Internet Basics

In today’s society, it is critical to have a basic understanding of the Internet. In this course, Internet Basics, we will take a look at the following important aspects of using the Internet:

The Internet and the World Wide Web

The Internet is a large network of computers made up of millions of networks worldwide. It was originated in 1969, when the Government started a project called ARPAnet, which was designed to allow the military and researchers to communicate in an emergency. Additionally, it was used by different colleges and universities to exchange ideas and information. The Internet evolved from this foundation and has been more heavily used due to the introduction of the World Wide Web (WWW) in the early nineties.

What is the Internet?

There is no governing body in control of the Internet at this time; however, there are different organizations that have developed technical standards for it. At this time, all computers on the Internet communicate with each other using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) structure.

The Internet uses a client/server architecture, which means that all computers on the Internet can be lumped into one of two groups: clients or servers. A server is a common source of information or resources used by a client. Both elements of this architecture MUST exist for the Internet to be effective.

What is the World Wide Web?

The Internet and the World Wide Web are used interchangeably; however, they are NOT synonymous, but they are related entities. The Web was invented by a software engineer in 1991, and is a system of Internet servers that support specially-formatted documents. Simply put, the web is a way of accessing information over the Internet. It uses a series of hypertext formats to electronically link words or pictures to other words or pictures to obtain whatever is desired from the Internet.

HTTP and the World Wide Web

Each web page has its own address on the Internet called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The Web uses the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP)
to transmit data from the Internet to the user. You usually see this “http” language at the beginning of the web addresses used to access information.

For example, in the web address,, you will see the “http” in the beginning, recognizing it as a way to transfer data from the Internet and then the “www” referring to the World Wide Web. You normally do not have to type in “http” anymore to access the appropriate URL; it is automatically formatted to do so in most web browsers.

In the past, the Internet was strictly text-driven; there were no graphics of any sort involved in the information available. With the introduction of the Web, everyday access became available to the Internet as well as the ability to transfer graphics, sounds, text and video. The formatting language used to create most web pages is called HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Using HTML, you can create graphically pleasing web pages that can hyperlink to other areas and back again. Other programming languages, such as JavaScript, Visual Basic, Cold Fusion, ASP and HHP, further extend the capabilities of the Web.

Web Browsers

The Web uses browsers to access documents called web pages, which are linked together by hyperlinks. Two common browsers available today are: Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.

Using a web browser, a person can search for web pages using a URL.

  • Address Bar: Space at the top of the web browser where a person types in the web page address, or URL, and then clicks on the “GO” button or presses “ENTER” on the keyboard.

  • Back Button: Allows a person to return to the last page visited.

  • Forward Button: Allows a person to return to the page visited prior to clicking on the "Back" Button.

  • Drop Down Menu: Usually found near the "Forward" and "Back" Buttons, the Drop Down Menu allows you to view previously visited web pages for ease in returning to them.

  • Browser History: In most browsers, once you begin typing an address you have used before, it will automatically appear for ease in returning to that site.

  • Refresh: If you want to make sure you get the most up-to-date information on the web page or website you find, simply click on the “REFRESH” button and it will reload it for you. Basically, refreshing allows you to access the Internet server for information rather than the cache source on your computer.

  • Stop: Most browsers have a “STOP” button you can use if you want to stop a web page from loading, a page is taking too long to load, or if you accidentally typed in the wrong URL.

  • Print: All browsers allow you to print a web page. In fact, some web pages have a special key to allow you to re-format the page to be printed so all the margins and information line up appropriately.

  • Favorites: Many browsers have a way for you to save your “favorite” or most used web addresses for easy access in the future.

  • Search Engines: If you do not know a particular URL, or if you want to learn where to find certain information, you can use a search engine. A search engine allows you to type in key words or phrases and it will provide you with a list of URLs to review with information about each. Common search engines include Yahoo and Google.

Search Engine Tips

There is a lot of information available on the Web. The following outlines some ways to get to that information quickly and effectively:

Use “connector” words appropriately. Use AND, NOT, and OR to narrow or broaden your search.

Use correct spelling. You don’t have to be a perfect speller, but using the correct spelling in a search engine will provide you with the best possible results

Avoid slang or partial words. Using slang or partial words may provide you with some luck in finding a topic or issue, but the results may be too broad. For example, using “flick” instead of “movie” may provide you with something entirely different than movies.

Put quotes on phrases. If you would like to look for a phrase, put quotes around it. For example, if you would like to find “free online bill payer services,” put quotes around the entire phrase so the search engine will not look for each word independently.

Use more than one search engine. Don’t be discouraged if you cannot find what you are looking for with your most common search engine. Be adventurous and try another search engine to see what results you get. You may be pleasantly surprised!


E-mail Basics

E-mail is short for electronic mail, and is the process of sending and receiving messages via the Internet. The parts of the e-mail are essentially the same as traditional mail (or “snail mail”) as there needs to be some essential elements, such as:

Mailbox Address
Each user of e-mail must have a mailbox address, much like a street address or P.O. Box, in order to receive e-mails. A typical user address is: In this example, “janedoe” is the user name, the “@” separates the user name from the mail server name, and “harlandclarke” is the domain name, or the place where the user is located.

