The depressing future of the Internet

The depressing future of the Internet

Summary: A brief overview of how the Internet came about: some years ago, some military boffs thought it'd be awesome if computers could talk to each other, so the US could nuke the hell out of other countries without actually being near there. A smart professor from England then came up with an idea to plug on top of the original idea, to make text and pictures appear on a screen.

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A brief overview of how the Internet came about: some years ago, some military boffs thought it'd be awesome if computers could talk to each other, so the US could nuke the hell out of other countries without actually being near there. A smart professor from England then came up with an idea to plug on top of the original idea, to make text and pictures appear on a screen. Some years passed, some boring developments and company takeovers, and now we have the Internet.

historyoftheweb.png

Since then, crime has moved from the streets of our major cities to our houses, criminal masterminds (usually plain idiots actually) started stealing credit/debit card details from people, students started creating viruses to infect other people's computers - why, I still can't work out; child sex offenders used the web to cause even more ongoing pain and suffering for children and their families, emails sent out without direction promoting Viagra to anyone and everyone, and finally, people trying to attack the very heart(s) of the infrastructure to bring the whole thing crumbling down.

Over the last few weeks, there's been new research done which could manipulate the primary-core DNS servers, so hackers could take you from what you thought was www.google.com to www.somebadsite.com instead. Thankfully I don't think it's been put into practise yet, but it's still a major, if not the most major flaw/security hole to face the web today. Whatever you want to call it - it's really bloody bad.

Terrorism is essentially a "targeted attack against people or inter/national infrastructure". We've seen this in the London train bombs; hitting England's capital's underground transport network - we've seen this also when terrorists released sarin on the Tokyo subway some years ago. The Internet is an international infrastructure, and words cannot really express how bad the situation would be if the Internet fell.

Even for a computer science student, a self-taught computer geek and an intelligence analyst, these things still struggle to comprehend properly in my mind. Nevertheless, if the Internet fails or falls, crumbles or is attacked, it will have a major economic, potentially geographic, and social effect on a high proportion of the world's populations and demographics.

I am going somewhere with this one... keep on reading.

argh-scary-bruce-willis-kinda-fit-though.pngWith the state of the Internet at the moment, it's not difficult for me to think up a "Die Hard 3 4.0" scenario. It is, of course, highly unlikely, but nothing nowadays will surprise me.

With all the genius in the world, there's no doubt it's a good thing we have academics, professionals, security advisor's, governments and researchers picking out these flaws. If we didn't know about them, someone would have exploited them already. Dan Kaminsky could have easily turned to the dark side and used his knowledge for self-gain, but because he didn't, the Internet will be "safe" for a little while longer.

Where do these security problems lie? Is it the web servers? Is it the web browsers? What about the operating systems? Maybe applications are screwing around with our computers' security? Maybe the backend systems running the Internet? The problem is - all of these, and more. All it takes is a slight flaw in a browser to be exploited and your computer can be compromised, and I for one, am sick of hearing about problem after problem.

I've been thinking long and hard about this one. I can see two, maybe three possible and hypothetical outlooks to the future years.

  1. 2013: After a series of DNS exploits and after IPv6 was cracked, the Internet became flooded with spam, malware, security bugs and problems floating around, that either people stopped using it for anything "secure"; shopping, banking, and downloading email - even the online pornography industry failed. Windows 7 failed to protect computers, just as malware became cleverer and smarter, with viruses being embedded in the bottom of mugs and being transferred to Microsoft Surface tables when placed on them.
  2. 2013: The Internet went through a massive clean-up 2 years ago after confidence in using the web was causing the global credit crunch (not the breakfast cereal). Governments and the G9 (India finally joined) collected together and funded a central agency in Europe, which regulates and polices the entire web, just as police do on the streets. The Internet is now secure, crime is nipped in the bud, and with the occasional civil liberty lost in the process, people can now browse in privacy and comfort, without worrying about crime or security issues.
  3. 2013: After Windows was phased out, Microsoft created a new operating system, founded on Singularity back in 2007/8. This made the overall infrastructure of each individual node (each computer) on the Internet more secure. However, Government's worldwide never addressed the issue of the backend security and stability. So although most computers around the web are more secure, it's only a matter of time before these new systems are attacked with new code. The situation nowadays is very similar to the last decade; still major problems, but the mass intensity and complex nature of the system makes it near impossible to resolve.

If I was of a somewhat paranoid disposition, I'd be more worried panicking screaming from the rooftops to run for the hills concerned. To try and make sense of this, get some student perspective but also to calm ones fears, I asked two of my friends. First up is my close friend and University of Kent colleague, Dan Wood, who's been in a podcast before, and a opinionated git geek when it comes to these things:

"I don't think the future of the Internet is depressing at all. For every security flaw there is a fix. As I see it, there are two problems currently facing the Internet; the first is net neutrality, which will be a key battleground over the next ten years. Eventually the net will go back to being neutral, but in the meantime there will be some problems for users not being able to access all Internet content.

