Intertitle: What are your hopes for the future Internet? Your fears? What action should be tak­en now for the best future?

Douglas Comer: Well, hopes. You know, I start­ed in the ear­ly days think­ing maybe the Internet some­day will get big. Maybe the Internet will become reli­able. Maybe it will become universal. 

And that has hap­pened. So, in terms of hopes I would say I have expec­ta­tions that things will con­tin­ue to get bet­ter in terms of tech­nol­o­gy. We will have faster, more reli­able, ubiq­ui­tous Internet every­where, all the time. The cop­per infra­struc­ture will be replaced by fiber optics and wire­less. And things will become much bet­ter than they are now. So it’s not just hopes, I really…I real­ly expect it to happen. 

In terms of fears. I think the biggest fear I have is that we’re caught in a hor­ri­ble arms race. That right now, we have com­pa­nies try­ing to build secure soft­ware, secure hard­ware, secure prod­ucts. And we have lots of groups try­ing to break secu­ri­ty. Figure out how to break in, fig­ure out— Even the secu­ri­ty research com­mu­ni­ty is in the busi­ness of break­ing in. 

And I have this ter­ri­ble fear that it’s like the old days in the Wild West, you know. The banks would build more con­crete in their walls. They were try­ing to pro­tect the bank hard­er. Harder steel bars to keep peo­ple out. And the ban­dits would just use more dyna­mite. It’s always true that it’s eas­i­er to break things than to make them secure. So, as long as we have just an arms race, the bad guys will keep winning. 

Now how do we solve the prob­lem. That’s what I real­ly fear. That the solu­tion isn’t just some­thing we can eas­i­ly do. The solu­tion is we need inter­na­tion­al agree­ment on laws. Otherwise if some coun­try said, Well in our coun­try it’s okay to build hard­ware that brakes in, soft­ware that breaks its. It’s okay to launch attacks.” Then the bad guys just go to that coun­try; man­u­fac­ture things; they sneak em into oth­er coun­tries for the black mar­ket. And I hate to say it but there is a lot of ways you can sneak this stuff in. And we’ll just be caught in this con­tin­u­al arms race of we built more secu­ri­ty… Oh, now peo­ple broke that secu­ri­ty, we have to build more security. 

So that’s my fear. That until we can get to the laws and inter­na­tion­al agree­ments, we’re doomed. And I don’t see that agree­ment on the horizon.

Further Reference

Internet Hall of Fame pro­file