Given its increasingly integral role in business and society, the Internet’s security flaws are troubling, to say the least.
Although the Internet has become an indispensable tool for 21st-century organizations, a 2005 report of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee bluntly states that the information technology infrastructure of the United States is highly vulnerable to terrorist or criminal attacks.
In a brief overview of this sobering situation, MIT applied mathematics professor and Akamai Technologies chief scientist Tom Leighton, who served on PITAC and chaired its cyber-security subcommittee, describes two of today’s big Internet security threats: denial of service attacks and “pharming” — both of which could be used to disable individual companies or critical infrastructure, such as the nation’s utilities.
At the present time, little is being done to fix these problems, says Leighton, though the advisory committee recommended that the U.S. government lead the way by funding long-term, fundamental research on cyber-security issues. Doing so, would promote wider adoption of improved Internet protocols, and that, he says, would lead to a more secure, reliable Internet infrastructure.