Law Agencies Face Internets Size
Law enforcement agencies see a growing share of communications moving from traditional channels to the Internet.Law enforcement agencies see a growing share of communications moving from traditional channels to the Internet. In their effort to respond with new collection and monitoring measures that balance security with the expectation of privacy, these agencies face the same dilemma that marked the punishment of the mythical Tantalus, who was condemned to hang from a branch above a lake whose waters receded whenever he bent to drink. Bureau chieftains cant bring themselves to ignore the Internets potential trove of valuable traffic, but it will evade every effort they make to collect it. The first and most brutal obstacle is sheer volume. Measurements made earlier this year by Lawrence Roberts, chief technology officer at Caspian Networks Inc., show an Internet traffic growth rate of 300 percent per year; even a pessimistic forecast by McKinsey & Co. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. predicts continued growth through 2005 at annual rates tapering off toward 60 percenta rate that still exceeds tenfold growth every five years. Anything faster will outpace the Moores Law growth rate (doubling every 18 months) that has long characterized computer price/ performance trends, implying that watchers will have to upgrade their systems at state-of-the-art rates merely to stay abreast of the flow.
Compounding the problem is the growing quantity of information per bit. When digital channels carry ASCII text, indexing and searching algorithms can perform astonishing feats of association and retrieval (as evidenced in any Google search of HTML pages). Classical cryptanalysis relies heavily on redundancy in the written word. As traffic tends toward images, however, users adopt redundancy-slashing compression schemes that take advantage of the processing power abundant on personal systems: In the aggregate, its a formidable challenge to find any remaining patterns in all that data, whether criminals or terrorists use steganography to bury text in an image file or simply take a picture of a handwritten message (and perhaps flip it upside down and backward before transmission).