Over the last dozen years, the growth of the Internet has been rapid and extensive. From shopping to socializing, blogging to photo-sharing, its uses have become tremendously varied, and it's now a major part of everyday life. As of 2006, nearly 75 percent of U.S. households had Internet access. The Internet has become nearly as culturally ubiquitous as television. In fact, many young people are foregoing television altogether, instead watching their favorite programs and movies on-line. As people rely more and more on computers for conducting day-to-day affairs, security becomes increasingly important. Networks are not always impregnable and are prone to infiltration by hackers, terrorists, and other predators. As Internet growth continues, protecting networks will remain a serious undertaking. Divided into five chapters, this volume of the Reference Shelf series covers issues relating to Internet safety, including viruses, spam e-mails, Internet hoaxes, cyberbullying, identity theft, and international cyberterrorism. A particular emphasis is placed on answering the question: How do you protect yourself from what can seem like an endless array of on-line threats? As Internet growth has exploded, so too has cybercrime, the perpetrators of which have become ever more savvy, consistently staying one step ahead of those security measures designed to thwart their efforts. Armed with little more than laptop computers, clever criminals have the power to steal sensitive information, such as Social Security and bank-account numbers, as well as hack into and alter Web sites. Meanwhile, sexual predators have taken to such social-networking sites as Facebook and MySpace, looking for potential victims. While the Internet is not without its safeguardsfirewalls, antivirus software, filters, administrators, etc.none are foolproof. The first chapter, "Safety in Numbers? An Overview of Internet Safety," provides a general synopsis of Internet safety, introducing many of the dangers that can be found on the Web. Selections in the second chapter discuss computer viruses, spam, and netbots, all three of which can infect computers. On a global scale, nearly 14.5 million spam e-mail messages are sent each day. Many of these contain viruses, which, given their ability to shut down entire networks, are cause for concern. Several of the articles highlight safety measures capable of protecting computers from such attacks. Each year, some nine million people become the victims of identity theft, a form of crime that is the focus of chapter three. On-line identity theft involves criminals stealing personal information over the Web and using it for financial gain. The selected articles examine how high-tech thieves operate and offer helpful hints for keeping information private. Internet safety for young people is a sensitive topic that generates extensive media coverage. Articles in the fourth chapter, "Internet Safety for Teens and Children," explore the many on-line dangers specific to young people. Among the topics discussed is peer-to-peer "cyberbullying," a phenomenon that has transferred the social antagonisms of the schoolyard to the comparatively unsupervised environs of cyberspace. This new form of harassment can have dire consequences, as is evidenced by the story of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl who, after being bullied on-line, took her own life. Selections in this chapter also focus on sexual predators, older individuals who uses the Internet as a tool to exploit children and teens. Selections in the fifth and final chapter, "New Ways of War: Cyberattacks," discuss the threat of cyberwarfare worldwide. Increasingly dangerous and sophisticated, cyberattacks and cyberespionage prey on humanity's dependence on electronic communication and computer technology, finding and exploiting the flaws in these structures. These attacks often target defense systems and financial institutions and are employed by terrorists and governments alike. As an implement of war, the cyberattack lacks the obvious destructive power of a bomb or missile, but the chaos it creates can be every bit as deadly, crippling economies and shutting down governments. Cyberattacks are also used to steal classified or sensitive information, making it possible for military secrets to be intercepted, sold to the enemy, or even erased. Essential infrastructures, such as those linked to the distribution of energy, food, and water, are also vulnerable. While the Web has transformed our world for the better and will continue to play a vital role in our shared future, Internet safety is a serious matter. Those with an on-line presence need to be aware of the potential dangers in order to protect themselves and fully enjoy all the benefits of the Internet Age. Included in this volume is a bibliography detailing the books, Web sites, and periodical articles where additional information on Internet safety can be found.
About Kenneth Partridge
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Published February 28, 2009
by Hw Wilson Co.
Computers & Technology, Education & Reference, Nature & Wildlife, Professional & Technical, Science & Math.