Monthly Archives: July 2016

Navy Officials Say U.S. Uses Submarines for Cyberattacks

The U.S. military uses its submarines as underwater hacking platforms, as an important component of America’s cyber strategy. They act defensively to protect themselves and the country from digital attack, but — more interestingly — they also have a role to play in carrying out cyberattacks, according to two U.S. Navy officials at a recent Washington conference.

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Thoughts About Verisign’s $135 Million Dollar .Web Acquisition & What It Means For Domainers

I didn’t write much leading up to the Verisign (VRSN) acquisition of .Web for $135 Million this week, but I have plenty of thoughts about it. First and foremost it’s a no brainier for Verisign. Forget the $1.9 Billion they have sitting in the bank and focus in on the over $9 Billion dollar valuation […]

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N.Y. Lawmakers See Link Between Pokemon Go, Sex Offenders

According to two New York State lawmakers, the app known as Pokémon Go has the potential to lead children to a more frightening locale: the homes of sexual predators. In an informal investigation by Senators Jeffrey D. Klein and Diane J. Savino, staff members took a list of 100 registered sex offenders across New York City and compared it with locations where Pokémon Go players could collect virtual items or use other game features.

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U.S. Officials Struggle with Response to Political Cyber Attacks

The recent revelations of hacking into Democratic campaign computer systems in an apparent attempt to manipulate the 2016 election is forcing the White House to confront a new question: whether, and if so how, to retaliate. Even if officials gather the proof, they may not be able to make their evidence public without tipping off Russia, or its proxies in cyberspace, about how deeply the National Security Agency has penetrated that country’s networks.

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How the Clinton "Village" Transformed Internet Paradigms: Together Making a Difference

U.S. Presidential elections and the resulting Administrations can make an enormous difference on many levels and become profound points of inflection. This reality is certainly starkly visible today. Perhaps for the Internet community as well as the general public, some of the largely unknown events and actions surrounding the Internet and the Clinton team from 25 years ago can provide a basis for engagement over the coming months. When Presidents get elected, they bring with them a kind of “village” of people who significantly shape what ensues. But for the Clinton village, a very different kind of internet would have emerged.

A quarter century ago, another internet together with an array of applications known collectively as OSI were poised to scale to become the global and U.S. national infrastructures. The specifications had been developed by all the major government agencies together with most of the significant telecom and IT industry players and organizations, and coordinated for years internationally. Billions of dollars had been spent and enormous resources consumed for the development of infrastructure and platforms. OSI domain name regulations were promulgated by the Dept. of Commerce’s, NTIA. X.400 email addresses and associated X.500 Directory systems had been rolled out to government agencies. NIST, DOD, GSA — everyone was involved as were counterparts in other countries. Major companies were slowly implementing the new platforms.

There was also an alternative mirror universe of largely academic institution rebels who were pursuing their own internet. It was based on a DARPA TCP/IP protocol rather than OSI’s CLNP. The rebels used something called DNS rather the X.500 OID based naming system. The email was SMTP/POP rather than X.400. The hypertext navigation used HTML rather than OSI’s GSML. The specifications were developed and code written on university campuses and coordinated through a “non-enties” called the Internet Engineering Task Force and Internet Architecture Board rather than the massive international bodies, the ITU CCITT and OSI JTC1, and domestically the powerful Exchange Carriers Standards Association (now ATIS) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The secretariat for managing the ragtag academic internet infrastructure consisted of two people at the Information Sciences Institute in Marina del Ray and a few more up at SRI in Menlo Park running a Network Information Center paid for by DARPA spare change — versus huge, well-funded OSI internet secretariats maintained in Washington and around the world that charged thousands of dollars for a domain name.

The underlying DARPA internet infrastructure was cobbled together worldwide on leased lines for academic science purposes out of National Science Foundation and university IT budgets. Called the NREN, it was a T1 national backbone with the capacity of 1.544 Mb/s — versus the virtually limitless capacity of global and national telecommunications networks for the OSI internet.

