En tiempos de virus y spam, los ingenieros y expertos piensan que el problema de seguridad y privacidad en Internet se ha deteriorado globalmente. Para algunos, la única manera de solucionarlo es comenzando de nuevo, publica The New York Times.

El debate acerca de cómo podría ser una nueva Internet aún está abierto. Una alternativa es crear una comunidad en la cual los usuarios tengan que abandonar la anonimidad y ciertas libertades a cambio de seguridad. En efecto, éste ya es el caso para varios usuarios de Internet de corporaciones y del gobierno. Una idea, por ejemplo, es requerir una suerte de licencia de conducir para que alguien pueda acceder a una red de computadoras públicas. Sin embargo, esto va en contra del espíritu libertario de Internet.
Do We Need a New Internet?

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.
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Worm Infects Millions of Computers Worldwide (January 23, 2009)

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.

The Stanford Clean Slate project won’t by itself solve all the main security issues of the Internet, but it will equip software and hardware designers with a toolkit to make security features a more integral part of the network and ultimately give law enforcement officials more effective ways of tracking criminals through cyberspace. That alone may provide a deterrent.

This is not the first time a replacement has been proposed for the current Internet. For example, modern Windows and Macintosh computers already come equipped to support a new Internet protocol known as IPv6 that would fix many of the shortcomings of the current IPv4 version. However, because of cost, performance and compatibility questions it has languished.

That has not discouraged the Stanford engineers who say they are on a mission to “reinvent the Internet.” They argue that their new strategy is intended to allow new ideas to emerge in an evolutionary fashion, making it possible to move data traffic seamlessly to a new networking world. Like the existing Internet, the new network will almost certainly have no one central point of control and no one organization will run it. It is most likely to emerge as new hardware and software are built in to the router computers that run today’s network and are adopted as Internet standards.

For all those efforts, though, the real limits to computer security may lie in human nature.

The Internet’s current design virtually guarantees anonymity to its users. (As a New Yorker cartoon noted some years ago, “On the Internet, nobody knows that you’re a dog.”) But that anonymity is now the most vexing challenge for law enforcement. An Internet attacker can route a connection through many countries to hide his location, which may be from an account in an Internet cafe purchased with a stolen credit card.

“As soon as you start dealing with the public Internet, the whole notion of trust becomes a quagmire,” said Stefan Savage, an expert on computer security at the University of California, San Diego.

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.

Proving identity is likely to remain remarkably difficult in a world where it is trivial to take over someone’s computer from half a world away and operate it as your own. As long as that remains true, building a completely trustable system will remain virtually impossible.

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