Encryption and Firewalls?Over the last several years, the computer industry has grown to an all time high of technology and knowledge. With the existence of hackers, swift precautions are being taken. The placement of firewalls and the task of data encryption are becoming a necessary fact of business for those with confidential information. And still, this is not enough. Hackers have become so involved with the tasks of cracking firewalls and decoding encryption, it seems that privacy is a virtue of the past. People are no longer safe as they once were. The presence of encryption and firewalls are growing stronger, but so are hackers. In the following report, you will read what a true hacker is, the effects of firewalls, data encryption, and how they are being broken.
Hacker /n. / 1. A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary (Rootshell).
Over the last few years, computer security has received a great deal of more attention than it has in the past. Computerized break-ins and criminal activity, have become fairly common occurrences in both commercial and academic circles. Hackers are becoming more common, and quickly learning new techniques and methods, which no longer leave computer systems as ‘safehouses’. The question of “what kind of person is a Hacker?” cannot be answered simply. Hackers vary in race, style and preference. Since every person is different, therefore so are hackers, “Each Hacker has their own style and methods” (Rootshell). According to the Hackers Code of Ethics, a true Hacker is one who shares:
1 The belief that information-sharing is a powerful positive good,
and that it is an ethical duty of hackers to share their expertise by writing free
software and facilitating access to information and to computing resources
2 The belief that system cracking for fun and exploration is ethically OK as
long as the cracker commits no theft, vandalism, or breach of confidentiality.
3 The belief that there actions are not illegal, but those that will further knowledge. (The New Hackers Dictionary)
Although the code of ethics is evident, its guidelines are not always followed. Some Hackers use their abilities to damage and corrupt – this is what society believes. Through media, Hackers have come to be known as ‘damaging criminals’, who strive to create chaos. True Hackers use their abilities for good and purposes which can further their own knowledge and learning. Other individuals who choose to take an illegal path are not considered as a ‘true’ Hacker.
Firewall /n. / A dedicated gateway machine with special security precautions on it, used to service outside network connections and dial-in lines. (The New Hackers Dictionary)
The idea of a firewall is to protect a cluster of more loosely administered machines hidden behind it from Hackers. The typical firewall is an inexpensive Unix based system, kept clean of critical data, with several modems and public based networks on it and one carefully watched connection. This connection specifically monitors; threats against the server, callbacks made, and possible hacking attempts
(Hackers Handbook). Basically, a firewall is something that protects critical information from outside users without the proper software and/or login and password devices. For Hackers, a firewall is one of the tougher devices to crack. Since Firewalls are always different, there are no standards for breaking down and exploiting the system. Through programs called port scanners, and firewall phreaking, hackers are able to find vulnerable ports (open holes in the server) which can then be sent certain packets of data, called nuking, that can crash and disable the system. According to Dan Farmer, of Sun Microsystems,
Every day, all over the world, firewalls and hosts are being broken into.
The level of sophistication of these attacks varies widely; while it is generally
believed that most break-ins succeed due to weak passwords, there are still a
large number of intrusions that use more advanced techniques to break in. Less
is known about the latter types of break-ins, because by their very nature they
are much harder to detect. (Hackers Handbook)
Executives and CEO’s seem to have their minds set on the reason security breaches. They can’t come to the realization that Hacking is being done, and that it is not accidental. Wherever there is computers, phone lines and networks, there will be Hackers and individuals who strive to learn and conquer more. Although firewalls due help prevent system break-ins, they’re not enough. Every day Hackers crack, exploit and learn more about whatever is being created updated and revised – this cannot be helped. The only action that companies can take is to be informed of what Hackers know, and go from there. By staying one-step ahead, companies and businesses can help prevent security breaches; they just need to know where to start.
Data Encryption /n. / Encryption is the conversion of data into a form, called a cipher, that cannot be easily intercepted by unauthorized people (The New Hackers Dictionary).
The use of encryption is as old as the art of communication. In times of war encryption was called ‘code,’ and could be employed to keep the enemy from obtaining the contents of transmissions. Simple ciphers include the substitution of letters for numbers, the rotation of letters in the alphabet, and the ‘scrambling’ of voice signals more complex ciphers work according to sophisticated computer readings that rearrange the data bits in digital signals. In order to easily recover the contents of an encrypted signal, the correct decryption key is required. The key undoes the work of the encryption. Alternatively, a computer can be used in an attempt to ‘break’ the cipher. The more complex the encryption, the more difficult it becomes to eavesdrop on the communications. Hacker’s part in breaking encryption can be either simple or devastatingly advanced. With tools called hex editors (Rootshell), Hackers are able to ‘decode’ the encryption. The tedious task includes decompiling the executable file, or decoding the transmission. Since there are currently 72 quadrillion possible encryption keys, for each given message, the key is chosen at random from it’s enormous database of keys, and this servers as a problem. Hackers have to tend with the newest standard 56-bit key coding, which servers as a tedious task (that’s why they call them ‘hackers’)
Since encryption is the toughest to crack, it seems to be of larger standard. Internet companies, businesses, groups, and other miscellaneous programs have turned to its protection. It serves as a safe house for critical information. Together, firewalls and encryption of files can be counted as one of the most secure ways of protecting information. Although, Hackers can and will find ways to elude the task at hand, the withholders of the information must be sure to try and stay one step ahead of their predators.
In conclusion, no one is safe. As long as there are computers, phone lines, and people who inquire for knowledge, there will be Hackers. In today’s society, people are always in some sort of quest for knowledge, and this we can do nothing about. The only step that we can take to have a feeling of security, is to be informed. We need to know for sure just exactly what were dealing with, and how we can prevent it from occurring. Yes, firewalls and data encryption do help, but they are not enough. We can’t continue to create excuses for the problems we’ve created. That’s something that we have to except and move on with. In time, people will be educated and hopefully learn how to protect themselves without having to rely on ‘luck’ and hope that no one will discover a weakness they’ve created.