Does The Internet Really Need to Be Secure?

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Does the Internet Really Need to Be Secure?
Yes. The Internet does need to be secure and not simply for reasons of national security.
Today, it is a matter of personal security. As more financial institutions gravitate to the
Internet, America’s financial future will depend on security. Many users may not be
aware of the number of financial institutions that offer online banking. One year ago, this
was a relatively uncommon phenomenon. Nevertheless, by mid-1996, financial
institutions across the country were offering such services to their customers. Here are a
few:
• Wells Fargo Bank
• Sanwa Bank
• Bank of America
• City National Bank of Florida
• Wilber National Bank of Oneonta, New York
• The Mechanics Bank of Richmond, California
• COMSTAR Federal Credit Union of Gaithersburg, Maryland
The threat from lax security is more than just a financial one. Banking records are
extremely personal and contain revealing information. Until the Internet is secure, this
information is available to anyone with the technical prowess to crack a bank’s online
service. It hasn’t happened yet (I assume), but it will.
Also, the Internet needs to be secure so that it does not degenerate into one avenue of
domestic spying. Some law-enforcement organizations are already using Usenet spiders
to narrow down the identities of militia members, militants, and other political
undesirables. The statements made by such people on Usenet are archived away, you can
be sure. This type of logging activity is not unlawful. There is no constitutional protection
against it, any more than there is a constitutional right for someone to demand privacy
when they scribble on a bathroom wall.
Private e-mail is a different matter, though. Law enforcement agents need a warrant to tap
someone’s Internet connection. To circumvent these procedures (which could become
widespread), all users should at least be aware of the encryption products available, both
free and commercial (I will discuss this and related issues in Part VII of this book, “The
Law”).
For all these reasons, the Internet must become secure.

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