Why Vint Cerf Thinks Net Security Should Go Back to the Future

EXCLUSIVE: Cerf on the IoT: "I am very worried about the [future] headline that says: 'One Hundred Million Refrigerators Attack Bank of America.'"

Vint Cerf

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif.—Not too many people would know or remember this, but Vint Cerf is one who does: May 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the first publication of the description of what we know today as the Internet.

In September 1973, Cerf and a colleague, Robert Kahn, wrote a paper, "A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication," for the May 1974 edition of IEEE Transactions on Communications. The dissertation described how packets of digital data would be able to move from one computer node to another, then to another, then to many others, using new protocols and standard phone networks.

One of those protocols, designed and written that same year, was TCP/IP, short for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. It remains the key data movement protocol of the Internet; in 1983, it became a standard. Another of those protocols, FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, enables users to log on to a remote computer, list the files on that computer and download files from that computer.

Vinton Gray Cerf, 70, now serves as vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google. He was there when the Internet was turned on using TCP/IP and FTP in 1983, and is one of the fathers of the network because he helped code it and was influential in many of the biggest milestones in its history.

Security Was an Issue From the Very Beginning

"It started out as a bunch of geeks who basically thought it would be really cool if every network in the world, every computer in the world, would be interconnected in some very informed way, and wouldn't that be amazing if they could share information in a very fluid and flexible way?" Cerf said in an interview at the 12th annual FiRE 2014 conference here on May 21.

"For a very long time, it was the property of the scientific and military community, but in about 1989, the commercial services came along, and not very long after that, Tim Berners-Lee's invention [of the World Wide Web] becomes visible, then Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina with Mosaic [the first graphical browser in 1994], suddenly, the general public comes onto the net. At that point, we have a sea change."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...