April 27, 2012

Securing The Internet: A Historical Perspective

This week, I had the opportunity take a great class in Cyber Security / Information Assurance.

As part of the class, we had to do a team project and my part was to present a brief history of the Internet and how this best positions the Federal Government to take the lead in securing the Internet.

Here is my part of the presentation:

Good morning. I am Andy Blumenthal, and I am here to talk with you today about the wealth of historical experience that the U.S. Federal Government has with managing the Internet and why we are best positioned to govern the security of it in partnership with the private sector and international community.

As you’ll see on the timeline, the U.S. Government has played a major role in virtually every development with the Internet from inventing it, to building it, and to governing it, and it is therefore, best prepared to lead in securing it.

It all started with the invention of the Internet by the government.

Starting in 1957 with the Sputnik Crisis, where the Soviets leaped ahead of us in putting the first satellite in Earth’s orbit—this caused great fear in this country and ultimately led to a space and technology race between us and the Soviet Union.

As a result of this, in 1958, the U.S. Government established the Advanced Research Projects Agency (or ARPA) to advance our technology superiority and prevent any future technology surprises.

In 1962, ARPA created the Information Process Techniques Office (IPTO) for enhancing telecommunications for sharing ideas and computing resources.

Finally in 1964, the concept of the Internet was founded with the publication by RAND (on contract with the Air Force) of “On Distributed Communications,” which essentially invented the idea of a distributed computing network (i.e. the Internet) with packet switching and no single point of failure.  This was seen as critical in order to strengthen the U.S. telecomm infrastructure for survivability in the event of nuclear attack by the Soviets.

The Internet era was born!

The U.S. government then set out to build this great Internet.

In 1968, ARPA contracted for first 4 nodes of this network (for $563,000).

Then in 1982, after 8 years of anti-trust litigation, the U.S. government oversaw the breakup of AT&T into the Baby Bells in order to ensure competition, value, and innovation for the consumer.

In 1983, ARPANET split off MILNET, but continued to be linked to it through TCP/IP.

In 1987, the National Science Foundation (NSF) built a T1 “Internet Backbone” for NSFNET hooking up the nation’s five supercomputers for high-speed and high capacity transmission.

And in 1991, the National Research and Education Network (NREN, a specialized ISP) was funded for a five-year contract with $2 billion by Congress to upgrade the Internet backbone.

At this point, the Internet was well on its way!

But the U.S. government’s involvement did not end there, after inventing it and building it, we went on to effectively govern it. 

In 2005, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issued the Internet Policy Statement (related to Net Neutrality) with principles to govern an open Internet—where consumers are entitled to choice of content, apps, devices, and service providers.

And now, most recently, in 2012, we have a proposed bill for the Cybersecurity Act to ensure that companies share cyber security information through government exchanges and that they meet critical infrastructure protection standards.

You see, the government understands the Internet, it’s architecture, it’s vulnerabilities, and has a long history with the Internet from its invention, to its building, and its governance.

It only makes sense for the government to take the lead in the security of the Internet and to balance this effectively with the principles for an open Internet.   

Only the government can ensure that the private sector and our international partners have the incentives and disincentives to do what needs to be done to secure the Internet and thereby our critical infrastructure protection.

Thank you for your undivided attention, and now I will now turn it over to my colleague who will talk to you about the legal precedents for this. 

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

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