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Security On The Web Essay, Research Paper

How do you secure something that is changing

faster than you can fix it? The Internet has had security problems since

it?s earliest days as a pure research project. Today, after several years

and orders of magnitude of growth, it still has security problems. The

Internet is being used for a purpose for which it had never intended to

be used for. It is somewhat ironic that the early Internet was design as

a prototype for a high-availability command and control network that could

resist outages resulting from an enemy attack, yet it cannot resist college

undergraduates. The problem is that the attackers are on, and make up apart

of, the network they are attacking. Designing a system that is capable

of resisting attack from within, while still growing and evolving at a

rapid pace, is probably impossible. Deep infrastructure changes are needed,

and once you have achieved a certain amount of size, the sheer inertia

of the installed base may make it impossible to apply fixes.

The challenge for the security industry

is growing. With the electronic commerce spreading over the Internet, there

are new issues being developed everyday such as non-repudiation that will

need to be solved. Financial institutions will have both technical concerns,

such as the security of a credit card number or banking information, and

legal concerns for holding individuals responsible for their actions such

as their purchases or sales over the Internet. Issuance and management

of encryption keys for millions of users will pose a new type of challenge.

While some technologies have been developed,

only an industry-wide effort and cooperation can minimize risks and ensure

privacy for users, data confidentiality for the financial institutions,

and non-repudiation for electronic commerce.

With the continuing growth in linking

individuals and businesses over the Internet, some social issues are starting

to surface. The society may take time in adapting to the new concept of

transacting business over the Internet. Consumers may take time to trust

the network and accept it as a substitute for transacting business in person.

Another class of concerns relates to restricting access over the Internet.

Preventing distribution of pornography and other objectionable material

over the Internet has already been in the news. We can expect new social

hurdles over time and hope the great benefits of the Internet will continue

to override these hurdles through new technologies and legislations.

The World Wide Web is the single largest,

most ubiquitous source of information in the world, and it sprang up spontaneously.

People use interactive Web pages to obtain stock quotes, receive tax information

from the Internal Revenue Service, check the local weather, consult a pregnancy

planner to determine ovulation dates, conduct election polls, register

for a conference, search for old friends, and the list goes on. It is only

natural that the Web?s functionality, popularity, and ubiquity have made

it the seemingly ideal platform for conducting electronic commerce. People

can now go online to buy CDs, clothing, concert tickets, and stocks. Several

companies, such as Digicash, Cybercash, CarParts.com, and First Virtual,

have sprung up to provide mechanisms for conducting business on the Web.

The savings in cost and the convenience of shopping via the Web are immeasurable.

Where as most successful computer systems resulted from careful, methodical

planning, followed by hard work, the Web took on a life of its own from

the very beginning. The introduction of a common protocol and a friendly

graphical user interface was all that was needed to ignite the Internet

explosion. The Web?s virtues are extolled without end, but its rapid growth

and universal adoption have not been without cost. In particular, security

was added as an afterthought.

New capabilities were added to satisfy

the growing demand for features without carefully considering the impact

on security. As a general-purpose, scripts were introduced on both the

client and the server sides of the Web. It did not take long for the Web

to move from the scientific community to the commercial world. For then

the dangers of accidental and malicious abuse grew. At this point, the

security threats became much more serious. The incentive for malicious

attackers to exploit vulnerabilities in the underlying technologies is

at an all-time high. This is indeed frightening when we consider what attackers

of computer systems have accomplished when their only incentive was fun

and personal enjoyment while boosting their egos. When business and profit

are at stake, we cannot assume anything less than the most dedicated and

resourceful attackers typing their utmost will and determination to steal,

cheat, and perform mischievous attacks against their pray (users of the


When people use their computers to surf

the Web, they have many expectations. They expect to find all sorts of

interesting information, they expect to have opportunities to shop and

they expect to be bombarded with all sorts of ads. Even people who do not

use the Web are in jeopardy of being intimidated by the Web. So when it

comes down to the significant importance of Web security it affects us


There are simple and advanced methods for

ensuring browser security and protecting user privacy. The more simple

techniques are user certification schemes, which rely on digital IDs. Netscape

Communicator and Internet Explorer allow users to obtain and use personal

certificates. Currently, a certification company called Verisign offers

digital Ids that consist of a certificate of a user?s identity. The Digital

IDs are divided into different types of classes of digital Ids, each represents

a different level of assurance in the identity, and each comes at an increasingly

higher cost. The assurance is determined by the effort that goes into identifying

the person requesting the certificate.

