Are There Alternatives to the Internet?

Are There Alternatives to the Internet?

The impact of a lost Internet is becoming more important to each of us everyday. The expanding Internet of Things and Services-on Demand are becoming an integral part of our every day lives. In addition, cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, will continue to play a more significant role in the global economy.

We need to be connected to businesses and individuals. However, the Internet, as we know it, has shown to be vulnerable. The Internet has innocently developed a central point of failure, even though it was meant to be distributed and resilient. The central point of failure has become the domain servers that reconcile domain names into IP addresses. This centralized weakness was exploited in the 2016 attack on the DYN servers.

We can continue to get better at protecting the Internet by predicting and protecting its vulnerabilities. At the same time, we should accept that an attacker could get through our defenses. In that case, we need a ‘plan B’. But, is there one? is there an alternative to the Internet that can provide some or all of the value the Internet provides us today?.

The solution would be an alternative networking capability. This alternate network model would not need to provide all the services we have grown to depend upon initially. But, as time went by, the number of applications and services would be duplicated. The first priorities would be best limited to what is necessary for basic existence. For instance, this would be message alerts and, also, currency to acquire food and supplies. Then there would be access to shelter and safety; and so on.

Mesh Network

Necessity has already caused innovative alternative solutions to the present day Internet. One example was when the Chinese government shut down access to the Internet during the Hong Kong demonstrations of 2014. The demonstrators used FireChat to communicate. Firechat is a mobile app by Open Garden that does not require the Internet. It communicates to others on the Mesh Network. Open Garden states:

Our revolutionary peer-to-peer mesh networking technology enables communities, organizations and app developers to create resilient, people-powered networks and services, extending the reach of the Internet.

A mesh network connects to the nearest device that is cooperating in the network. This connection can be using a short distance method, such as Bluetooth or WiFi. Messages can be bouncing from one device to the next with a destination of getting out to the wider Internet. Or it can be fulfilling its goal within the short distance through connected devices sharing critical information with the participants.

Using a Mesh Network on a broad and more permanent way is under development in different locations. An example would be the NYC Mesh project.

NYC Mesh is a community owned network. Our network consists of Wi-Fi router “nodes” spread throughout the city. The network has no central server and no single internet service provider. All nodes cooperate in the distribution of data, also serving as a stand-alone network in case of emergencies or internet shutdown.

The Tor Network

There are other networks available that do not rely upon the native Internet. One is Tor, the network used in the Deep Web. Tor relies on participants to pass on your request of a service to other participants until the request is satisfied. The request is wrapped in encrypted layers so that the participants do not see what the request or response actually is – only the information necessary to pass on the information. Decryption does not occur until the packet arrives at its destination. The O in Tor is for ‘onion’. The network packet is like an onion with many internal layers.

Blockchain Inspired Networks

There are also peer-to-peer networks being developed using Blockchain, such as the Ethereum Virtual Machine;

Like any blockchain, Ethereum also includes a peer-to-peer network protocol. The Ethereum blockchain database is maintained and updated by many nodes connected to the network. Each and every node of the network runs the EVM and executes the same instructions. For this reason, Ethereum is sometimes described evocatively as a “world computer”.

The Internet of Sound

There are many ways to transmit information. Sound was the first in our evolutionary history and now is often forgotten as a viable alternative. However, it is making a comeback. The Internet of Sound uses sound itself as the network. Transmitting information may be restricted at this time to small pieces of information, but it does not take much to transmit a URL. Sound can travel through the air or across telephone lines, of which there are still plenty. This natural duplicity of networks, line and cellular, is attractive when developing a resilient communications method.

Using a cloud service, such as EmailToVoice.Net, allows application to convert the content of an email to a voice and then transmit it as a voice call to places that cannot be reached through other means.This is not a network, but applications such as this can assist in accomplishing tasks through alternative means. Presently, Email To Voice is a popular communications service in Industrial IoT applications.

One or More of These

As the Internet gets more important to our daily needs, we should continue to explore these alternative methods of networking and communications to ensure our security. A comprehensive solution may not be the best solution to explore first. The activities most crucial to our sustainability should be sought initially; then followed by the less critical, but convenient, aspects of our daily lives. One or more of these technologies may evolve into a complete alternative to the Internet.

This is a discussion we should continue to explore.

 

Denis ONeil CISSP

Denis ONeil CISSP

Founder of OLinks Corp, Creator of EmailToVoice.Net

Denis O’Neil is the Founder of OLinks Corporation and creator of EmailToVoice.Net. Denis has extensive experience in customer engagement and business communications having held leadership positions in several international companies.

Why the Internet is becoming even more important to us

Why the Internet is becoming even more important to us

The Impact of The Internet

We had a wake up call on Friday, October 21st.. We were shut out from some of the most widely used services on the Internet. This came as Internet-dependant technologies are growing in importance to us everyday.

Admittedly, the failure on the 21st did not affect the entire Internet. But, it was proof to everyone that the Internet was vulnerable. As we now know, it could have been worse (see below). But, it was bad enough to give us a glimpse of what it would be like without the Internet – to not have the ability to communicate or even to fulfill our basic needs. The services that we rely upon more and more were not there, for what seemed like a very long time.

