Spam, viruses, botnets: Can the Internet be saved?

Spam, phishing, hackers, viruses, botnets, porn and crushing complexity -- is it time to start anew with the Internet? Is it possible?

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GENI will provide a clean slate for design and large-scale testing, but not necessarily a clean slate for deployment. Says Mankin, “You get a wonderful idea out of the [GENI] facility, and then you say, ‘Well, now that I understand how it works, I see how I could put it into the existing Internet because I just have to tweak it, and it’ll fit in.’ ”

In parallel with the design and building of GENI, the NSF is funding a number of research efforts under a program called FIND, for Future Internet Network Design. They are the kinds of efforts that may ride on GENI when it’s available, but many are under way now.

One FIND project focuses on how to build manageability into routing systems from the beginning, instead of adding it later as is typically the case. Another explores ultrafast optical technologies, based on the belief that electronic switching systems will be unable to keep pace with mushrooming demand. Still another is looking at “location-aware networks,” in which the IP address is supplemented by geographic coordinates. And then there’s a FIND project that is considering the option of allowing users to select the paths their packets take through the network, letting them make trade-offs among factors such as cost, speed, reliability and security.

Not all the projects focus on technology. One is studying the interactions and economic and social motivations of users, hackers, service providers and regulators, with the goals of improving service, security and user utility.

Mankin says the Ethane initiative is part of a family of FIND projects at Stanford that could lead to “an Internet where denial of service can’t happen.” But, she adds, it’s too early to tell whether the school’s ideas represent a “leap.”

Spam? How Quaint

Indeed, some of McKeown’s clean-slate projects have a 15-year planning horizon. “Changes will be largely in terms of security,” he says of the Internet 15 years out. “Terms like virus, worm, phishing and spam are just consequences of the Internet architecture; they are not things that will inherently happen. We may have new terms for new ways that people will try to trick us, but those old terms will be quaint terms associated with the previous Internet.”

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