Securing the Internet: Jennifer Rexford -- Shrewd strategy
Patrolling the edges, rethinking the core, Princeton researchers envision a more secure Internet
If we think of Felten as being at one end of the spectrum in his vision of how to best make the Internet secure in the future, and we think of Peterson and Lee as being at the other end, then Jennifer Rexford stands in the middle. Or, perhaps more accurately, Rexford stands simultaneously at both ends of the spectrum—a shrewd strategist who sees the advantages of simultaneously pursuing orthogonal research agendas.
On the one hand, Rexford, a professor of computer science and 1991 graduate of Princeton, is a key player in GENI.
“GENI would really open up the intellectual space in thinking about the Internet,” Rexford said. “Often people kill off interesting lines of inquiry because they aren’t compatible with the Internet as it exists today. So we end up shutting off the part of our brains that is thinking outside the box.”
On the other hand, Rexford has been working for several years on improving routing protocols—the rules by which information is shunted from one path to another across the Internet. In this, Rexford is aiming to increase security incrementally over time—taking in many ways the opposite of the “clean-slate” approach that GENI promises.
The Internet is essentially an aggregation of 25,000 or so separately operated networks of computers. They are stitched together by the “border gateway protocol,” which is notoriously insecure.
The system works fine when all the players are honest. But some players are not, and thus the unfortunate phenomena of identity theft, spam and denial-of-service attacks. “If you lie about who you are you can easily reroute Internet traffic,” said Rexford. “Which is why it is so crucial that we address this vulnerability in the system.”