The internet as we know embraces the principles of privacy and freedom on speech. But all the data on the internet is easily accessible by unauthorised people. Isn't it time we regulated the internet, asks Eugene Kaspersky.
In my opinion, if things keep going the way they are heading, the volume of useless, harmful and purely dangerous data circulating over the World Wide Web will exceed the volume of useful data. Some day the internet will be simply torn to shreds by endless hacker attacks and accessing the World Wide Web will automatically mean the loss of data stored on your machine.
We are heading towards internet anarchy and chaos primarily because of the complete anonymity of internet users - anonymity that far too many abuse. A similar situation existed on highways at the beginning of the 20th century until control systems, such as driving licences, were introduced.
It seems to me that something similar should be introduced to the internet.
Firstly, we must address the issue of user identification, for example the introduction of some kind of network passports.
Some believe that such a system contradicts the principles of privacy and freedom of speech. However, in addition to the need for a compromise, cases against regulating internet activity have a major weak point - a false feeling of anonymity.
The average user, whose right to privacy is currently defended, is actually unprotected from those who want to learn about their network activities. Detailed reports of any user’s internet activity is logged at the service provider. This data is frequently poorly protected, can be accessed by unauthorised people and its use is not strictly regulated.
The implementation of an appropriate ID system would eliminate these disadvantages, and user privacy would actually be better protected.
I can envisage at least two ways that internet regulation could be implemented: the creation of a parallel network with strict rules (the probability of this happening is very high), or regulation of the existing internet.
The first alternative of a parallel network could potentially involve IT industry giants introducing a new network format to where they would move their network business communications. At the same time they will strictly limit their network association with the internet and will invite other companies to join this new network.
In this case, the internet’s concept will be fundamentally altered - it will become a resource for entertainment, non-formal meetings and information searches with much of its business communications moving to the parallel network.
The second potential internet regulation project can only be implemented with the support of a large authority possessing huge financial and administrative resources. The most probable candidate for this role is some kind of inter-governmental organisation.
I would like to stress that I am merely making forecasts regarding potential developments and do not call for or advocate one variant over the other.
In October 2002 we observed the first global network attack on the internet backbone, an attack that succeeded in collapsing 6% of the web.
In January 2003 the Slammer pandemic slowed internet traffic in aggregate 25%.
What should we expect tomorrow when Pandora’s box is opened? It seems to me that the sooner we realise the need for a rational compromise between anonymity and functionality, the better.
What do you think?
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Eugene Kaspersky is the head of antivirus research at Kaspersky Labs. He is speaking in a seminar on “The Internet - Comrade or Adversary?” at Infosecurity Europe, Olympia 29 April – 1st May www.infosec.co.uk