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The Significance of Internetworking

August 6, 2018

This week, I am continuing this series on important ideas that have helped to shape IT in the modern era. Internetworking, or more simply put, an internet, is one of those very powerful ideas. Let me explain.
Briefly Put
I don’t want to recap the history of networking, but we have seen a lot of changes over the last five decades. Early on, we experienced private networks full of simple devices supported by very basic protocols. Then, we saw private networks full of smarter devices supported by an increasingly robust protocol with management tools. That was a relief. Then, internet protocols took hold as the internet burst on the scene and companies supported a smooth integration of public and their private networks. (You could surf the net from your work computer.) Somewhere along that journey, we went from dial-up, at-home, over-the-telephone network to cable providers with high data speeds and routers supporting wireless devices in the home. There you go, 50 years of telecommunication history in 118 words!
One Fine Day
In the mid ’90s, I got my copy of OS/2 Warp (V3). Prior to that, I was using Windows with Kermit to work on a midsized computer at a school where I was studying. You may know that Kermit is a computer file transfer/management protocol as well as a set of communications software tools for file transfer, terminal emulation and other functions. It runs across many different computer hardware and OS platforms. 
The biggest challenge I experienced was submitting my school assignments. I wasted a lot of time unsuccessfully submitting them, receiving no useful support from the software and was starting to think that there was no way I could complete my studies over the next four or five years under these conditions. On a weekend when I had a lot of problems with Kermit, I installed OS/2, tried out its graphical FTP and was successful on the first try as I uploaded an assignment. I was shocked and relieved. FTP is an application that’s part of the internet protocol suite that made a positive first impression.

Many of us take our modern networking capability for granted. Good progress continues to be made in network speed, connectivity and capabilities. However, there is a dark side of ubiquitous networking enabled by internet technology. The availability of networking means that you can be online at all times, and this is changing our society in many ways. 
Consider the debate about the use of social media. The concern discussed in the studies is whether young people are changing in undesirable ways--in particular, they are becoming un-empathic, passive, intellectually shallow and uncritical, desensitized, depressed and suffering attention deficient because of technology. This is discussed in “Digital Media, the Developing Brain and the Interpretive Plasticity of Neuroplasticity.”  This paper is one of many explorations of the relationship between the brain and social media enabled by modern networks. 
Consider how the internet relates to cybercrime. When I was at the ECC Conference this year at Marist College, I visited their training Security Operations Center (SOC). Although it’s primarily used for cyber education, it has one production security feed.  In that conference session, attendees got to experience the high volume of hacking attempts from around the world on the college’s systems. You would have to characterize it as perpetual hacking enabled by the internet as that’s the main way to attempt to access Marist’s private internet. 
Consider how the internet relates to hacking individuals. It has been discussed that in the future, there is likely to be more hacking targeted at individuals. There is the threat that artificial intelligence (AI) tools will be used to help with hacking previously unattractive victims. Individuals (versus institutions) are now potentially more attractive due to low cost of acquisition supported by cheap AI labor. 
Some tools used to protect are now being proposed to attack. “Artificial Intelligence Technologies Could Boost Capabilities of Hackers” reports that “In response to the increasing use of AI technologies to defend against cyber attacks, malicious actors are now discussing their potential application for criminal use.”
OK, There is Good and Bad
So the internet and its supporting technologies are both good and bad. Too simple a characterization? None of us are ready to give up the low cost network access that we have today. Not everyone, of course, has this access. Rural locations don’t have that benefit and when they have it, the cost isn’t inexpensive as it’s available in the cities. 
It’s what we choose to do with it that’s so important. We can use it for good, or just to help with everyday life, or use it irresponsibly—it’s up to us. However we use it, internetworking has changed the fabric of many lives from how we interact, shop, travel, read and learn.

Posted August 6, 2018| Permalink

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