Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Internet – dependency, fragility, and protection

Although we may not fully realise, we have become extremely dependent on electricity and the Internet. There is hardly any moment in our daily lives where we do not use either one. Obviously, the Internet itself is fully dependent on electricity.

The predecessor of the current Internet used to be a closed US military network (1960s). Its successor was a semi open scientific network of interconnected university computers that was mainly used for exchanging messages. Notwithstanding this, its popularity increased by the mid 1980s. Public demand was still minimal given the poor user interfacing. It took the introduction of the Mosaic webbrowser (later renamed into Netscape Navigator) to attract the general public. Netscape lost the webbrowser battle to MicroSoft (IE) and MS then to Google. Google’s current dominance (e.g., Chrome, Gmail) is very much related to this webbrowser battle and the surge in internet usage.

The second surge in internet usage resulted from companies using websites to communicate with their customers and suppliers. A third surge is on its way as appliances (e.g., TV) are now being connected to the internet for remote control and monitoring (e.g., home heating). Rather sooner than later our entire life will be connected to the Internet. The consequences of that are like Sci-Fi.

However, my interest is – and my concerns are – about the dependency, fragility, and protection of the Internet. While we use the Internet daily, there is no single company, country or (global) organisation responsible for the Internet, let alone any global governance apart from a few technical areas. In some ways, however, that may even be a blessing in disguise.

In most networks (e.g., airlines, internet) there are hubs (transfer points) as full interconnectedness would not be cost efficient. While hubs create efficiency, they also create risks and threats. One of the main global internet hubs is the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), a not for profit NGO. The top 3 of global internet hubs are in Germany, The Netherlands, and UK.

If these 3 hubs would not be in business for a longer period then one could only wonder about the consequences for Europe or even for the entire world. Although the probability may be low, the impact might be immense or even catastrophic.

Given current developments and their importance to everyone, internet hubs should be treated as strategic (military) objects with similar protection levels. In other words, Back To The Future.

My only thought of comfort is that the Internet would most likely be used as much – or more – by the same people that might be interested in its disruption.

For them it could be like pissing against the wind…….

Pardon my French.


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