Class 1 Digital IDs intended for casual

Web browsing providing users with an unambiguous name and e-mail address

within Verisign?s domain. A Class 1 ID provides assurance to the server

that the client is using an identity issued by Verisign but with little

guarantee about the actual person behind the ID.

Class 2 Digital IDs require third party

confirmation of name, address, and other personal information related to

the user, and they are available only to residents of the United States

and Canada. The information provided to Verisign is checked against a consumer

database maintained by Equifax. To protect against insiders at Verisign

issuing bogus Digital IDs, a hardware device is used to generate the certificates.

Class 3 Digital IDs are not available.

The purpose is to bind an individual to an organization. Thus, a user in

possession of such an ID, theoretically, could prove that he or she belongs

to the organization that employs him or her.

The idea behind Digital IDs is that they

are entered into the browser and then are automatically sent when users

connect to sites requiring personal certificates. Unfortunately, the only

practical effect is to make impersonating users on the network only a little

bit more difficult.

Many Web sites require their users to register

a name and a password. When users connect to these sites, their browser

pops up an authentication window that asks for these two items. Usually,

the browser then sends the name and password to the server allowing retrieval

of the remaining pages at the site. The authentication information can

be protected from eavesdropping and replay by using the SSL protocol.

As the number of sites requiring simple

authentication grows, so does the number of passwords that each user must

maintain. In fact, users are often required to have several different passwords

for systems in their workplace, for personal accounts, for special accounts

relating to payroll and vacation, and so on. It is not uncommon for users

to have more than six sites they visit that require passwords.

In the early days of networking, firewalls

were intended less as security devices than as a means of preventing broken

networking software or hardware from crashing wide-area networks. In those

days, malformed packets or bogus routes frequently crashed systems and

disrupted servers. Desperate network managers installed screening systems

to reduce the damage that could happen if a subnet?s routing tables got

confused or if a system?s Ethernet card malfunctioned. When companies began

connecting to what is now the Internet, firewalls acted as a means of isolating

networks to provide security as well as enforce, otherwise known as an

administrative boundary. Early hackers were not very sophisticated; neither

were early firewalls.

Today, firewalls are sold by many vendors

and protect tens of thousands of sites. The products are a far cry from

the first-generation firewalls, now including fancy graphical user interfaces,

intrusion detection systems, and various forms of tamper-proof software.

To operate, a firewall sits between the protected network and all external

access points. To work effectively, firewalls have to guard all access

points into the network?s perimeter; otherwise an attacker can simply go

around the firewall and attack an undefended connection.

The simple days of the firewalls ended

when the Web exploded. Suddenly, instead of handling only a few simple

services, firewalls now must be connected with complex data and protocols.

Today?s firewalls have to handle multimedia traffic, attached downloadable

programs (applets) and a host of other protocols plugged into Web browsers.

This development has produced a basis conflict, the firewall is in the

way of the things users want to do. A second problem has arisen as many

sites want to host Web servers: Does the Web server go inside or outside

of the firewall? Firewalls are both a blessing and a curse. Presumably,

they help deflect attacks; but they also complicate users? lives, make

a Web Server Administration job a bit harder, rob network performance,

add an extra point of failure, cost money, and make networks more complex

to manage.

Firewall technologies, like all other

Internet technologies, are rapidly changing. There are two main types of

firewalls, plus many variations. The main types of firewalls are proxy

and network-layer. The idea of a proxy firewall is simple: Rather than

have users log into a gateway host and then access the Internet from there,

give them a set of restricted programs running on the gateway host and

let them talk to those programs, which act as proxies on behalf of the

user. The user never has an account or the need to login on the firewall

itself, and he or she can interact only with a tightly controlled restricted

environment created by the firewall?s administrator.

This approach greatly enhances the security

of the firewall itself because it means that users do not have accounts

or shell access to the operating system. Most UNIX bugs require that the

attacker have a login on the system to exploit them. By throwing the users

off the firewall, it becomes just a dedicated platform that does nothing

except support a small set of proxies, it is no longer a general-purpose

computing environment. The proxies, in turn, are carefully designed to

be reliable and secure because they are the only real point of the system

against which an attack can be launched.

