Reinventing the Internet to make it safer

CSAIL cybersecurity expert Howard Shrobe was prominently featured in the New York Times' special "Security" section this week.

From "Reinventing the Internet to Make it Safer":

With the advent of cloud computing and shiny new phones, tablets and watches, it can be easy to forget that in many ways our computer systems are still very old.

“The software we run, the programming language we use and the architecture of the chips we use haven’t changed much in over 30 years,” Howard E. Shrobe, a computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a recent phone interview.

Dr. Shrobe and others note that the Internet’s basic design decisions were made when computer hardware was significantly more expensive than it is today. Forty years later, the consequences of decisions made in those resource-constrained days remain.

“Everything was built with performance, not security, in mind,” Dr. Shrobe said. “We left it to programmers to incorporate security into every line of code they wrote. One little mistake is all it takes for the bad guy to get in.”


Dr. Shrobe, who oversaw the Clean Slate program for Darpa until last year, said that from the beginning he wanted the programs to be more than a thought experiment.

“It was always my intent to offer a menu of technical options that companies who make computers and computer software could introduce into the commercial stream,” he said. “We’re beginning to see some of that work take effect now.”