InternetWorld D I A R Y

Joseph Gallivan

Do you reject Satan? And all his works? Users of the Internet attending the InternetWorld trade show in San Jose 10 days ago were still making up their minds. The online community is abuzz with the question, after this month's release over the Net of a piece of software called Satan (Security Administrators Tool for Analysing Networks).

Satan probes a computer network from the outside to find weaknesses in its security system. Administrators are meant to test their own systems with it, then quickly plug the gaps. Its arrival is worrying for some as it could allow a new wave of wannabe hackers to break into universities, banks and corporations.

Dan Farmer, one of the authors, lost his job at Silicon Graphics when his pet project came to light. He could have made a fortune by licensing the code, but instead distributed it free over the Net on 5 April, his 33rd birthday. (For more information, see the World Wide Web page at com/dan/satan.html.)

In response, two programs, called Courtney and (inevitably) Gabriel, have been written, which, while not stopping "him", let you know when Satan is present. And at InternetWorld, the makers of NetProbe, a rival to Satan, were capitalising on the publicity. NetProbe is a commercial product that searches an entire network for security holes and configuration errors that a hacker could use to break into the network.

As the World Wide Web (the bit of the Net with sound and images) goes mainstream, the major commercial online services are falling over themselves to offer Web access. Prodigy, an American service, did it two months ago. On the first day of the show, CompuServe unveiled NetLauncher, which is basically the Spry Mosaic browser it acquired when it bought Spry last month. Members with Windows software, including those in Britain, can now browse the Web for three free hours a month, as part of the standard $9.95 subscription, $2.50 per hour for extra hours.

But be prepared for serious traffic jams - as the biggest access provider in the world, CompuServe is expected to bring another 2.3 million people on to the Web.

Taking the Web further out of the hands of the geeks, there are several packages available that make easy work of "authoring" a web page. In this great land rush, there's no longer any need to master the syntax of html (hypertext mark-up language) code: Common Ground (nohands demonstrated its Publisher package, while Microsoft's Internet Assistant converts any document written with the powerful Word 6.0 wordprocessor into a web page, no skill required.