The Information Superhighway

The Internet, once concealed inside government agencies and universities, has
become the largest single form of communication worldwide. With a number of online
individuals exceeding thirty millions and the number of networks that act as gateways for
users exceeding fifty thousands, the Internet's boundaries can only be imagined. Often
described by the media as “the information superhighway”, the internet offers to
customary users a wide variety of services, but also some drawbacks.
Any form of communication via the internet is cheaper and rather faster than any
service from other facilities. The electronic mail (email), for instance, allows any user on
the internet to send nearly instantaneous electronic message to anyone else.
The “internet phone”, which is slowly but surely replacing the regular phone,
enables anyone to make free long distance calls, through the computer.
With the appearance of “streaming” technologies, broadcasting companies and
radio stations are transmitting regularly over the internet, which makes them accessible
anywhere on the globe. The only costs involved in using these internet services, and
many others not mentioned, are the costs of the user's computer, the modem , and the
telephone lines used to dial in, all of which can be relatively cheap.
One of the recent innovations the internet made available is online commerce,
which includes online shopping, online banking, online trading and many more. This
opens up a new international world of trading. Consumers, overcoming any kind of
disability, can effectively dive into an immense range and selection of merchandise,
effortlessly compare prices and quickly shop from remote locations.
Perhaps, waiting to carry out regular transactions in financial centres is very
frustrating. This is not true anymore with the expansion of the internet to include online
banking. People can, anytime and anywhere from the globe, access their bank accounts,
pay their bills, transfer their money and even trade their stocks. The internet is, beyond
doubt, the most efficient and economic tool of the next generation.
But, the dark side of the internet reveals some serious drawbacks. First, it was not
designed with tight security in mind. This was demonstrated, at least once a month, by
so-called “crackers”: growing minorities of people with nothing better to do than spoil
everyone else’s enjoyment. Crackers dedicate their work to purposely infect programs
and distant computers that access the internet. In July 1997, successfully capturing and
distributing credit card numbers of NBA and ESPN users, crackers achieved the first
widely known attack on internet credit card data. On the same year, another cracker
known as “Snak” was taken into custody by FBI agents after he had stolen over one
hundred thousands credit card numbers from an internet service provider (ISP) located in
northern California. Nevertheless, the “internet tasking force” (ITF), a group of
knowledgeable engineers whose sole task is to reinforce the integrity of the internet, is
taking significant measures to prevent such unlawful actions.
Secondly, the internet’s structures do not only transport data, but it also transports
compact and yet very harmful intruders: computer viruses. These artificial clever beasts
that destroy data, have existed since the very first birth of personnel computers. With the
growth of the internet, virus authors have been faced up to nothing but a widespread gate
to the information superhighway, efficiently supplied with new viruses. “Veronica”, last
century’s award winning virus, transformed to inoperative rather hundred thousands of
computers and thousands of networks around the globe for quite few days; financial
institutes deciphered the heartbreaking event to more than a few million dollars of
vanished money. This is wonderlessly why internet communities are very much
concerned about security.
Occasionally, information takes lengthy periods to load on the computer’s screen;
just enough to frustrate impatient users. This is often due to delays that occur at
endpoints, and on the internet's paths, which can be thought of several four lane roadways
with neither traffic officers nor civilized drivers. The rate at which data is transmitted and
the number of systems, are being improved, but not at the same level as the number of
new users. This is one of the main reasons behind the delays.
The “information superhighway”, as any other invention, has its strengths residing
in its popular aspects – the World Wide Web, email, online commerce, and many others.
The internet has also its weaknesses, some of which can be very damaging. I believe,
however, that these drawbacks will be overcome in time as technology advances and
methods of securely transmitting, receiving, and retrieving information improve.

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