The last three letters (in this case, “.com”) are called “top-level domains” (or organizational codes). These help you to figure out what type of organization is sending you the e-mail. The following describe some of the more common top-level domains:

    • .com: A company or business

    • .org: A non-profit or not-for-profit institution

    • .gov: U.S. government agency

    • .mil: U.S. military

    • .edu: U.S. educational institution (e.g., colleges, universities, etc.)

    • .net: Internet Service Provide (ISP) or Network Provider

As with the traditional mail system, you must have some sort of message or using e-mail is a waste of time. Most e-mail client software allows you to do the following:

    • Create new messages using a menu bar and toolbar

    • Forward messages

    • Reply to messages

    • Delete messages

    • Attach files to the messages you send

    • Save attachments you receive

Every e-mail message must have a sender with a mailbox in case the message is returned. The sender is normally denoted in the beginning of the e-mail address that pops up in your mailbox. In the previous example given, it would be “janedoe.”

Every message can be sent to one person, to multiple individuals or to a mail list that you create within your e-mail software program. As is appropriate with traditional mail, you have the ability to send a carbon copy of the e-mail to someone as well as a blind carbon copy of the message. Once the message is created and you have determined who to send it to, you just have to click on “send” to send it.

Delivery Method
Because the Internet is created in a client/server architecture, e-mail must be carried from a client to a server and then to a client. The mail server and the e-mail client software rely on one another to both send and deliver e-mail. An e-mail client (or composer) is software that runs on a computer and relies on an Internet connection to perform some of its operations. It can work with any Internet Service Provider (ISP) that uses standard Internet e-mail protocols.

Most e-mail clients need a POP3 (Post Office Protocol, version 3) server address and a SMTP (Standard Mail Transfer Protocol) server address; the ISP will provide you with this information. In most instances, e-mail can be delivered in seconds. As you can imagine, using e-mail can speed up business in many industries (e.g., editing copy for a brochure or magazine article, looking at new graphics for an ad, etc.).

Other Delivery Methods

Transferring Files
Many times e-mail is used to transfer files from one individual to another. The most common way this is done is by transferring a document from your computer and sending it as an attachment to someone else’s computer. The recipient then opens the document and copies it to his/her computer. However, e-mail is not required to transfer and/or download data. If a file is set up as an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) file, an individual can download that information straight from the Internet. For example, if you purchase software online, you now have the option to get the CD-ROM in the mail, or you can download the program directly from the site.

A LISTSERV is a small program that sets up the automatic distribution of information to e-mail addresses on a mailing list. In this case, recipients have signed up to be on the mailing list. For example, individuals may be able to sign up to receive the latest rate information at your financial institution.

Chat Rooms/Instant Messaging
Chat programs allow users on the Internet to communicate with each other in “real time.” Sometimes chat rooms are featured as part of website. For example, you may have a chat room on your financial institution’s website where account holders can discuss rates or the market in general. A variation of a chat room is called “instant messaging.” In this instance, a user can talk to another user who is logged in just as though they were talking on the telephone. Both of these services do not require e-mail client software.

E-mail Etiquette

The following are guidelines to consider when using e-mail:

Always include a subject heading.
All e-mails have the option to include a subject heading to describe their content. Make sure you keep this heading short and to the point.

Keep e-mails short.
Be sure to keep your e-mails short and to the point. Don’t drag on your conversation or try to be too descriptive in your communication. Think of e-mail as a brief telephone conversation.

Don’t ignore grammar and spelling.
Even though e-mail is less formal than a letter, it is still critical that you provide the reader with the feeling you are professional by using appropriate grammar and spelling. Most e-mail software programs have automatic spell check for outgoing messages for your convenience.

Don’t use emoticons.
Emoticons (e.g., ☺,☼, etc.), are keyboard characters used to display emotions. Use these sparingly and only when you have an informal business or personal relationship with the recipient of your e-mail.

Don’t use excessive punctuation.
Let your words express your emotions, not punctuation. For example, do not follow up a short phrase with a row of exclamation points.

Don’t use excessive formatting.
Keep your e-mails as clean and simple as possible. The purpose of your e-mail is to get your message out, not have the message take too long to load in order to read. Use HTML sparingly.

Avoid Shouting.
You would probably never shout in a business conversation with a co-worker, and the same should hold true with e-mail. You should avoid using all CAPITAL letters in your message as this is called “shouting” and can be considered rude.

Don’t Engage in a Flame War.
Be sure to use the “24 hour” rule (don’t respond for 24 hours) when you feel yourself getting frustrated upon receipt of an e-mail message. Let your words express your emotions, not exclamation points or asterisks. Keep your professionalism even when you are angry.

Review Your Message.
You should review your message prior to sending it, no matter how long or short it may be. Be sure it states clearly what you want it to.

Don’t Spam.
Every once in a while you may receive a funny e-mail or joke that you feel may be appropriate to forward to another person; however, be sure you do not make a habit of sending this sort of correspondence to your co-workers.

