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    New York Times: Do We Need a New Internet?

    The New York Times has published an interesting musing on the question, “Do we need a new Internet” in order to solve mushrooming online security and privacy problems? One answer involves restricting anonymity and privacy on the new Internet.

    Bad enough that there is a growing belief among engineers and security experts that Internet security and privacy have become so maddeningly elusive that the only way to fix the problem is to start over.

    What a new Internet might look like is still widely debated, but one alternative would, in effect, create a “gated community” where users would give up their anonymity and certain freedoms in return for safety. Today that is already the case for many corporate and government Internet users. As a new and more secure network becomes widely adopted, the current Internet might end up as the bad neighborhood of cyberspace. You would enter at your own risk and keep an eye over your shoulder while you were there.

    “Unless we’re willing to rethink today’s Internet,” says Nick McKeown, a Stanford engineer involved in building a new Internet, “we’re just waiting for a series of public catastrophes.” […]

    Despite a thriving global computer security industry that is projected to reach $79 billion in revenues next year, and the fact that in 2002 Microsoft itself began an intense corporatewide effort to improve the security of its software, Internet security has continued to deteriorate globally.

    Even the most heavily garrisoned military networks have proved vulnerable. Last November, the United States military command in charge of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars discovered that its computer networks had been purposely infected with software that may have permitted a devastating espionage attack.

    That is why the scientists armed with federal research dollars and working in collaboration with the industry are trying to figure out the best way to start over. At Stanford, where the software protocols for original Internet were designed, researchers are creating a system to make it possible to slide a more advanced network quietly underneath today’s Internet. By the end of the summer it will be running on eight campus networks around the country.

    The idea is to build a new Internet with improved security and the capabilities to support a new generation of not-yet-invented Internet applications, as well as to do some things the current Internet does poorly — such as supporting mobile users. […]

    A more secure network is one that would almost certainly offer less anonymity and privacy. That is likely to be the great tradeoff for the designers of the next Internet. One idea, for example, would be to require the equivalent of drivers’ licenses to permit someone to connect to a public computer network. But that runs against the deeply held libertarian ethos of the Internet.

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