The second problem is the second dotcom bubble, which is under increasing pressure during the current economic climate. However, if it does burst, the Internet will eventually recover from this too. Its a long game. Internet problems might look bad right now, but in 10 years, they will be ancient history."

So, he completely disagrees, but he certainly has a point. From another point of view, I spoke once again to Bryant Zadegan, VCCS student, about his views of the future of the Internet and how it'll affect students:

"At the moment, I've got bigger worries. IPv6 adoption is ridiculously slow, at least in the United States. IPv4 has 232 [4,294,967,296: just over 4 billion] unique addresses, and an even smaller number of available addresses. If IPv6 adoption doesn't pick up, you'll start seeing ISPs no longer providing unique IP addresses to home users connecting to the web and instead pushing them through NAT.

Universities need to adopt IPv6 on their networks just to give IT and computer science students enough exposure on what's coming up. Students in any subject need exposure to it so that the Internet doesn't become less alien to them than it may already be.

However, [in terms of Internet security] there's no single problem (or combination of problems) either via operating systems, browser flaws, or even major websites will take down the Internet. If anything takes down the Internet, it's going to be an infrastructural flaw. Right now, that flaw looks like IPv4, and if ISPs (not just universities) have to start relying on NAT for all of their home users, a whole bunch of application problems will suddenly arise."

So what will be the death of the Internet and/or the world wide web? Security flaws? Backend infrastructure crumbling? Spam, crap, Viagra and more porn than Clinton we could ever want? Maybe it's just a simple numbering problem. Either way, considering we survive on the Internet (in some cases quite literally, hospitals for example), we can't afford to screw it up.

Sorry about not posting so much this last week, for the second time in my life I've got the pox. Chicken, not small.

Topics: Security, Browser, Hardware

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51 comments
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  • Whoa! Slow down, Momar...

    [i]...some years ago, some military boffs thought it?d be awesome if computers could talk to each other, so the US could nuke the hell out of other countries without actually being near there.[/i]

    Correction: It was done so that, in case [u]someone bombed us[/u], our computers could still communicate.

    [i]After a series of DNS exploits [b]and after IPv6 was cracked[/b][/i]

    Just curious...what's to crack?
    MGP2
    • Never get in the way of a liberal

      and his rant. You'll drown from the spittle.
      frgough
      • ...rattle thump rattle

        Oh! Ditto, ditto, ANnd DITTO! I mean ( rattle rattle thump thump rattle thump! ) HOW much of this UTTER DRIVEL are WE supposed to TAKE ( thump thump thump rattle rattle rattle thump thump! ) from these Democrat left-wing Marxist Leninist Wacko tree-hugging enviromentalist drive-by-media OH-BAH-MAW-voting feminazi baby-killing-and-eating AND JUST-PLAIN-EVIL LIBERALS??? WE... are just furious! WE, el RushBum, are NOT amused!
        douglas442
      • What about when it's a conservative?

        Take out Zack and insert Senator Ted Stevens ("The internet is a series of tubes"). How would you describe it now?
        MGP2
        • Re: MGP2

          Woah, woah, WOAH! Wait a cotton pickin' minute there... did you just call me a *conservative*? :-o

          I will tolerate a lot, I can be bullied till the cows come home then be bullied by the cows, I can be beaten up and thrown around, you can call my sister and mother horrible things to my face and still absolutely nothing.

          I would rather be called a Nazi-sympathising paedophile than a sodding conservative :|
          zwhittaker
    • Well...

      They wanted the communications so they could send
      missiles back.

      I also suspect if you look at who was doing the work along
      the DARPANet, you'll find academics who were thinking
      about the implications of communications for science and
      research.

      There were quite a few instances of defense money
      providing a patriotic, fight the Russkies veneer over
      funding of peacetime advances in the 50s and 60s. Think
      the interstate system.

      Couldn't call DARPANet a top locked down military secret.
      In 1973, my high school math class and I were shown UC
      Santa Barbara's node in good old Engineering I. No one
      unlocked any doors to let us in.
      DannyO_0x98
  • RE: The depressing future of the Internet

    Everybody knows the *real* meaning of life is somehow embedded into IPv6. I don't know - I've got a fever so high I could fry a sodding egg on my forehead.
    zwhittaker
    • I want ...

      my eggs over easy please
      RobinInTheHood
  • What the hell is this?

    How does someone so off base and paranoid get to be a
    writer for this kind of site?

    Did you hide in a bunker when the year 2000 came
    because all of our clocks would go haywire and we would
    never be able to know what time it is?

