Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility: Internet Terms and Important Web Sites

Article excerpt

Encryption: the process for rendering messages unreadable by anyone but their intended recipient. Internet-based techniques rely on keys, special large numbers used for encoding and decoding messages. The most common software for encryption uses two of them: a public key, which you tell the world, and a private key, which you keep for yourself. As long as you keep your key secret, anyone can send you a coded message, but the most current results in mathematics prevent others from decoding the message if they intercept it, even if they have a supercomputer. Current uses for encryption include copyright protection, keeping email private, and electronic commerce.

Micropayments: transactions involving very small amounts of money, a tenth of a cent or less. The idea behind micropayments is that users will pay a small price for information that they are currently violating copyright law to obtain. If enough users can be persuaded to adopt the system, it might prove profitable.

Hacking: using specialized computing skills to obtain unauthorized access to computer systems. Individuals with enough computing and engineering know-how can examine computer programs at a very low level of detail, determine their function, and use that knowledge to exploit weaknesses in computer systems. …