MIT at Work on Resilient Internet

New distributed, self-healing Internet infrastructure would be resistant to attack and failure.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in collaboration with scientists from several other universities and organizations, are designing a new distributed, self-healing Internet infrastructure that they hope will be resistant to attack and failure.

The project, known as IRIS (Infrastructure for Resilient Internet Systems), aims to take some of the properties of current distributed computing systems--such as redundancy and decentralization--and integrate them into a more secure, reliable architecture. The project will announce Wednesday that it has received a $12 million Information Technology Research grant from the National Science Foundation to fund its research.

IRIS researchers say their ultimate goal is to implement a large-scale network of self-reliant nodes that needs no administrator and has no centralized controller, and therefore no single point of failure. Users will be able to store data anywhere on the network, and the data will then be replicated dozens, or even hundreds, of times on other nodes. Each copy of a file will be digitally signed to ensure integrity.

"The assumption is that well make so many copies of it, it will be impossible to take it out," said Frans Kaashoek, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., and one of the principal investigators on IRIS. "No one node will be more important than another node. If one fails, another can take over with just a little bit of coordination."