Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Internet

The Internet contains all that is good and great with the world, along with all that is cruel and evil in the world, and it has it all here and now.

In the real world, there are museums and libraries and schools and the local grocery store, and these places are physically separate from jails and brothels and devil worshipers and porn palaces. On the Internet, they are all in the same place: on your computer in your home or office. Your computer is your instant pipeline to all of this.

You need to understand this when accessing the internet. You are only a click away from some pretty gruesome stuff. Open the wrong email, click on the wrong link, take the bait on a bogus web site, and all of a sudden, you are wandering in the wrong neighborhood, with thieves and rapscallions poised to pick your pocket or mug you or your computer.

When your computer is connected to the internet, even if by dial-up modem, your computer can potentially be connected to by any other computer on the 'net. That includes computers programmed by people trying to break into your computer, either to steal your private information, or to spread a virus, or to take command of the computer for various nefarious purposes, such as aiding in an attack on someone's web site. Your computer could just be sitting there, apparently doing nothing, all of a sudden some kid hijacks it to save stolen music files or worse.

This is not meant to scare you. You just need to know it, and act accordingly. There are actions you can take (must take, really) to safeguard your computer and your information. The specific actions will change as the threat changes, but one thing is constant: you need to know that when you connect to the Internet, you are connected to the whole world -- the good, and the bad.