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The development of the internet

This is the first chapter of my cybercrime prevention thesis that I want to make public for anyone that wonders how the internet started and which developments have been made in order to have the internet that we know today.

Chapter 1 from my thesis as a MBI student September 2012.

First I will focus on the development of the internet as we know it today. Also some background information about the technical functionalities behind the internet, such as (security) protocols, hackers and the need for cybercrime prevention in the future.

The development of the internet started in the 1950’s when computers became more advanced, by then the only form of communication between computers was between mainframe computers and terminals. In 1969 the Arpanet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was the first network to run on packets switching technology, which was later the core technology in the development of the internet. Protocols define the means of communication between computers in a network. During the development of the internet in the 1960’s and 1970’s various protocols where used. One of these protocols was the TCP/IP protocol. (Transport Control Protocol / Internet protocol)

This protocol made it possible to packet switch data, which means the data that is send over the network is send in suitable sized blocks, called packets. The protocol also has a build- in security feature, that is the TCP part of the protocol. The transport control protocol (TCP) makes sure that every packet of data, that is send across network will reach its destination. After the data is received at the receiving computer, the protocol gives acknowledgement to the sending computer that the data is received, so that the sending computer knows that the data is received on the receiving end of the network. If no reply is send back the sending computer, the protocol will send the packets again until all data has been send and received. These characteristics make it the ideal protocol for the information sharing of webpages and images on the internet.

TCP/IP allows computers to communicate with each other in a network. Or in a network of networks such as the internet. The internet or WAN (Wide Area Network) allows a user to travel to all the computers connected to the internet. No matter if these computers are local or on the other side of the planet. TCP/IP will calculate the shortest route to the destination using routing algorithms, by routers that direct the internet traffic all over the world.

 

The development of the internet continued, 1969 also saw the introduction of UNIX. LINUX is heavily influenced by UNIX, LINUX can still be found on many modern day webservers. According to research about 96% of all web servers run Linux anno 2012.  LINUX software is well-known for its stability and efficient way of handling many tasks, making it ideal for hosting websites and web applications. In the early 1970’s more and more computer where connected to the ARPANET, mostly universities such as MIT, Harvard, Stanford where joining the network. Collaboration between the universities was all about the exchange information and for research purposes. This research was of use for the developments of the ARPANET, and to gain knowledge for future developments of what is eventually the internet as we know it today.

Then in 1971 e-mail, which is still widely in use today. In 1973 the first trans-Atlantic connection was made from the United States to the University of London.  Interesting fact is that this year marked 75% of all traffic on the internet was accounted by e-mails. A year later the TCP/IP protocol was introduced an this was a major step in developing the internet.

Then in 1977 the modem was developed, which took the internet further into the direction and shape of how we know it to be nowadays. Although the modem was first for hobbyists and scientists, it was the innovation hobbyists made, what made the early internet become available for more people, mainly hobbyists at first. People started buying modems and connecting to BBS’s (BulletinBoard Systems). BBS’s where the first sort of forums in which people could upload and download software, and talk to each other by messages. Later BBS’s had multiple phone-lines which made chat-rooms possible.  All of these functions would later be implemented in the internet and where created and further developed in the late 1970’s. These developments helped shape services like chat, message-boards and the creation of the first internet communities.

Now things went fast and by the first of January 1983 all computers on the ARPANET where forced to switch to the TCP/IP protocol. This effected some computers but the standard protocol was now in place. A new system was also in place to be able to reach other computers by typing in a name instead of a number. This made it easier to remember the name of the source. The DNS server. DNS binds a name to the ipadress of the source on the internet. For example http://google.com may be http://90.35.234.23 if no DNS server existed. By 1984 these DNS systems where in place and active in helping users find each other much easier than before. By 1987 the internet had nearly 30,000 hosts. The original protocol used in the APRANET restricted the number of hosts to a 1000.

ARPANET used NCP (Network Control Program protocols) With the introduction of TCP/IP this limitation was gone, letting the internet grow even further.

Then in 1988 the first malicious internet based attack happened on the internet, this caused large interruptions on large parts of the internet, a large part of this thesis will be focusing at the techniques, and preventions for internet attracts on people, businesses and governments.

In 1989 the first ISP was launched that would slowly bringthe internet to the “ordinary” people .Up until the late 1980’s only technical hobbyists and universities used the internet. Although there were no web browsers yet, everything was done by commands in a terminal screen.

In 1990 the ARPANET was decommissioned. It would take another 2 years until web browsers where developed, HTML was developed as the construction language for websites and HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) was developed as the transport protocol for webpages. To link resources to each other and create literally a web of pages, the URL was introduced. URL stands for Unique Resource Link. The URL made it possible to specifically link to an website, or image on a website. Now all resources had their own unique link which made information exchange easier.

Then in 1993 came the first graphical web browser, Mosaic. Browsers revolutionized the internet in a major way for the first time users could not only view text documents such as websites but also pictures. Even though Mosaic was not the first web browser, it was the first web browser that made it easy for non-technical people to use the internet. By 1994 a browser war started between Mosaic,Netscapeand Microsoft’s internet explorer. In the midst of all these developments the business started to show interest in the internet and all the possibilities it could bring in the near future, around this time names like eBay and Amazon stepped in. With the business aspects of services to clients on the web many companies started showing interests in the internet. On auction websites where people buy and sell products for money another protocol was introduced, SSL (Secure Socket Layer). SSL nowadays TLS made money transactions on the web more secure by encrypting data over the internet, but more about this protocol later in my thesis. In 1998 Google was founded, the giant of the present day on the internet.

In the year 2000 the file sharing network of Napster was launched and became and instead hit, later this program helped shaping a new business model for the entire music business. By this time every person in the world had the idea that the sky was the limit on the internet and the possibilities endless. They would soon find out that although the internet changed business models it would not somehow generate the revenues hoped for, and thus a .COM bubble burst in the early 2000’s. The hype had gone too far. Although the internet is a blessing for companies and governments that want to keep costs low, but still give clients to possibility to log in after business hours. The internet fits in our 24 hours economy.

Although the internet has brought many good things for business and clients, just like with everything in life there is a downside. to all this technical innovation in our information age. In information technology, no method, no system and no network is 100% secure. Security on the internet is very important since people’s personal information is stored on the systems that are accessible through the internet. The internet is a vast network that stretches all over the world, and that is not owned by any country, to make matters more complex, cybercrime laws are different in many countries. It is possible to operate on the internet while staying anonymous  and cover your origin. An IP address is a unique number that every computer or device on the internet has. This is a way of identifying people, or making it more easy to detect from which country you originate. This can be helpfull for instance when accessing a website, so the website displays the language based on the whereabouts of the IP adress . The IP number is a digital fingerprint, which can lead back to the country and the city that the person is from. But when a hacker breaks into a website, one of the first steps the cyber police takes is to determine from which country and city the attacks originate from. But hackers are usually very keen to keep their IP address hidden, otherwise getting tracked down will be very easy. Hackers use for instance a false IP to stay anonymous or pretend to be someone by falsely using an IP address belonging to a different computer/person.

There are many things people can do to decrease the change of successful attacks on computer systems. But what governments and companies should know is that, on the internet there are always ways to beat, crack and manipulate computers, servers, websites and databases by force, by people that know how to find exploitations in the infrastructure. The best thing to do is think like a hacker, and find exploits in your own systems, then try to fix the exploits and putting up stronger security or authentication. Even though your system or network will be secure in the present day, a lot can change in 6 months, and system administrators should follow developments and think ahead.

 

Updated: September 1, 2012 — 9:05 pm

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