by Mark Kelly - VCE Applied Computing, VCE Data Analytics, VCE Software Development

Email Mark Kelly

Risks and benefits of using networks in a global environment

For VCE Applied Computing - U2O2 KK12

Unit 2, Outcome 2, Key Knowledge dotpoint 12


Risks / Disadvantages of using networks

Benefits/Advantages of using networks


Risks of using networks in a global environment

  • Malware (viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, keyloggers, rootkits, etc) that was once limited to affecting a single computer can spread quickly throughout a LAN (Local Area Network), a WAN (Wide Area Network) or internationally and affect any other device it connects to.
  • System complexity increases, which can lead to greater expense for equipment purchase and maintenance. It also increases the chance of having software bugs, and widens the opportunity for bugs in operating systems or cloud applications to cause wide-spread rather than local problems.
  • Complex networks will often necessitate the employment of an expensive network technical expert to set up, operate, maintain and upgrade it.
  • 'Bad actors' (computer-based criminals, vandals, con artists, thieves, terrorists, spies, sex predators, political or religious activists etc) can easily communicate with each other, coordinate their activities, plan exploits, cooperate, and share ideas and resources. They can also preserve their anonymity and - using VPN (Virtual Private Network) software - hide their true locations to prevent law enforcement finding them.
  • Concerted attacks such as DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) are made possible - and powerful.
  • Global communication allows the easy and quick dissemination of misinformation or propaganda, and the use of technologies like deep-fakes and IP spoofing (sending information with a false "from" address to deceive the recipient) can make such false information seem genuine and authoritative.
  • Like putting all your eggs in one basket, the aggregation (gathering) of huge quantities of valuable data into single repositories can make it all vulnerable if a disaster occurs. e.g. if a file server dies, all of the workstations connected to it become unusable. On the other hand, distributing data across numerous storage locations increases the risk of loss because the number of targets is increased.
  • Initial setup costs of a networked information system can be high. It is far more costly and inefficient to start small and grow over time by replacing equipment with bigger, more powerful equivalents. And sometimes, such evolutionary growth (e.g. converting from CAT cable to fibre optic) is impossible without ripping out everything and starting again from scratch.
  • While communication ease and speed is greatly increased by using networks, the amount of data (e.g. emails, texts) that needs to be processed by people is also greatly increased. Also, many employers now pressure workers to be accessible all day, every day regardless of their official working hours, which can endanger people's work-life balance.
  • Centralised concentration services can lead to massive outages. Systems problems or failures at a single location can affect huge numbers of users. e.g. in 2021, a problem in a Facebook data centre caused Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and other FB subsidiaries to shut down globally for hours.
  • The ease of cheap, direct, immediate communication with people can greatly increase the chances of being targetted in phishing or other deceptive criminal exploits. Especially at risk are gullible, untrained, naïve, elderly, lonely or non-English speaking users.
  • The reliance on passwords as the sole protection for users' personal information and bank accounts has led to significant levels of successful cyber crime.
  • Online storage of personal and sensitive data can cause significant damage to people if the data is accidentally or deliberately accessed. Identity theft is a profitable and growing illicit business.
  • Online stalking is made easier and more dangerous.
  • Malicious public wi-fi can intercept and exploit users' login credentials for the sites they visit while using that wi-fi. Poorly-secured home or small business wi-fi is also vulnerable to malicious remote access.
  • Copyright violation is made quick and simple with high-speed cooperative file sharing, especially using P2P (peer-to-peer) torrent sites.
  • Governments can restrict or pervert internet access to re-write international news, promote their political agendas, stifle opposition, or brainwash their citizens.
  • Inequality in global internet access leads to a 'digital divide' in which people with poor network access are socially, educationally, economically, culturally and politically disadvantaged compared with people who enjoy cheap, fast global communications.
  • Advertisers monitor users' online activitity to gather data so relevant ads can be targetted at them. How else - and by who else - this data is used is a concern.
  • Online shopping can often lead to purchasers being disappointed by goods that are undelivered, deceptive, or not what they expected. Also, remote shopping can be made difficult by the inability to physically lay hands on the item being considered.
  • Sexual predators often use the anonymity of social networks to groom and violate young internet users.
  • Young people can be exposed to inappropriate online material. Excessive online gaming may lead to undesirable psychological effects. Online dangers, such as swatting, bullying and doxing can have disastrous outcomes for young or vulnerable people.
  • Depression, loneliness, and social isolation can result from long periods online.
  • The rapidly-switching of users' from one topic to another can lead to intellectual effects such as poor long-term memory (have you memorised your best friend's phone number?), reduced ability to pay attention, and problems with extended focus and patience.
  • Staff need to be trained to recognise and appropriately handle threats to their networks: e.g. social engineering, email attachments, password choices, disposal of sensitive information.
  • Internet access can lead to employees wasting company time on unproductive irrelevant personal amusement. Visiting unauthorised websites increase the risk of dangerous drive-by downloads of malware that could infect the company's LAN.
  • If relying on cloud computing (e.g. Google Docs, Gmail), an internet outage means a complete inability to do any work since there is no local alternative (e.g. paper-based) strategy. Also, if the provider of cloud-based storage or computing goes out of business, all of one's documents and data may be lost. Keep in mind that is is very hard to have local backups of cloud-based services. (When was the last time you backed up all of your gmails?)
  • Long periods of physical inactivity in front of a computer can lead to health problems such as: obesity; muscular atrophy; headache; eye strain; repetitive strain injury; poor posture; and overindulgence of junk food, coffee, sugary drinks.