We lost access to some of the world’s most popular websites on that day, like;

  • Twitter,
  • Amazon,
  • Netflix,
  • Paypal,
  • CNBC and others.

The outage was a sampling of every part of our lives, such as

  • payment services,
  • online goods,
  • news
  • entertainment.

The impact could not be ignored. There had been attacks on individual corporations before, like Bank of America and other financial institutions back in 2012. But, this attack was especially broad because it channelled through DNS servers, the servers of domain names. These servers are, in essence, the heart of the Internet.

Could It Have Been Worse?

The attack effected the most highly used Internet sites. To add to the drama, the weaponry used to carry out the attack was the most prolific technology of modern times, the Internet of Things (IoT). Included in the attack arsenal were cameras, DVR’s and routers. These IoT devices are fast becoming a part of everyone’s everyday life – and there will soon be millions of them, everywhere. Yes, it could have been worse.

This attack may have been just a sign of what may come in the future. According to Computerworld in its post DDoS attack on Dyn came from 100,000 infected devices

“Given that Friday’s disruption involved only 100,000 devices, it’s possible the hackers could have launched an even more powerful DDoS attack, said Ofer Gayer, a security researcher with Imperva, a DDoS mitigation provider.

“Maybe this was just a warning shot,” he said. “Maybe [the hackers] knew it was enough and didn’t need their full arsenal.””

The attack was to the Dyn servers, the centralized part of the distributed Internet. DARPA had originally designed the Internet as a distributed network that was immune to total destruction. But the Domain Services have become a centralized function. This function may be acting as a single point of failure. Even the control of security keys of the domain services consist of seven keys in the hands of 14 people. Alright, that is not just one person, but, it still represents a form of centralized control that may be surprising to some. Especially when the Internet is only getting more relied upon everyday.

The delivery system was a platoon of IoT devices. This time, the vulnerability used was the manufacturer’s password, that thing people forget to change when they install the device. However, these devices are inherently simple in their computing capabilities. So, the idea that there are more ways to exploit these devices for malicious purposes in the future seems quite plausible.

Reliance On the Internet Grows

The adoption of services-on-demand is growing everyday. Amazon is delivering everything from entertainment to groceries right to our home. If the product can be delivered in bits and bytes, we get it immediately. If it is a physical item, we may just have to wait for a drone to drop it on our front lawn. Also, if we plan to go to our friends house, we will merely tell the AI attendant in our home to call a Uber self driving car and the nearest free one in the neighborhood will be sent immediately, ready to take us anywhere we want to go. No more paying for a car as it sits in the garage.

I understand that my examples are a little ahead of regulatory approvals and some technology capabilities. However, if we were on the streets of New York in 1899, we would have seen almost nothing but horse driven carriages and carts carrying people and goods. In less than a 20 year span, New York was filled with combustible engine and electric-powered vehicles. When technology advances, it is not a slow evolutionary process. It is a bit more like a cataclysmic event.

Blockchain Is a Game Changer

Then there is that 15 page white paper written by a person named Sitoshi Nakamoto that may have a bigger impact on this planet than the Internet, electricity or the printing press. It is most commonly called Bitcoin. But that is just the currency. And I do mean ‘just’. because the cryptocurrency may have turned out to be just the ‘proof in concept’ product. The truly valuable component of the design was the underlying technology that Sitoshi developed called Blockchain. Blockchain is to Bitcoin like a database is to an enterprise application. But, Blockchain is not a database. It is a journal. A journal with entries that cannot be changed; is not in just one place; and can be viewed by anyone. What a concept!

The technology of Blockchain has spawned incredible technology platforms, such as Ethereum and RSK (Rootstock) to name just a couple. These are frameworks that can be used to develop real-use applications using the Blockchain design such as

  • business transaction processing,
  • public and private governance,
  • identity authorization,
  • property ownership and so much more.

The impact may affect world cultures as people will have access to currency, governing power, and global services that do not have it today. Blockchain may very well change the world as we know it.

Cloud Services Need One Thing – The Internet

So, we have discussed the expanding Internet of Things, Services-on-Demand and Blockchain. These growing technologies are in addition to the online services we have learned to rely upon over the past 2 to 3 decades. As they continue to expand, we must ask ourselves “what do they all depend upon?” They rely on the Internet.

But, the Internet has shown itself to be vulnerable. Its evolved structure has left it vulnerable. I am not saying that we cannot take further steps to protect it. We surely made great strides regarding its security and free access in just recent years. Also, what if there was an alternative to the Internet as we know it? Actually, there are alternatives. Their viability is just starting to be recognized.

We will be covering network and security alternatives in future posts on this Blog. We must keep up the discussion. The impact and risk of a lost Internet are only getting greater everyday.

Denis ONeil CISSP

Denis ONeil CISSP

Founder of OLinks Corp, Creator of EmailToVoice.Net

Denis O’Neil is the Founder of OLinks Corporation and creator of EmailToVoice.Net. Denis has extensive experience in customer engagement and business communications having held leadership positions in several international companies.