Robert Frosts famous line “good fences make good neighbors” continues to gain supporters. In a 21st-century spin on Frosts axiom, executives at Silicon Valley software firm Opsware (formerly Loudcloud) are predicting that encryption will not just become far more pervasive on the Net than it is now, but will cause the Internet to go dark, in the sense that a lot of currently accessible information will become secure.
“If you supply a credit card number at Amazon today, your information gets encrypted,” says Tim Howes, Opswares chief technology officer and executive vice president, “but a huge amount of information about you and what you do isnt encrypted today. When people go to My Yahoo! and look up stock quotes or go read news articles, they leave personal information available. We havent seen widespread encryption at the application level yet.” Opsware chairman Marc Andressen is a vocal advocate of ubiquitous encryption.
The rise of wireless networks is exposing all kinds of electronic trails, says Howes. In a study late last year, wireless gateway provider 2Wire found that 21 percent of home Wi-Fi users could see their neighbors wireless networks. Many wireless users completely failed to configure encryption when they set up their networks. On tomorrows networks, that kind of easy-to-skip job and many similar ones are likely to be taken care of automatically.