Security has become an important issue on the Net. If you are like most people, you are probably hesitant to distribute credit card numbers and other personal information over the Net for fear of interception or misuse. There are, however, several technological "fixes" which may serve to protect such information, and commercial enterprises are eager to put such mechanisms into place so that online consumerism will prosper. Such technological protection mechanisms may also serve to enhance the quality and quantity of information available on the web, as well as to facilitate online transactions by ensuring message authenticity.
Web publishers, like individuals, are hesitant to transmit certain information over the Internet. Authors, graphic artists, photographers, musicians and others often do not publish their works on the web for fear that their works will be put to impermissible uses. For example, anyone could download an article or photograph to his home computer and then republish that information elsewhere on the web, denying the author credit or proceeds to which he would otherwise be entitled. Any copyright violation that could be committed in "real space," could be committed tenfold over the Internet, with violations especially difficult to detect in the borderless realm of "cyberspace." In addition, a web "pirate" may be more difficult to track down and stop than he would be in "real space," due to the ability of online users to mask their identities through anonymous e-mail accounts and the like. The ramifications of this problem are obvious when viewed from the perspective of the web utility which is lost by the typical web surfer, as well as the potential proceeds which are lost by online publishers. In an attempt to get around this web publishing hurdle, researchers and programmers have developed something called a "trusted system," a technological protection measure which can help to ensure that certain materials cannot be reproduced or that only consumers who have previously purchased access may view certain information. As commercial activity over the Internet continues to proliferate, it is likely that trusted systems will become a common way for consumers to gain access to copyrighted materials, as well as a way for web publishers to increase their own gains.
Another way in which technological protection measures are being implemented on the Internet is through the use of a digital signature. An e-mail or other online document can be authenticated through the use of such a signature, ensuring that the message is from the purported author and that it has not been manipulated in any way during transfer. Such digital signatures, in enhancing the trustworthiness of information transferred over the Internet, may likewise facilitate online transactions by serving as a legally binding method of sending and receiving documents.
All of the technological protection measures discussed
in this section can be viewed as tools designed to push the Internet into
realizing its full potential as a vehicle for commerce and the facilitated
transfer of information. Please review the articles and terms which
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Created by Jocelyn
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Last modified 2-15-99.
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