Did the National Security Agency, way back in the 1970s, allow its own priorities to stand in the way of technology that might have given rise to a more secure Internet? You wouldn’t be crazy to reach that conclusion after hearing an interview with Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf on Wednesday.
As a graduate student in Stanford in the 1970s, Cerf had a hand in the creation of ARPANet, the world’s first packet-switched network. He later went on to work as a program manager at DARPA, where he funded research into packet network interconnection protocols that led to the creation of the TCP/IP protocol that is the foundation of the modern Internet.
Cerf is a living legend who has received just about every honor a technologist can: including the National Medal of Technology, the Turing Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But he made clear in the Google Hangout with host Leo Laporte that the work he has been decorated for – TCP/IP, the Internet’s lingua franca – was at best intended as a proof of concept, and that only now – with the adoption of IPv6 – is it mature (and secure) enough for what Cerf called "production use."
Specifically, Cerf said that given the chance to do it over again he would have designed earlier versions of TCP/IP to look and work like IPV6, the latest version of the IP protocol with its integrated network-layer security and massive 128 bit address space. IPv6 is only now beginning to replace the exhausted IPV4 protocol globally.
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