The (Fruitless) Quest to Improve Internet Security

The Hitachi Center and Cybersecurity & Public Policy program welcome David Clark to join Fletcher for a discussion on the security of the Internet. The insecurity of end-nodes on the Internet gets a lot of attention today, because of the high-profile, persistent compromises that lead to identity theft, ransomware, and other assorted annoyances. In contrast, this talk will focus on the security of the Internet itself–the packet carriage infrastructure on which all applications depends. It turns out that all of the key systems that make up the Internet suffer from significant security vulnerabilities, which are regularly exploited by attackers. I will discuss the range of problems we are dealing with today, and focus on one example, the global routing protocol of the Internet (the Border Gateway Protocol, or BGP), where we are still trying to correct a vulnerability that was first identified in 1982! Why does this still exist, you ask. I will tell you.

David Clark is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Since the mid-70s, he has played a leading role in the development of the Internet; from 1981-1989 he acted as Chief Protocol Architect, and chaired the Internet Activities Board. His recent research has focused on the re-definition of the architectural underpinnings of the Internet and the relation of technology and architecture to economic, societal and policy considerations. Specific research areas include Internet security and Internet measurement.

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