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The Internet Needs a Plan B


By Michael V. Copeland 02.27.13 3:16 PM
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Danny Hillis at TED 2013. Photo: James Duncan Davidson LONG BEACH, California Danny Hillis is one of the earliest internet users. He registered the third domain name ever, Think.com (I thought, so many interesting names, maybe I should register a few other names? Nahh that wouldnt be very nice.) Clutching a gray book about an

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The Internet Needs a Plan B | Wired Business | Wired.com

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inch thick on stage, Hillis described those early days. This is everyone who had an internet address in 1982, Hillis told the crowd at TED 2013 on Wednesday. It had your name, address and phone number. You were actually listed twice, because it was also indexed by internet address. We didnt all know each other, but we all kind of trusted each other. If you could do it, Hillis estimates todays internet directory would be 25 miles tall. As Hillis has watched the internet grow in size and importance in the last three decades, he has also watched its vulnerability grow. We have taken a system essentially built on trust, and we have expanded it way beyond its limits.

Why that vulnerability is so frightening to Hillis is that so many things we dont imagine as being connected to the internet actually are. When you take off from LAX, you dont think youre using the internet, Hillis says. When you pump gas, you dont think youre using the Internet. But these systems are using the internet for service functions, for administrative functions. The internet has expanded from connecting that small directory of people, to connecting all kinds of systems and things. No one really understands all the things its being used for right now, Hillis says. And while a lot of attention is paid to protecting individual computers and networked systems, no one is really focused on protecting the internet itself. Were setting ourselves up for disaster, like we did with the financial system, says Hillis. Hillis points to a series of recent disasters or near-disasters. YouTube went dark for all of Asia recently because Pakistan was fiddling with how it censored it. All flights west of the Mississippi were grounded because a single router had a bug in it. A year ago, 15 percent of U.S.-based internet traffic, including the data stream from U.S. military installations, was routed through China. China Telecom says it was an honest mistake, and its possible that it was, Hillis says. But certainly someone could make a dishonest mistake of that sort if they wanted to. And then there was Stuxnet, an ingenious bit of coding that caused the centrifuge at an Iranian nuclear facility to spin out of control and destroy itself. That facility didnt think of itself as being connected to the internet, Hillis says. But the malicious code still made its way there. What if there was an effective denial of service attack on the internet? Hillis asks. We dont know what would happen, and we dont have a Plan B we dont have a plan for how to communicate when the internet is in trouble. What Hillis imagines is a second network that could come online in case of emergency. It would use different protocols from the existing internet, and would be kept separate as much as possible (Hygiene would be required, Hillis says.) So when the internet goes down, police stations, hospitals and airports could still function. In the face of the billions of dollars that companies and governments face to lose if their swath of the internet is taken over by bad guys, to say nothing of the chaos that would occur with a wholesale shutdown of the internet, the few hundred million dollars it would cost to build Hillis Plan B seems like money well spent. It wouldnt be too hard to pull off technically; its just a matter of focus and will. Its very hard to get people to focus on Plan B, when Plan A is working so well, Hillis says. There is a belief somebody must be on it, somebody is out worrying about this problem, but nobody really has responsibility for the whole thing. Hillis imagines that private industry would be willing to pony up to help fund the development

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of this backup network, and agree to subscribe to it as a service. Then well go build it, Hillis says. Related You Might Like Related Links by Contextly

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28.02.2013 23:39

The Internet Needs a Plan B | Wired Business | Wired.com

http://www.wired.com/business/2013/02/the-internet-needs-a-plan-b/

Michael V. Copeland is a senior editor at WIRED, where he focuses on all things related to the business of technology, but especially making sense of data analytics, where social is going next, and the collision between computer science and biological science. Prior to WIRED he was a senior writer at Fortune Magazine covering everything from electric cars to genomics and the latest in jet-powered surfboards. Read more by Michael V. Copeland Follow @MVC on Twitter. Tags: Danny Hillis, DNS, internet, stuxnet, TED2013 Post Comment | 40 Comments and 223 Reactions | Permalink Back to top
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The Internet Needs a Plan B | Wired Business | Wired.com

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40 comments

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JeramieH3

a day ago

There's a lot of things that could be fixed with a clean slate. Start with IPv6 from day one. Make every connection encrypted by default. Rework the email system to require email headers to be validated by the purported sender domain so they can't be forged. Require a token cost to send an email unless waived by the recipient, so scammers can't afford to send out billions of emails for free. Require all authentication systems to enforce a 10 second delay between each failed login to prevent brute-force hacking. Clean slate the entire web browser/web server concepts... this time, with the understanding that the web will be an interactive, real-time, two-way communication process that spans multiple resources over time - working from clean standards that are free of 20 years of old baggage. We can rebuild it, we have the technology...
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MustBeSaid

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JeramieH3 a day ago

Don't allow internet access to Russia, 90% of Africa or most Eastern European countries. That would solve 90% of spam, malware and fraud and honestly, nobody would miss them. And before anyone says that most spam is sent from servers in the US, that's not because it's sent by Americans. Those are Russian and Eastern European scum paying for those servers on US soil to get around geo IP filtering.
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Redisqcovered

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MustBeSaid 17 hours ago

So do those blocked countries get a choice or do you just rip it away from them? Or do impose segregation by making them use Internet 1 while the rest of the world uses Internet 2?
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dopeydan

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MustBeSaid 16 hours ago

Always a good idea to blame a whole country for something a few people have done. I wonder if any americans have committed internet crimes? How about Stuxnet? Wasn't that the US government's creation? Perhaps the USA should also be banned......
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jack33w
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dopeydan 10 hours ago Reply Share

Stuxnet wasn't about business fraud and theft.


ElyasM

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jack33w 8 hours ago

No, it was about causing a disaster by corrupting SCADA settings. It's all well and good when such things are used to prevent nuclear proliferation, but it might not be so great when someone uses the same tool to play around with the controls for a natural gas pipeline or a hydroelectric dam.
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