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Communications of the ACM


Making the Internet Safe For Gadgets

Making the Internet Safe for Gadgets, illustration

Credit: The Opte Project

People have predicted the Internet's death by traffic since its origin. Small protocol changes have prevented congestive collapse throughout the years, even as the Internet's fundamental host-to-host structure has remained unchallenged. But that may need to change soon, as an increasing number of sensors, phones, and other mobile devices connecting to the Internet threaten the network's security and reliability.

The growth is staggering: a Visual Networking Index Mobile Forecast by Cisco Systems estimates that mobile traffic worldwide will increase at a rate of 66% per year, or almost three times that of fixed-IP (Internet Protocol) machines, over the period 2012–2017. The nature of the data is also changing, pulled on one side by monolithic files like movies, and on the other by active streams of small data such as those created by field sensors. Security issues compound the problem, as the data travels in a network that protects the endpoints rather than the data packets themselves. Efforts to scale the Internet will need to take such scaling and security effects into account to preserve its usefulness for years to come.


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