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April 25, 2017 | 0 comments

As an early pioneer in Internet security, Stephen Kent says, he and others never envisioned the Internet would become such a key piece of infrastructure.

“The range of things we were worried about was relatively small,” he said. “We were concerned about nation states intercepting communications and possibly acting as a man in the middle. So our goal was to figure out how to design standards that would alleviate those concerns. That was in the good old days, when email was a text message. You didn’t even have attachments that could reach out and bite you. It was before the World Wide Web.”

Now of course, the cybersecurity challenges are “absolutely enormous,” he says, and the Internet of Things is downright scary.

Moving forward, he says, one of the great challenges is figuring out what really is and isn’t a threat.

For instance, he says, when ecommerce first took off, a lot of effort went into developing cryptographic security to protect credit card information as it traveled from a consumer’s computer to a merchant. But most big security breaches today involve hackers getting credit card information after it is stored in merchants’ computers.

“The catch is, if I am sitting at home using the Internet, when I send my credit card information to Amazon, it’s not in a lot of danger of getting intercepted. It’s in the greatest danger once it gets there.

“This is an example of where we developed a solution to the concerns we could...

April 13, 2017 | 0 comments

One does not have to get very far into a conversation with Stephen Kent to understand how he made it into the Internet Hall of Fame.

Ask him how it all started, and you will find his path from Loyola University in his hometown of New Orleans to the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1970s was not the result of special guidance or connections from advisors or mentors. Rather, it came through his own initiative.

“I really wanted to be in computer science,” he said. “But we didn’t have any faculty members [at Loyola] who were graduates of prestigious universities. They couldn’t offer a lot of advice. So I went to the library and sat down with the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Journal. I looked at about two decades worth of issues. This was 1974, and I created essentially a manual spreadsheet of where the authors were. Three schools clearly stood out: MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Stanford.”

Not everyone saw his potential. Stanford, for instance, took a pass. But MIT and Carnegie Mellon both accepted him; he chose MIT. He was one of only 20 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellows in Math and Computer Science that year.

The rest is history, as they say, as he landed in a security research group that included Michael Schroeder, who later co-authored (with Roger Needham) the first scholarly paper on key management protocols.

He ended up earning acclaim of his own after the head of the group asked him to do his...

March 29, 2017 | 0 comments

One of the Web’s original founders is concerned about the direction his creation is taking.

Twenty-eight years ago this month, British computer scientist and Internet Hall of Fame inductee Sir Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for what is now the World Wide Web.

In a column published recently by The Guardian, Berners-Lee acknowledged that in the nearly three decades since, three particular trends have emerged that he believes may jeopardize the web’s ability to be a tool used for the greater good.

Specifically at issue for Berners-Lee are the widespread collection of personal data, the ease with which incorrect information is rapidly disseminated and the lack of transparency and oversight when it comes to political ads. Although he admits that the problems – and the necessary solutions – are complex, he is quick to point out that there are ways to address these issues moving forward.

“We must work together with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology such as personal ‘data pods’ if needed and exploring alternative revenue models such as...

March 20, 2017 | 0 comments

An early network pioneer of Sri Lanka’s Internet, Abhaya Induruwa has turned his attention in recent years to Internet of Things (IoT) security and forensics.

“My line of argument is that the Internet is a fantastic thing for probably 99.5 percent of the user population,” he said. “But there is this small minority who will create problems for everyone. This is going to exacerbate with the advent of the Internet of Things where billions of devices get connected to the Internet.  Some of the less secure IoT devices will become an easy target for hackers and provide attack surfaces involving millions, if not billions, of compromised IoT devices.  When something bad happens we have to investigate, and forensics will be an area that is quite important. Forensics is important after the event, but we also have to prevent attacks before they happen so security is very important too.”

As head of the Centre for Cybercrime and Security Innovation in the School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing at the Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom, Induruwa says much of his work today focuses on smart mobile devices and the IoT, which he says present the next wave of disruptions, threats and opportunities.

During a recent keynote speech to the 34th National IT Conference of the Computer Society of Sri Lanka in Colombo, Induruwa reminded participants of the need to prepare for what he said is the beginning of “the evolution of the Internet to the...

March 15, 2017 | 0 comments

Getting universities and governments to fund new programs is never easy. Throw in a few civil wars and even the most dogged of academics might be deterred.

Not Abhaya Induruwa. While other academics in Sri Lanka were fighting for the basic “blackboard and chalk” type resources in the late 1980s, he leveraged his unique position as head of a new computing department to bring data communications—and eventually the Internet—to the embattled island nation.

The first student to graduate with a First Class Honours degree in electrical engineering from the University of Sri Lanka (now the University of Moratuwa), Induruwa said he got his first taste of computing in the 1970s when the school installed an IBM mainframe system with punched card input. He was introduced to even larger systems, “with remote job entry and all that,” while working on his PhD at the Imperial College in London.

He returned to Sri Lanka in 1980, and three years later was appointed to set up the first computer science and engineering department at the University of Moratuwa, the only department of its kind in a Sri Lankan university.

“That is how everything began,” he explained recently to the Internet Hall of Fame.

Although most of even his close colleagues didn’t feel the Internet was necessarily a requirement of higher education claiming, “there are more basic things that people needed.” He said he had an energetic young staff...