ITGS Syllabus

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Topic 12

Key Terms

Data, information, hardware components, for example, input devices, output devices, processing, storage, memory (RAM, ROM), MHz, dpi, bit, KB, MB, GB, TB, ASCII, compatibility by Tommy Chuang

Peripherals, Platforms, Firewall, Malware, Computer Worms by Xiao Xiao

Verification and validation, encryption/decryption, virus, Trojan horse, Logic bomb by no one

In order to be able to understand the social and ethical issues of information technology, one must have an understanding of technical terms.

An input device is any device that puts data into a computer. One example of an input device is a keyboard, because it is used to input commands for the computer to follow.

An output device is a device that is capable of taking information from a computer and representing it visually or audibly.

A computer monitor would qualify as an output device because it gives a visual display of the information in a computer. For example, a word document is nothing but data on the computer’s hard drive, but the monitor displays it in a way that allows humans to read it with ease.

Processing is the act of performing operations on data, such as making a calculation with a set of numbers.

Storage is the capacity of a device to hold and retain data. Devices with larger storage are able to hold more data, and devices with smaller storage are not able to hold as much. Over the years, the amount of storage that devices have has increased at a phenomenal rate. In just thirty years, devices have gone from being able to store 128 bytes to 500 gigabytes.

There are two types of memory: RAM and ROM. RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It is a space where data is written so that it can be accessed by the CPU. It is only temporary, however, so once the computer is turned off, any information that was stored in RAM will disappear. Word processing documents such as Microsoft Word often store unsaved information in RAM. ROM stands for Read Only Memory. Unlike RAM, ROM is permanent and cannot be removed. A computer’s ROM sector will typically contain information that is vital to the computer, such as what to do when the computer turns on, or what operating system to use.

ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It is a standard code that is used for creating and encoding text documents so that they are viewable by any program. An ASCII text file will not contain any special embedded control characters. In ASCII, every number, letter, and symbol is assigned a special code, called an ASCII code. A capital A, for example, has an ASCII code of 65.
Because operating systems often are programmed very differently, programs may have varying degrees of compatibility when run on different operating systems. For example, there was a time when Microsoft Office was compatible with Windows, but did not run on Mac computers. Also, programs may experience compatibility issues with different versions of the same operating system. A program designed to work on Windows XP may not work well with a computer running Windows 95.

OCR is an acronym for Optical Character Recognition. It is the ability of a computer to recognize text that is printed on an image instead of an actual text file. An example of this is having a book scanned into a computer, and then having the computer be able to recognize the image as text. From then on, it is possible to edit the text with a word processor. In order for OCR to work, some sort of optical scanner is required to feed the images into the computer.

OMR stands for Optical Mark Recognition. It is technology which involves reading data from marked fields. An example of OMR is in an application form or voting ballot. The answers for the form are written down on the paper in a marked field with a pencil, and an optical scanner then reads whatever is printed in the field and interprets it before feeding the data into the computer. Another example of OMR is the bubbles on SAT tests. These bubbles are read by an optical scanner and fed into the computer.

Bar code is a way of representing the UPC, or Universal Product Code, so that it can be easily read by machines. The UPC is a 12 digit number assigned to products. It’s purpose is to identify the product and the product’s vendor. Bar code represents this code in a series of black and white bars, with the widths of the bars signifying individual digits in the UPC.

A baud is a measure of the number of bits that are transmitted every second. Higher baud indicates a faster transfer rate, and lower baud indicates a slower transfer rate.

Peripherals, Platforms, Firewall, Malware, Computer Worms by Xiao Xiao

• Peripheral is a type of computer hardware that is added to a host computer in order to expand its abilities. The term also tends to be applied to devices that are hooked up externally, typically through some form of computer bus like USB. Typical examples include joysticks, printers and scanners. Devices such as monitors and disk drives are not considered peripherals when they are not truly optional, and video capture cards are typically not referred to as peripheral because they are internal devices.

• In computing, a platform describes some sort of framework, either in hardware or software, which allows software to run. Typical platforms include a computer's architecture, operating system, or programming languages and their runtime libraries.

• A firewall is an information technology (IT) security device which is configured to permit, deny or proxy data connections set and configured by the organization's security policy. Firewalls can either be hardware and/or software based.

• Malware (Malicious Software) is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner's informed consent Many normal computer users are however still unfamiliar with the term, and most never use it. Instead, "(computer) virus" is used in common parlance and often in the general media to describe all kinds of malware.

• A computer worm is a self-replicating computer program. It uses a network to send copies of itself to other systems and it may do so without any user intervention. Unlike a virus, it does not need to attach itself to an existing program. Worms always harm the network (if only by consuming bandwidth), whereas viruses always infect or corrupt files on a targeted computer.

In order to fully examine the social and ethical issues surrounding the use of IT systems, an ITGS student must first grasp the various technological concepts as of above. Assuming everyone is already on top of the more basic terminologies, valuable time and space should be spent on exploring the more intrinsic technology concepts such as malware and the tons of issues surrounding this sensitive topic.

One of the most notorious forms of malware is Trojan horse, a malicious program that is disguised as legitimate software. They may look useful or interesting (or at the very least harmless) to an average user, but are actually harmful when executed. There are two common types of Trojan horses. The first is an otherwise useful software that has been corrupted by a cracker inserting malicious code that executes while the program is used.

