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The Internet - Good or Bad?

Allen Harkleroad
I am sitting here at 5:30 am pondering (I start my work day at 4 am) about several things and the value of having the Internet at my disposal is one of them. My question to you is the Internet a "real" value or a 'huge" liability? With the commercialization of the Internet things previously unreachable are now available through our personal computers.

Of course there is the good and the bad...

The Bad
  • Easy access to pornography (children seem to be able to find it easier than the adults).
  • Viruses and malicious software that affect our home and business computers.
  • SPAM - Need I say more on this subject?
  • Deceptive marketing and scams.
  • Online stalking of ourselves and our children.

The Good
  • Access to museums and libraries all across the world.
  • Instant access to the latest news and events.
  • Instant access to friends, family and business associates through email, instant messaging, video conferencing, etc.
  • Shop from home without leaving your chair.
  • Consumer information on products you are thinking of buying.
  • Entertainment - music, movies, books, radio, etc.
  • Trivial knowledge.
I have been using the Internet since the late 80's (back before AOL and CompuServe) when the Internet was called ARPANET and this is the first year I actually did any Christmas shopping on the Internet. I could not find several items for my child's Christmas gifts so I decided to look online. Normally when I shop in real stores I go in, find what I want and get out (my wife hates this because she wants to look at EVERYTHING). The Internet allows me to do the same thing without any fuss or having to wait in line (I know you have heard of the wonders of Internet Shopping a hundred times).
I am a very wary shopper/browser and if the site isn't a name brand site I pretty much stay away from them, especially poorly designed websites. I have done a lot of searching on (great search engine - for various items my child wanted for Christmas and found many sites, a good many I clicked right out of because they just didn't look or feel safe and were poorly designed or confusing. Not being much of an online shopper I was amazed when I went to at what all they had. Basically you could find everything on your shopping list there. is not just books any more! You can find books, video games, cookware, movies and more. I was like a kid in a candy store (i even got myself a few items while I was shopping). Of course there are other great stores online (,,,,, etc.) so basically I never even had to crank up the car to do what I needed to do shopping wise.

Having used the Internet for mainly business I know the value of having almost instant access to information, trends and industry news. For me having instant access to these resources makes the Internet valuable.

I also see the Internet as a huge liability. I am always worried about viruses and malicious software and Spam (our mail server pretty much filters all the spam out and deletes the viruses in email and attachments).

I do worry about my child being on the Internet unsupervised. You never know if they are chatting with a kidnapping pervert, seeing pornography, downloading illegal files or viruses and other bad software. Of course I have Net Nanny installed on my child's computer, it isn't perfect but it is a good piece of software and with a little tweaking blocks 99.8% of harmful content. We do not allow our child to use Instant Messaging or other programs (such as peer to peer software - KaZaA, etc.).
So far our child hasn't downloaded any illegal MP3's or other items (we audit the computer several times a month). Maybe she hasn't found it or learned about it yet, I talk with her a lot about the bad things out there on the Net and she seems to understand about the dangers. So far so good. You can bet though that I never stop worrying about her and her use of the Internet.

Spam and obnoxious advertising are one of the largest liabilities in regards to accessing the world via the Internet. Pop up ads are annoying. I can deal with one per site but some sites open so many windows you just about have to reset the computer to get away from it, although I learned a neat trick to shut them down. Hold down the ALT key and hit the "F4" key it will close the current open window, keep doing it till everything closes (works extremely well on those borderless pop-up and pop-unders that you can't close without clicking them). Of course there is software out there that blocks pop-ups some of them work some cause more problems with your browser than they are worth. It is a trial and error thing to find what works best for you.

There also several devious online advertisers that use software to force you see what they want you to see, the software is oft times hidden in a download or "free" software. I wrote an article on this several months ago and you can find it here in the articles list on this site (My Browsers Home Page Has Been Hijacked). It has some great information on how to protect yourself from these malicious media companies and how to find out if something is installed on your computer and what to do get rid of it. If only congress would enact tough anti-spam laws and laws to protect the consumer from malicious media companies who install software on your computer and make changes to your property (computer) without your permission (in my mind this is criminal and no better than a hacker getting into your system and deleting files).

Most people don't see much of anything except spam and an occasional virus attachment (get some anti-virus software; it is your best protection). Being that we own a Online Hosting/Online Publishing company we see a lot of things the average users do not see; hundreds to thousand hack attempts every day on our servers and network, spammers trying to send spam to the users on our mail servers (get a clue spammers if our mail server rejects you then you need to go away because you aren't going to gain access). If it isn't one thing it is another with the servers.

Of course we use a firewall and intrusion detection system, anti virus and content filters (address locks, host blocks, IP blocks, keyword filters) on our mail servers and even then we still have to keep a watchful eye on things daily. Back in the early 1990's you didn't see hacking attempts or spam email (i never saw real SPAM till the mid to late 90's, you could leave a FTP (file transfer protocol) site open to the public, now if you mis-configure your server and leave a FTP site open the next days it will be filled to the brim with illegal software (commonly referred to as warez). We know, it happened to us several years ago (sometime in 1996-1997).
One of the servers kept restarting and services like email and web software were failing and we could not figure out why. We started looking at the hard drives to see how much space was free, the main drive was full. So we searched for large and new files and found gigabytes of illegal software and movies on the server. What happened is someone uploaded a lot of illegal software and the drive got so full that the server could not create a temp file so it started shutting down services, if the greedy warez folks (software pirates) hadn't filled up the server we might never had known. Of course we locked down the server FTP access and deleted all the software (we did make a list of what was there and reported the abuse by using our access logs). Nothing ever came of the abuse reports (probably the same sort of lack of response is the reason why is no longer around (one of the recipients of our abuse reports).

I guess you could say that to me the Internet is a love/hate relationship. I love the fact that I can find any information within a few minutes and I love the fact I can make a good living via the Internet but I also hate all the bad things out there that can hurt me, my child and property. Of course it will never get better (most likely worse) and the best we can do is to be aware and protect ourselves. So read up on problems, take action and educate yourself, family and friends whenever possible. Oh and enjoy yourself out there, the entire world is at your fingertips. Maybe one day the government will make spam, hacking, etc. a criminal offense and start prosecuting. It would at least cut down on the barrage hitting us all.
Copyright © 2003-2008 Allen Harkleroad, All Rights Reserved

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