Proxy firewalls have evolved to the point

where today they support a wide range of services andrun on a number of

different UNIX and Windows platforms. Many security experts believe that

proxy firewalls are more secure than other types of firewalls, largely

because the first proxy firewalls were able to apply additional control

on to the data traversing the proxy. The real reason for proxy firewalls

was their ease of implementation, not their security properties. For security,

it does not really matter where in the processing of data the security

check is made; what?s more important is that it is made at all. Because

they do not allow any direct communication between the protected network

and outside world, proxy firewalls inherently provide network address translation.

Whenever an outside site gets a connection from the firewall?s proxy address,

it in turn hides and translates the addresses of systems behind the firewall.

Prior to the invention of firewalls, routers

were often pressed into service to provide security and network isolation.

Many sites connecting to the Internet in the early days relied on ordinary

routers to filter the types of traffic allowed into or out of the network.

Routers operate on each packet as an unique event unrelated to previous

packets, filtered on IP source, IP destination, IP port number, and other

basic data contained in the packet header. Filtering does not constitute

of a firewall because it does not have quite enough detailed control over

data flow to permit building highly secure connections. The biggest problem

with using filtering routers for security is the FTP protocol, which, as

part of its specification, makes a callback connection in which the remote

system initiates a connection to the client, over which data is transmitted.

Cryptography is at the heart of computer

and network security. The important cryptographic functions are encryption,

decryption, one-way hashing, and digital signatures. Ciphers are divided

into two categories, symmetric and asymmetric, or public-key systems. Symmetric

ciphers are functions where the same key is used for encryption and decryption.

Public-key systems can be used for encryption, but they are also useful

for key agreement and digital signatures. Key-agreement protocols enable

two parties to compute a secret key, even in the face of an eavesdropper.

Symmetric ciphers are the most efficient

way to encrypt data so that its confidentiality and integrity are preserved.

That is, the data remains secret to those who do not posses the secret

key, and modifications to the cipher text can be detected during decryption.

Two of the most popular symmetric ciphers are the Data Encryption Standard

(DES) and the International Data Encryption Algorithm (IDEA). The DES algorithm

operates on blocks of 64 bits at a time using a key length of 56 bits.

The 64 bits are permuted according to the value of the key, and so the

encryption with two keys that differ in one bit produce two completely

different cipher texts. The most popular mode of DES is called Cipher Block

Chaining (CBC) mode, where output from previous block are mixed with the

plaintext of each block. The first block is mixed with the plaintext of

each block. The block uses a special value called the Initialization Vector.

In conclusion, despite its size and rapid

growth, the Web is still in its infancy as with the software industry.

We are just beginning to learn how to develop secure software, and we are

beginning to understand that for our future, if it is to be online, we

need to incorporate security into the basic underpinnings of everything

we develop. Today, no one method of Internet Security can stop a hacker

from intruding on our privacy. The goal is that as time goes on and we

increase our technological knowledge of the Internet, that we raise our

standards of security in everything we do weather on our computers or on

the Internet; Thus we will hopefully be more protected by what we enjoy

so much, the Internet.

Works Cited

Book Resources:

Digital Evidence and Computer Crime: Forensic

Science, Computers and the Internet

January 2000, by Eoghan Casey

Cybershock: Surviving Hackers, Phreakers,

Identity Thieves, Internet Terrorists and Weapons of Mass Disruption

April 2000, by Winn Schwartau

Liberating Cyberspace: Civil Liberties,

Human Rights and the Internet

May 1998 by Libertty

Firewalls a Complete Guide: A look into

the vulnerability of a typical Internet-connected network and shows how

various kinds of firewalls can reduce the threat from outside.

Nov. 1999, by Marcus Goncalves

Web Resources:

SunWorld: The human side of computer security

July 1999 http://www.idg.net/crd_idgsearch_77790.html?sc=40050501_139910

PcWorld.com: Privacy Special Report: Stealth

Surfing May 2000


Digital Ids: a report on server and client

certificates that aren’t yet widely used for authentication.


March 1997 Byte.com

Verisign Inc: ?Verisign Inc is the leading

provider of Internet trust services needed by Web sites, enterprises, and

e-commerce service providers to conduct trusted and secure electronic commerce

and communications over IP networks.? http://www.verisign.com

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