In 1992, it was the OSI internet that was poised to inherit the world. In official government and corporate circles, mention of the DARPA TCP/IP internet occurred only in disparaging terms out of public view. It was supposed to disappear. Something happened.

In November 1992, Bill Clinton won the U.S. Presidential election with Al Gore as his VP running mate. A few months later they moved into the White House. Along with them came a small team of people who had helped their getting elected by organizing and communicating for the first time using eMail and network technologies. The new staff as well as Clinton, Gore, and even their family and friends had a substantial knowledge and appreciation of the new networking technologies — together with the vision and leadership to drive major change. It also helped that Gore as Senator had a great affection for scientific research and with equally passionate staff had obtained several billion dollars in the late 80s to fund a national NREN TCP/IP internet infrastructure with extensions to other countries worldwide, with additional money for innovators in academic institutions to devise new applications.

One of the most visible first emissaries of the new Administration’s village as it arrived in Washington was a bespectacled man from Vermont with a raspy voice and a closely cropped white beard who bore an impressive White House business card with the simple title: Director of Special Projects. He was a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton and had volunteered to help set up the networks to get her husband elected. He had unbounded passion, energy, and considerable insistence for the Clinton village. His name was Jock Gill and one of his first calls was to the Sprint corporation offices in Reston that had the government network support contract for the White House. He was referred to Sprint’s newly hired Director of Internet business development who also happened to be VP for International at a new startup organization called the Internet Society.

Jock had a simple and very emphatic request — the White House and the President wanted TCP/IP Internet services including eMail for non-classified communication as soon as possible. Sprint — which also provided the White House X.400 email services — cobbled together an arrangement that piped the emails on a 19.6 kB packet link to Merit at Ann Arbor who ran a gateway to the TCP/IP internet. Jock complained that “a snake with the email in its mouth could make it out of the White House faster.” Sprint quickly provided a then high capacity T1 line directly to an internal network of PCs for Clinton staff. That line then was used for a followup project that Gill conceived and led — a White House website. This was all essentially unknown and radical at the time, but Clinton personally demanded at Cabinet meetings that every government agency also establish a Website, and then at meetings with foreign dignitaries, suggested that they follow suit. He wanted to communicate with them using DNS style eMail, not X.400 addresses. Sprint senior staff was even given White House access to load on the TCP/IP stack software required at the time to make Windows PCs internet functional. Clinton’s gutsy, folksy leadership changed everything, and it was followed up in subsequent years with Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village conceptualizations to cement the new paradigm in place.

Jock Gill was the vanguard of a team of new White House staff that marshalled considerable resources of the U.S. government and is allies to make the global TCP/IP internet happen. New staff like Mike Nelson and Tom Kalil were brought into the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. Key policymakers at the FCC were given Internet briefings, and people like Commissioner Susan Ness became part of the Internet village. The Internet Society’s first Executive Director was tasked in 1994 to conduct countless early morning audio-visual Internet briefings to foreign officials brought to far flung U.S. missions. On one occasion, the USIA radio “global beam” was used to host an Internet Q&A call-in from around the world. One of the ultimately most important events in the history of the TCP/IP Internet occurred when Bill Gates was convinced to build the protocol stack into the Win95 operating system.

The OSI Internet quietly disappeared in the mid-90s about the same time as the President, Vice President, and their staff hosted a gala Internet luncheon for the many people who came together to make it happen. He knew enough to go around mingling and talking with everyone about the technology and their roles. It was quietly impressive.

A book could be written to describe all the people, activities, and events that went into what is described here; and which by any measure was one of the most fundamental transformations in human communication technology and economic development. There were many people who — as Hillary Clinton likes to note — came to work together. However, it ultimately relied on bringing into power, leadership and a surrounding team with vision, policy innovation, the knowledge, and the skills to make it occur.

* The author is the former Sprint Director of Internet Business Development, and VP for International and the Executive Director of the Internet Society.

Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC

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