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An interesting piece this weekend in the New York Times’ Week in Review section asks “Do we need a new internet?”

After asking that startling question in the headline, the piece brings up some scary security vulnerabilities in the internet, and indications of what could happen if those vulnerabilities were exploited. It delves into many of the same issues my story last month about concerns that folks at the University of California, San Diego’s Supercomputer Center have about the internet.

Times writer John Markoff quotes several internet experts, including one from UCSD, saying that there is essentially no privacy on the internet. And if we as a society want there to be a measure of security in the business and pleasure we do on the internet, then we will have to build a new one.

From the Times piece:

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.”

Ironically, one of the things that makes the internet so alluring — its anonymity — makes it less secure, said Stefan Savage, an internet security expert at UCSD.

“As soon as you start dealing with the public internet, the whole notion of trust becomes a quagmire,” Savage told the Times.

DAVID WASHBURN

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