In The Clear

I Love You Note

Passing notes is a time-honored method of classroom communication. Suppose I want to send a message to a friend sitting on the far side of the room. I write my message on a folded piece of paper with my friends name on it and simply say, “Pass it on”. Magically, within seconds, the message is sent and received.

Unfortunately, the note passing system has a couple of flaws. First, I trust that nobody in the note passing chain will open the message and read it before passing it on. Second, the teacher may spot the note and intercept it. As punishment, the teacher may hold the note for ransom under threat of exposure. Worse, the private message will be read to the entire class.

Internet communications from your Home Computer function similar to note passing. An e-mail that you send to your friend, passes through many other computers before reaching its destination. The contents are in clear view of all computers that “pass” the message. What is thought to be a private message, certainly is not. For a technical description of how Internet messages are sent read about Packet Switching.

You should know that most e-mail and web browsing communications happen In The Clear. Know also, that you don’t know who may be intercepting and/or viewing your communications. For now, its enough to know this basic information. In the future, I hope you’ll think about the contents of a message before “Passing it on”.


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