The other type is a stand-alone program that tricks the user into some misdirected complicity that is needed to carry out the program's objectives. Either way, the areas of impact created are huge. With the prevalence of global internet access today, everyone is a potential stakeholder. What makes it even scarier is the fact that everybody can also be potentially responsible and accountable for this infringement of morality. All it takes is one mentally “corrupted” individual for a global internet contingency to occur.

A simple example of a Trojan horse would be a program named "waterfalls.scr.exe" which claims to be a free screensaver. But in reality, when operated, it begins erasing all the files on the victim’s computer, raising distinctive ethical issues. However, this isn’t all. When Trojan horses are being utilized on a larger platform, such as firms, serious social issues also begin to arise. One type of Trojan horse is logic bomb, a piece of code intentionally inserted into a software system that will set off a malicious function when specified conditions are met.

For example, in June 1992, a defense contractor General Dynamics employee, Michael Lauffenburger, was arrested for inserting a logic bomb that would delete vital data. It was alleged that his plan was to return as a highly paid consultant to fix the problem once it triggered. Fortunately, his dream plot was shattered when another employee of the company happened to stumble upon the bomb before it was triggered. Lauffenburger was charged with computer tampering and attempted fraud and was ultimately fined $5,000 plus jail time.

However, stakeholders shouldn’t count on luck or the law to protect them from the dangers submerged in the IT world. After all, it’s important to keep in mind that internet is still a lawless “cyber space” connecting people around the globe and that Trojan horse is only one of the many “villains” among the different types of malware. Hence, alternative solutions should be preached instead. After all, the good news is that Trojan horse programs cannot operate autonomously, in contrast to some other types of malware, like viruses or worms. In fact Trojan horse programs actually depend on actions by their intended victims.

Therefore, Trojan horses can and should be protected against through user awareness.
Firstly, since Trojan Horse viruses are most commonly spread through an e-mail, as an e-mail user, one should always confirm the source. If one receives an anonymous e-mail or one with an unknown attachment, avoid opening it directly with the use of an anti-virus program that scans the attachments. Furthermore, make sure your computer has an updated anti-virus program regularly. Finally, although tempting and hard to resist for teenagers, the use of peer-to-peer or P2P sharing networks such as Kazaa and Limewire should be avoided because they are generally unprotected and especially venerable to Trojan horse viruses.

Although some of these programs do offer some virus protection, but they are not nearly enough against the overwhelming odds. It is only when everybody works in accordance towards preventing and fighting malware such as Trojan horse can the resultant ethical and social issues be alleviated.

10 Comments -Show Original Post Collapse comments

matwilder said...

Good effort. You clearly defined each of the terms that were required to be defined. Very good information and specific examples in the essay. Will be very useful when taking the IB exam.

November 27, 2006 7:34 PM

chirag said...

The terms are very well explained with examples... But i think Tommy forgot to talk about the differences between KB, MB, GB, TB etc... But that is not a big deal. Also you could have described about some issues with these PC components...

December 01, 2006 4:49 PM

kaerujin said...

This is a good paper since you clearly explained alot in detail especially about the the storage of memory and the input output device of computers. The part explaining about the OMR and SATs is a pretty good point to relate to meaning you understand and also recognize its uses too and also itn the process we aas readers understand too.

December 05, 2006 7:24 PM

akirajackson21 said...

It has a few parts that doesnt explain the terms that you use but overall I think it explains the important parts of the topic. It is fairly easy to understand too.

December 05, 2006 7:39 PM

Joseph Toyoshima said...

Your essay was very well worded and you simplified the topic nicely. Your definitions to the key terms helped very much in understanding your topic. Though your essay is very long, it sticks to the point and we can easily point out the main details. Very informative essay, good job!

December 11, 2006 6:20 AM

ronniewonnie said...

It was not really an essay but a dictionary for ITGS terms.
I learned a lot of new key terms thanks to you tommy.
But i think you might want to explain what the OMR is in a bit more detail becuase I still do not get it completely.
Ronald Chu

December 11, 2006 7:19 AM

HeeJun Son said...

In this essay the given terms are well explained. I could easily understand what each term meant. Although I think the essay was not really "essay", since your explanation is so clear, I have to applaud for your work here. I could see you trying hard. Good job.

December 11, 2006 10:10 PM

Chun said...

Your essay is well organized and thanks to it I can easily understand the hard and confusing terms that I didn't know before.

December 14, 2006 4:41 AM

aditya kumar said...

very good definitions. I am still not very clear as to what a firewall is. I think that it would have been easier for most of us if you cut down your use of computer terminology.
- Aditya Kumar

December 15, 2006 5:24 AM

Vaibhav said...

Well written however a little more detail would help. One question i had after reding this was "would a memory stick be considered as an input or something else?"

December 19, 2006 5:00 AM


Blogger Juju said...

I had pretty much no knowledge of these terms i just kinda knew what they did. Like input is where you put something and output is where something comes out but that is roughly it. Very good and descriptive essay Tommy. Good Job

January 07, 2007 6:31 PM  

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