Totally secure internet

New network security for systems that must not fail

Cyberattacks pose a constant threat to critical infrastructure for energy, healthcare, transportation and finance. Protecting those systems while preserving the efficiencies of internet-enabled operations will pose significant challenges.

How to protect critical infrastructure? One idea is to create an internet so secure no human or machine can hack it.

WHAT IT WILL BE

An unhackable, indestructible network to protect the services and organizations people depend on most, such as hospitals, transportation systems, telecommunications companies, energy providers, election authorities and other "must-not-fail" functions that underpin modern life.

WHY WE NEED IT 

The internet was built on ideals of trust and information-sharing. Security was a secondary consideration early on, leading to an endless, back-and-forth battle between those who exploit and those who protect.

"What we're doing today is not working. We're spending a lot of energy today on cybersecurity in piecemeal fashion," said Brett Scarborough, senior business manager at Raytheon Cyber Services. "Really, our efforts to patch our problems away just drive the adversary to further exploit those technologies or find workarounds. The moonshot is a departure from the incremental approach."

WHY IT'S A MOONSHOT

It will require a rethinking of how the internet works. A totally trustworthy network would have to adapt to the type of transaction taking place. In online banking, for example, it would confirm that users are talking to their actual bank, that no one else can touch the account, and that the transaction is fully private. For everyday web surfing, it would guarantee an appropriate level of anonymity.

Realizing that vision will take new approaches to network architecture, along with technological advances in areas such as 5G networks, encryption, authentication and data integrity. And that, in turn, will require investment from both the government and private sector.

"This will not be a cheap or quick solution," Scarborough said. 

WHAT IT TAKES

Technology: Any totally secure network would naturally require advances in techniques and technologies including blockchain, which guarantees the integrity of data; encryption, which guarantees only certain people can use it; and segmentation, which walls off parts of one network from another.

"By embarking on this challenge, there are things that will come to the surface that we haven't even envisioned yet," Scarborough said.

Two emerging technologies are likely to play a role: software-defined networking – basically a network that reshapes itself based on what its users are doing – and the dawn of 5G networking, which promises much higher bandwidth and lower latency, meaning higher speed. With 5G, it will be easier to divide networks into smaller and more specialized slices, said Michael Daly, chief technology officer for Raytheon Cybersecurity and Special Missions.

"With slicing, you don't have to fight off planet Earth," he said. "You're just dealing with the parties that are authorized to take part in that transaction."

HOW IT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD

Working toward a totally secure internet for critical infrastructure would no doubt produce technologies and policy changes to improve individual digital security as well, Scarborough said.

"There will be advancements in the general use of new technologies, whether it's blockchain or quantum computing or hyper-segmentation, that will be directly applicable in a wide variety of private-sector environments," he said. "We'll see the security benefits bleed into the homes and everyday activities of the American population."

Even if absolute, perfect security never happens, newer technologies can drastically reduce the risk of everyday internet use, Daly said.

"All of this is about trust," he said. "The cyber moonshot would be about elevating the trustworthiness of the internet so we can have faith that when we use it, our information is not being misused and mistreated."

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Published On: 02/20/2019
Last Updated: 09/09/2019