[ISN] Universities tapped to build secure Net

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Sep 25 2002 - 23:33:11 PDT

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    By Scarlet Pruitt 
    September 25, 2002 5:25 am PT
    AMID HEIGHTENED CONCERNS over the Internet's continued vulnerability
    to failure or attack, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is
    expected to announce Wednesday that it has enlisted five university
    computer science departments to develop a secure, decentralized
    Internet infrastructure.
    The joint project, dubbed Infrastructure for Resilient Internet
    Systems (IRIS), aims to use distributed hash table (DHT) technology to
    develop a common infrastructure for distributed applications.
    DHT is like having a file cabinet distributed over numerous servers,
    explained Frans Kaashoek, a professor of Computer Science and
    Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and an
    IRIS project head. So if one server goes down, not all of the data is
    Like in peer-to-peer networks, there is no central server in the
    system that contains a list of where all the data, or files in the
    cabinet, are located. Instead, each server has a partial list of where
    data is stored in the system. The trick for the researchers is
    creating a "lookup" algorithm that allows the location of data to be
    found in a short series of steps.
    Another challenge, according to Kaashoek, is creating a software
    interface to access the system.
    The researchers hope that they can create a robust, distributed
    network that could essentially act as a secure storage system for the
    Internet. Governments, institutions and businesses worldwide could
    theoretically choose to place their data in the secure system, which
    would minimize the effects of outage or attack.
    The project comes amid increased concern over the Internet's
    vulnerability to viruses and worms, or even a terrorism-related
    The NSF launched the project with a $12 million research award to MIT,
    the University of California at Berkeley, the International Computer
    Science Institute, New York University, and Rice University in
    Houston. The award is spread over five years, and at the end of that
    time period, the research team hopes to have a system in place,
    Kaashoek said.
    "Clearly, people are interested in building much more robust systems,
    so our goal is exciting," Kaashoek said.
    "But what is really exciting is that if we succeed, we could change
    the world," he added.
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