IPC plenary session: Vision for global Internet platform

The opening plenary session topic was billed as a look at “New Media,” but it focused almost entirely on technical aspects of the Internet.  A more accurate name might have been “The New Medium,” as it didn’t touch much at all on how the technology is used to democratize information dissemination other than security issues.  Nevertheless, the speakers gave an interesting review of the underlying technologies that support New Media.  Oddly, the commercial uses of the Internet were barely mentioned in this session, even though it is the commercial opportunities on the Internet that drive the innovation and demands for broadband expansion.

Below are my real-time notes from the plenary session.

Rene Obermann, Deutsche Telecomm

DT is funding Internet security research at Ben Gurion University, because security will continue to be a major concern.  Mobile Internet will have more use and impact in the near future than traditional Internet, and the rise of mobile markets have created more security vulnerabilities.  Smart phones represent a quarter of all mobile devices, and tablets are a fast-growing segment already.  DT believe that at least 15 billion connected devices will be in place by the end of the decade, including machine-to-machine devices like smart appliances, cars, surveillance, and so on.

Cyberattacks have grown rapidly in both numbers and sophistication.  Exposures multiply exponentially.  DT is very concerned about national infrastructure, such as air traffic control or utilities.  What happens when a group decides to seize control of worldwide financial systems or automated distribution channels?  These are not “bored nerds,” but organized and hostile groups looking for vulnerabilities for specific purposes.

Security has to be built in at the beginning, not an afterthought.  Obermann says that “a close relationship between public and private sectors” is essential to prepare for defense.  Obermann didn’t really give much in specifics about what DT wants in public-private partnership, but he said that we need a legal framework for coordination on a national and international basis as a means to defend against cyber-warfare (my term, not his).  That isn’t an entirely bad idea, but the key is to ensure that such a “legal framework” doesn’t wind up putting control of content and access into the hands of politicians and governments that want to ration information to an oppressed populace.

Leo Apotheker, CEO of HP

He echoed Obermann’s concern that people continue to view hackers as isolated and bored nerds.  “People want a seamless experience,” Apotheker said, and consumers are driving the innovation faster than security can keep up.  That has to change, and that challenge is made tougher by the move towards openness and connectivity from previous proprietary and closed “legacy systems.”  “We have to embrace connectivity,” Apotheker said, “and we have to change the way government interacts with citizens.  Having to wait in line for a form in the digital age is an absurdity.”

What are we protecting?  Revolutionary advances in human efforts in areas apart from technology.  Massive connectivity allows massive analytics that allow for much quicker progress on research and development.  Apotheker gave one example where connectivity saves lives: counterfeit drugs.  RFID and scanner technologies connected to legitimate manufacturers and distributors allows for instant certification of supplies, keeping people from dying from either lack of care of physical poisoning.

Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon

Ninety percent of Internet traffic will be video by 2025.  That puts a premium on infrastructure building and maintenance, including security.  Landlines will continue to improve; FIOS is in 18 million homes, giving 100MB broadband to hardwired customers.  On mobile, Verizon plans to have 4G fully deployed by the end of 2012.  That is a universal standard, which will allow global deployment of services rather than having to deal with national barriers to deployment.

“People used to think that the last mile was the biggest problem,” Seidenberg said, but mobile has solved that.  Cloud computing is now possible from most places and will be even more available as 4G and other technologies unfold.  Seidenberg warned, however, that the proliferation of threats on the Internet will end up stratifying connectivity into separate public and private Internets — threats such as cyberbullying (?).  He urged support for public-private partnerships on security in order to keep the system entirely public.