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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Not everyone agrees with that assessment. “The argument often is that you need a clean-slate Internet because the current Internet has a lot of problems — a lack of security, viruses, spam, that kind of thing,” says Internet pioneer Robert Kahn, a co-inventor of TCP/IP. “But most of those are not issues that a brand-new structure is likely to solve all by itself.”

A Few FIND Projects

Design for Manageability in the Next Generation Internet: University of Wisconsin

Designing Secure Networks From the Ground Up: Stanford University, University of Wisconsin

Enabling Defense and Deterrence Through Private Attribution: University of California, University of Washington

An Experimental Protocol Stack for Cognitive Radio Networks: Rutgers University, University of Kansas, Carnegie Mellon University, Blossom Inc.

A Framework for Manageability in Future Routing Systems: University of Pennsylvania; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; University of Minnesota

Future Optical Network Architectures: MIT

A Geometric Stack for Location-Aware Networking: Rutgers

An Internet Architecture for User-Controlled Routes: University of California, Irvine

Market-Enabling Network Architecture: University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Santa Cruz; Bell Laboratories; Lucent Technologies Inc.

Network Innovations for Personal, Social, and Urban Sensing Applications: UCLA, UC Berkeley

The-Day-After Networks: A First-Response Edge-Network Architecture for Disaster Relief: University of Illinois

Towards Complexity-Oblivious Network Management: Cornell University, University of Utah

Transient Network Architecture: Corporation for National Research Initiatives, University of New Mexico

Kahn, who’s now CEO of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives in Reston, Va., points out, for example, that what is deemed to be spam or even pornography can vary depending on who is viewing it, and he notes that the application of technological solutions for such problems introduces other social issues, such as concerns about privacy and censorship. “The reason we don’t have security in the current Internet isn’t solely a technical matter,” he says.

And it’s worth noting again that not all of the NSF’s FIND and GENI projects deal solely with technology. “We are suggesting that a lot of the security projects should have a social collaborator,” Mankin says. “You are not going to change society, but you can help with some changes to technology.”

Kahn says clean-slate proposals may involve changes to the networks themselves, to computers, to operating systems or to major classes of applications. “You don’t do these things lightly,” he says. “The implications are pretty profound across the board.”

Given the difficulties, does it make sense to seek a clean slate? “Absolutely,” Kahn says. “If there are really good ideas — that’s the heart of it.”

Clean Slates, Testbeds and Emulators

PlanetLab: A global but small model for the future GENI; an experimental network started by Princeton University and used by industry, government and academia to test ideas for a new Internet.

ORBIT: A university-industry testbed funded by the NSF for trying out ideas for next-generation wireless networks.

WHYNet: An NSF-funded university testbed for exploring realistic, scalable and flexible next-generation wireless communication technologies and applications.

Emulab: A collection of network testbeds at the University of Utah for large-scale emulation of mobile wireless, fixed wireless and other kinds of networks.

SING, Scientific Foundations for Internet Next Generation: An NSF clean-slate program intended to rethink basic tenets of computing and networking theory and invent new algorithms and advanced application capabilities in areas such as wireless and sensor networks.

Cyber Trust: A portfolio of NSF projects aimed at improving the security of computers and networks.

Want to find out more? See The Future of E-mail.


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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