    I think you raise legitimate concerns, but don't be a
    paranoid freak and begin babbling your absurd
    predictions. The DNS flaw is easily fixed, it has been done
    on a large number of dns servers. Just because some have
    not means nothing, they will if the dns attacks actually
    happen.
    While the IPv6 switch has been slow that doesn't mean a
    damn thing. Once we actually really do start running out of
    IP Addresses the change will happen overnight. Necessity
    is not only the mother of invention but also change and
    adaptation. Your paranoia over the lack of IP addresses is
    as ridiculous as saying that we could never get more than
    128kb of memory. Gee who would need more than that?

    You then mention terrorists disrupting the internet. How
    would this been done exactly? The Internet is a distributed
    computer system and it is just not possible to take the
    whole thing down unless you had an incredible amount of
    power, money, and influence. It is far more likely that
    governments, such as China with the blocking of the
    Itunes store will be the cause of of massive internet
    disruption.
    ChrisOPeterson
  • did George help you?

    This sensationalism gave me some flashbacks from the time when George was here. I mean, you do have some valid points, but you can convey them without taking the shoes of Nostradamus. In this way, people would take you more seriously.
    patibulo
    • But viruses, spyware, worms and botnets exist don't they?

      The internet was a fine place to visit when Microsoft still
      thought it just was a passing fad, nothing to care much
      about.

      When they finally did something then we got all that
      malware which helped to spread all that spam as well, btw.

      More than 13 billion dollars are spent each year to clean
      up all that malware which makes me wonder what the hell
      people are thinking with, if they think at all. A lot could be
      greatly improved with better software, better platforms.

      http://www.computereconomics.com/article.cfm?id=1225
      Mikael_z
      • Yup

        With the windows came the n00bs.. now all the n00b reign the internet because of their numbers..

        I recently found a website of a game reviewer which is moaning about the lack of interesting and intrigueing games.

        He has got a point.. but the fact that companies can make money with cheap remakes and brushed up GFX is because of this new group.. which just has way lower standards then in the old days.
        TedKraan
  • RE: The depressing future of the Internet

    ZACK:
    Thank you for having the courage to say what you did. It is vital that we save this medium that is connecting people all over the planet, especially since actual travel is so expensive.
    Your words flashed me back in time to Marshall McLuhan's, "Medium is the Message."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_medium_is_the_message

    Be well soon please! And think about writing a book to expanding "The Depressing Future of the Internet" into a book that amazon can sell please.
    ljdiercks@...
  • RE: The depressing future of the Internet

    Only the governments can ruin it and probably will.
    charliec.brown@...
    • governments

      I agree...governments are the biggest threat. And by governments, I mean the voters.

      For dictatorships, blame the democracies for being complicit (google, cisco assisting Chinese censorship).

      gary
      gdstark13
  • RE: The depressing future of the Internet

    Get well soon... so that your madness from fever no longer spills over into your writing. The internet will never die. It is an organism that is viciously and ruthlessly taking over our planet and no amount of virus nor speeding malware bullets nor backdoor attacks can phase it. At least not for long. The technology genie is out of the bottle and the bottle is broken... get it? I would rather you write about the depressing future of television. Now, that one I could get behind.
    Keywalker4God
    • IPv666?

      Right...because the internet is the Devil, or the Beast, or the Anti-Christ, or all three. Now, that's a fine justification, isn't it?

      "Oh!" said Sarah Conner in her Chronicles, "Why didn't someone stop them? Why...didn't someone STOP them???"
      douglas442
  • RE: The depressing future of the Internet

    ZACK;

    I don't intend to hurt your feelings, but considering the structure and content of this article, I'm thrilled you are a student. I pray you're a first or second year student, because you have a lot to learn. Keep attending classes, and PLEASE improve your writing technique!

    Best wishes,

    Steve
    hardknoxfirst
  • The Sky Is Falling: 2008 Version

    The "demise of the Internet" is greatly exaggerated. What's next? The death of books because of television? The death of live musical performances because of the stark reality of CDs?

    Time to get a grip.
    SteveMak
  • RE: The depressing future of the Internet

    The death of the internet will not come from the stroke of a hackers keyboard. I doubt if it will die, but return once more to what it was orignally intended, a means to share and distribute information.

    If the internet dies it will be from a lack of interest on the part of user's who have become overwhelmed by direct and other marketing schemes. Today, the internet is nothing more than one giant and continuous advertisement.

    It could be a valuable tool for mankind in the distribution of information of all kinds but for the abuse of it's use by the snake oil salesmen of the marketing profession.

    Like the kid said "A Christmas Story", when he finally got his Ovaltine decoder pin and finally decoded his first message, "$%@**#, just another $**$@&# commerical."
    dobick@...