It is NOT Private.
E-mail is NOT a private form of communication. Some companies monitor employee e-mail. Keep this in mind when you e-mail at work. Remember, everything you write in an e-mail is “on the record.”


Internet Security

Think for a moment about all of the data stored on the Internet. The fact is, there is an overabundance of information available on the Internet today – both personal and public information. Unfortunately, there are criminals referred to as “hackers” that spend their time trying to obtain this data through illegal means.

Most Internet security programs ensure that data stored in a computer cannot be read or stolen by anyone without authorization. These programs usually involve passwords and data encryption. Let’s take a look at each area of Internet security.


A password is a secret word or phrase that provides you with access to a particular system or program. For example, most people have a password that allows them to access their personal banking information on the Internet. As simple as it may sound, your best line of defense in protecting your information is creating an appropriate password. Let’s take a look at how to create an effective password.

STEP #1: Create a simple sentence or phrase. Be sure you have approximately eight to 10 words in the phrase and that some sort of number is incorporated in that phrase. For example, “I lived in Georgetown four years in college at 18.”

STEP #2: Base your password on that phrase. You can take first letters or numbers within the phrase to make it work effectively. For example, “ILIG4YIC18” could be used for the previous phrase.

Remember, you want this to be fictitious, but something you will remember.

Password Protection

The following are some guidelines you can take to protect the password you have created or one that has been created for you:

  • Change your password regularly; usually, every three to four months.

  • Memorize your passwords; NEVER write them down.

  • Don’t use the same password for everything; once a thief gets it, your information is in serious jeopardy.

  • Don’t choose a password that can easily be traced to you (e.g., birth date, anniversary date, name, child’s name, etc.).

  • Don’t use well-known abbreviations in your password.

  • Don’t use your “user name” as your password.

  • Don’t let anyone look over your shoulder when you enter your password into a computer (e.g., ATM).

Data Encryption

Data encryption is the process of converting data into what appears to be random and meaningless information, which cannot be decoded without a “secret key” of some sort. Encryption is used to make secure communications or financial transactions.

Most e-commerce websites have a special data encryption method within them called a Secure Socket Layer (SSL), which is a standard in the industry to protect the security of information (e.g., transaction data, financial information, etc.) across the Internet. Using this method, once you input information within a site (e.g., fill out a loan application, put in financial payment information for a product or service, etc.) and press “submit,” that information is scrambled or “encrypted” while being exchanged. Be sure to check on each Internet website you enter for SSL technology as a protection for you and your information.

Security Threats

If you use the Internet regularly, you must also be aware of other threats to your security. Some people or organizations write programs with malicious intentions to destroy data and other information on computer programs and systems. The following lists four main types of programs written that may occur on your computer while using the Internet:

Viruses cause a sickness to occur on your computer, much like viruses in your body. A virus can erase your entire hard disk, rearrange information, cause performance to slow down, or other strange computer behavior. In most cases, it does serious harm to your computer and requires a complete revision of your system.

A worm is a special type of virus that is self-producing. While it does not necessarily infect other programs, it just re-creates itself over and over again. In most instances, a worm overwhelms a computer program or system, causing it to completely shut down over time.

Trojan Horses
A Trojan horse appears to be a harmless program, but contains code that can completely destroy your computer.

Spyware is a program that runs on your computer without your permission and collects information about you and your computer, and sends it to the originating source. You can think of it as sort of an illegal wire tap.

Internet Protection Software

There are many things you can do to protect yourself from Internet security threats. First of all, you should make sure you have a firewall for your computer. A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer, providing you with another layer of security to your computer. Unfortunately, firewalls can only protect you against access, not viruses or other threats we have mentioned.

Every computer should have two software programs installed: Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware. Anti-Virus software continually runs in the background of your computer, protecting it from viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other infectious programs. The typical software program will make you aware of intrusions immediately, which you can deal with on a regular basis.

Additionally, Anti-Spyware software scans for and removes spyware on your computer. Additionally, some detect and prevent spyware programs from launching and may even block access to infected websites.


A cookie is a small amount of information from a website that is stored on your hard drive for use at a later time. For example, you may have a user name for a certain website stored so the next time you go to that site to pay a bill or check your account, it will have your user name ready for use.

While some may feel this is an invasion of privacy, cookies are designed to improve your online experience. If you do not want to have cookies used, you can turn them off using your web browser.

Internet Safety Tips

Keeping your personal and financial information safe and secure should be a priority for you. Consider the following tips when conducting any type of business over the Internet:

  • When filling out any sort of application or payment form, be sure to put information only in the fields with asterisks, which usually indicates required information.

  • Avoid putting information in pre-selected checkboxes on an application or form to avoid future spam or other unwanted e-mail.

  • Don’t open e-mail attachments that come from a suspicious source or from people you don’t know.

  • Don’t open any files that are attached to an e-mail if you do not know what is included in the attachment.

  • Be cautious when downloading any type of file from the Internet. Make sure the source of the download is legitimate.

  • Make sure you keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software programs updated for maximum protection.


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