Benefits of using networks in a global environment

  • Cat videos.
  • Devices (computers, servers, printers etc) can be centrally managed, reducing the need for travel or hiring on-site technical personnel in several locations. e.g. OS (operating system) and anti-virus updates can be installed on all devices in one operation.
  • Buying software site licences is usually cheaper than buying multiple licences for stand-alone computers.
  • Companies, individuals, organisations can distribute information about themselves, their products, news, services and ideas globally and instantly. Governments can inform their citizens about available services and resources, potential risks and news.
  • Audit trails can be used to track which users access which documents and what they do with them, and when. This can uncover fraud or system problems.
  • Security can be managed centrally, e.g. with Microsoft group policies, so users cannot change system settings that would endanger network security.
  • Fast, cheap, rich (text, video, audio) communication with any other networked computer user. Email alone created a revolution in personal and global corporate communications.
  • Online shopping allows quick and easy purchasing from and payment to sellers across the globe, greatly increasing their shopping options.
  • Flexible work arrangements, such as working from home or working odd hours can suit people with special needs, such as young mothers or disabled people.
  • Work teams can collaborate on documents and share data in real time, regardless of their physical location.
  • File sharing, both corporate and personal, greatly improves productivity and entertainment.
  • Quick software and security updates.
  • Access to immediate worldwide news from many sources.
  • Cloud-based data backup to protect valuable files from potential local disasters.
  • Devices like printers can be shared across a network. This is far cheaper than buying and maintaining one printer for each stand-alone computer.
  • Branch offices can be in constant communication and share live transactional data with head office and other branches.
  • Bank customers can access their funds anywhere in the world. Previously, people could only withdraw money from their local bank during working hours, and make prior arrangements if they wanted to withdraw money from other branches.
  • Instant global payments are immediate and simple with instant payment or funds transfers via credit/debit cards, Paypal, Venmo, direct debit transfers, bPay, Google Pay, etc.
  • People can travel anywhere and still work on centrally-stored group-created up-to-the-minute shared remote documents.
  • LAN users can save documents locally and all users can access them. They can also work from any device, not just the one on which they created the document.
  • Users can save their preferences, passwords and history centrally and have those settings follow them to whatever device they use. Thus, they can pick up from where they left off regardless of where they are or what computer/tablet/phone they are currently using.
  • All such documents can be backed-up in one operation rather than having to manually back up the documents on every device in the organisation individually.
  • Privilege settings can be set up to allow only authorised users to access certain information.
  • Education and business can continue online at home in spite of office or school pandemic lockdowns.
  • Cloud computing and storage is scalable. That means that expensive infrastructure does not have to be bought, installed and maintained locally. Cloud processing power and storage capacity can be increased or decreased as needed. e.g. a company's processing may double at the end of the financial year. Temporary extra cloud processing services can be purchased, rather buying and installing extra file servers or hard disks that will not be needed again for another year.
  • Families and friends can keep in touch more often, regardless of the distances between them.

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This page was created on 2022-03-29 @ 09:59
Last modified on Tuesday 29 March, 2022 10:09