence of digital technologies, from TV to telephones to PCs?
“What’s really happening is that stuff is just formulating right now. A lot of things are going to have to shake out and settle down and you’re going to see alliances come and go. (I am excited about all that’s going on!) It’s really going to change the way we do a lot of things, but it’s going to take a little more time. Enter into this with caution, but extreme optimism.” 6
Computer Currents, “Through the Internet with Gun and Camera” by Daniel Tynan, November 7, 1994, pp. 24 – 32.
NOLO News, “Law on the Information Superhighway” by Albin Renauer, Spring 1994, pp. 9 & 14.
PC Novice, “The Information Interstate, Superhighway Or Superhype?”, by Tosca Moon Lee, September 1994, pp. 80 – 83.
Scientific American, “Secure Distributed Computing” by Jeffrey L. Schuller, November 1994, pp. 72 – 75.
******* That was 1994. Look at us now!! Just sayin’….
A. K. Buckroth