How secure is the Net?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 1995, 12:00am

SURE, I feel safe on the Net. Don't you? I know there are spies out there somewhere (although who knows if the CIA is really taking advantage of the Net) and I know hackers are out there trying to get into our private accounts and data. Now, though, the Internet has its own friendly Cyberspace detectives. Yes, real, bona fide private eyes in the electronic world.

Background Research International (BRI) was the first on-line detective agency, or so their promotions claim. And they offer an interesting array of services. They can check out a potential business investment, evaluate the pros and cons of a possible business partnership, check the background of a potential employee (they will even verify a resume), collect on a court judgment, and track down a defendant or plaintiff who is avoiding court or some such duty.

BRI provides services to small and medium sized businesses leaving those individuals in cyberspace needing detective services in a bit of a lurch. In comes BRI's sister company, The Detective Information Network (DIN) which offers an even more impressive array of services including screening nannys, checking out a potential land deal and even running background checks on acquaintances and potential suitors or spouses. Definitely for the somewhat paranoid, I think.

DIN even guarantees that they can find a missing person or friend for you. That's right, success guaranteed is what their Web page says. I've never heard of non-cyberspace detectives knowing in advance they can definitely track someone down. Maybe the Internet changes that, but I can't quite figure out how. Still, BRI refunds your money if they don't find the person you are looking for. Not a bad deal. I wonder if they will search for Elvis for me.

Maybe I'm being to harsh. After all, there must be good reasons to take advantage of these services and there is no doubt that a detective agency can benefit from using the Internet to conduct research and investigate different matters, but it leaves me somewhat edgy. How do I know that someone who didn't like last weeks column will read this week's, e-mail DIN or BRI and now someone who is not a hacker is joyfully browsing my home directory in search of information for this mysterious client? Scary proposition.

I must say, though, that while their Web page isn't the most visually stimulating they have a PGP Public Key encryption block on there, so these guys know something about Internet security. After all, as a client there would be concerns about asking some stranger who you have only met electronically to undertake work of a sensitive personal nature. At least this offers some form of assurance that the communication is secure.

Still, that doesn't leave me free to breathe. Now I know that people aren't just able to plot a break-in to my home directly, they can do it in secret, safe from prying eyes. Maybe I should get DIN to investigate who might be investigating me.

BRI can be reached at the aptly named URL http: // while DIN is on-line at http://www.investigator .com/din.

TIP OF THE WEEK: Japan's Mainichi Newspapers group is on the Web now with a graphics-intensive home page that offers a range of headlines and news stories, mostly about Japan. The site can be reached at /index-e.html.