Patching the Internet
The core protocols that keep the Internet running were never designed for the kind of use that the Web gets today, and in 2008, the strain began to show. In particular, one system that showed its age was the domain name system (DNS), which translates the Web addresses typed into a browser into a numerical address that connects that browser to a server. It was designed in a more trusting era, and security researcher Dan Kaminsky discovered a major flaw in the system that had the potential to throw Web security into disarray. (See “The Flaw at the Heart of the Internet.”) Companies scrambled to come up with a fix for DNS, but it wasn’t the only protocol that needed an update. The border gateway protocol, which handles routing, has struggled under growing traffic. (See “The Social Life of Routers.”) And experts are working to update the cryptographic algorithm that secures many online transactions, hoping to have a solution in place before the current system gets out of date. (See “An Algorithm with No Secrets.”)
The debate over network neutrality heated up this year, made more urgent by skyrocketing video and multimedia traffic. (See “Internet Gridlock.”) Even as Internet service providers and file-sharing networks struggle toward uneasy peace (see “Supercharged File Sharing”), the Beijing Olympics made it clear that the debate isn’t just about money. Internet censorship continues, and free-speech advocates reported that the Chinese rules for censorship seem not to be uniform, leaving major search engines to set their own guidelines. (See “Search Engines’ Chinese Self-Censorship.”) An embarrassing incident involving the Chinese version of Skype showed that U.S. companies need to take care when forming partnerships within countries subject to censorship. (See “China’s Eye on Web Chatter.”)
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