The introduction of the internet has produced negative impacts on society such as the theft of personal information, spreading of malware (harmful software) and the increase in social dysfunction. However, the internet has revolutionised the 21st century and the way users work, learn and connect with other individuals and organisations. There are multiple benefits for every drawback and thus the internet’s advantages greatly outweigh its disadvantages. This is clearly evident if one looks at the ease of online shopping, usefulness of computer programs and simplicity of communicating online through social networks.

The theft of personal information online is a major issue in today’s society. Increased use of the internet for online banking, business operations and other services has resulted in an increase in phishing (a method of gaining personal information) online. Cyber criminals may use website vulnerabilities, spyware (such as keyloggers that record key strokes), fake emails and other techniques to gain unauthorised access to your personal information such as names, addresses and credit card numbers. Statistics from the Javelin Strategy & Research Center reveals that almost 10 million people have been victims of identity theft in 2008, a 22% increase from 2007. Nevertheless, focusing only on the risks many people overlook benefits they take for granted every day. Online shopping, transferring of data and email services have all simplified the life of millions and provided an alternative for busy individuals. Statistics gathered by the Australian Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) in 2009 show that nearly 64% of Australians aged 15 and over use the internet for making online purchases. Domestic online retail sales were estimated to be between 19 and 24 billion dollars in 2009, a steep increase since 2007. While the increase in online activity creates more threats that aim to steal personal information, this can be countered by being precautious and by installing various programs.

Malware being unintentionally and unknowingly downloaded to one’s personal computer may damage or disable the computer as well as other computers in its network. New programs (including malware) can only be added to a computer through peripherals such as USB Drives or portable hard drives. The internet however, brings forth a new method of spreading malicious software. Internet users may click on a seemingly harmless link to download a program but may instead download a virus. According to data gathered from Immunet installations for July 2011, 72% of malware is uniquely coded making it harder to detect. Nevertheless, the internet is the source of thousands of useful programs that have been developed to make our lives easier such as accounting programs used by businesses for day-to-day store transactions. It has become essential to neutralize threats posed by malware by installing anti-virus software that is regularly updated. According to Kaspersky, a major anti-virus company, around 216,177,223 malicious programs were detected and neutralised in June 2011. While threats such as malware are easy to control, human problems like social dysfunction require more attention to overcome.

Social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus allow people to interact with each other online through chatting, video calling and messaging. Younger members are being influenced to socialise online rather than to interact with people in their community. Children’s relationships with family and friends have been affected due to time spent online. According to director of Harvard University’s Mclean Hospital, Maressa Orzack, 5% to 10% of all internet users suffer from some form of web dependency. Conversely, the internet has allowed millions of people to connect with each other online regardless of variables such as location. According to Google’s Doubleclick Ad Planner 1000 list, Facebook has over 540 million unique users of whom 175 million users visit the website at least once every day. This accounts for approximately 35 percent of the entire world’s internet population.

In a world where the internet is used by billions daily it is important to identify disadvantages such as identity theft, malware and social networking influences. In the future the internet will continue to pose threats to users who must remain vigilant and responsible in order to protect themselves online. Despite these concerns the internet is more beneficial to society than it is detrimental.

   

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    _____ ___ ____ ______ (August 21, 2014 at 8:21 am)

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