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CNET Special Report: Four Horsemen of Net Apocalypse

The Internet is in danger. While it appears to the casual eye that nothing can stop its exponential growth, in fact four separate disasters are lying in wait, each of which could cause irreparable damage to a still new and vulnerable medium. Today's CNET Special Report examines those four disasters, the Four Horseman of the Net Apocolypse: Pestilence (the millennium bug), War (cyberterrorism), Famine (Internet address limitations), and Death (traffic overload).


 
Click to discover the worst-case scenario for all four, and how they can still be avoided.
The Internet is in danger. While it appears to the casual eye that nothing can stop its exponential growth, four separate disasters are lying in wait, each of which could cause irreparable damage to a still new and vulnerable medium. Today's CNET Special Report examines those four disasters, the Four Horsemen of the Net apocalypse: Pestilence (the millennium bug), War (cyberterrorism), Famine (Internet address limitations), and Death (traffic overload).

The Four Horsemen aren't the wild-eyed speculation of electronic doomsayers; these problems are already cropping up in daily news coverage.



The Year 2000 is still more than three years away, but many may still be caught unaware of a bug that could cripple computer systems large and small at the next turn of the century. The problem boils down to two digits. Most existing software has the year represented in a two-character format, such as 96 for the year 1996. So when the year 2000 rolls around, most computers will read 00 as 1900. Ninety percent of business applications will fail if corrective measures are not taken, according to research firm the Gartner Group.

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Countdown to disaster begins
Agencies try to update
2000: Government has date with history
Live coverage of the Year 2000 Conference & Expo keynote, September 12, 1996



Net users must now worry about guarding against dangers from without and within. The long-held concerns about the safety of electronic banks, online credit card files, and databanks of private information haven't diminished a bit. But now security experts and the government are worried about international crime rings and full-fledged terrorist organizations hiding out in cyberspace and using it as a launching pad for a whole new kind of crime.

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Private lives online
Security still elusive issue
Gore offers strings-attached encryption policy
To catch a hacker
House approves anti-terrorism bill
Terrorism fight spreads to Net



The commercial popularity of the Internet is outstripping the number of available Net addresses. Each computer gets a numerical address that identifies it on the Net, but there are only so many combinations. When they run out, making up more is much more complicated than splitting an area code. Another side effect of the Net's popularity is that the demand for top-level domains (ending in ".com" or ".net") has already outgrown the supply, and many businesses worry that the best names are already gone. Like anywhere else, for businesses on the Web, it's location, location, location.

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Net realty for sale
Critics slow domain name plan
Fight over domain continues
.Com stands for competition
Getting down to .BIZness



The Internet may simply die of its own popularity. Cyberspace can grow without constraints and without limitation, but we can only get there by running over real wire in the real world paid for by real money. Will the makers of those networks ever be able to keep up with the growth of the cyberspace population or the multimedia ambitions of its builders?

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Battle over 56-kbps modems
Banding together for bandwidth
Stopping traffic on the Net
Grove sees clouds in blue sky
Companies try to break online gridlock


Go to CNET Special Report