Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

“We Need a Plan B for the Internet,” Warns Internet Pioneer Danny Hillis

Danny Hillis has been an Internet user since the earliest of days. He registered the third domain name ever. He still has a book, a couple of inches thick, with the names and info for every person in the world with an email address in 1982. Today such a thing probably would be 25 miles thick.

danny_hillis_ted

James Duncan Davidson/TED2013

So if he warns that the Internet itself is vulnerable, it’s probably worth listening up.

Where many people today worry about the security of computers, the security of the Internet is also at risk, Hillis said. And that’s a problem, because so many of our systems — from phones to payments — rely increasingly on the Internet.

Speaking at the TED Conference in Long Beach, Calif., today, Hillis referenced an incident in 2010 when massive amounts of Web traffic were suddenly rerouted through China Telecom after a DNS root server was intercepted, something that was said to be an accident.

“We’re setting ourselves up for a disaster like in the financial system,” Hillis said, because the Internet is a “system basically built on trust, and expanded way beyond the limits.”

“The Internet is actually an emergent system. We don’t fully understand it, like the weather and like the economy,” said Hillis, the founder of Thinking Machines and Applied Minds, whose work on the Google-acquired Metaweb helped start the company’s “Knowledge Graph.”

“It’s changing so quickly that even the experts have no idea what’s going on. It’s different now than it was an hour ago,” Hillis said at TED.

“We don’t know the consequences of what an effective denial-of-service attack on the Internet would be. So what we need is a plan B.”

The good thing is, a sort of emergency phone tree for the Internet should be relatively easy to design, said Hillis. However, he didn’t offer any details on exactly how this solution might work.


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google