Is the Internet a sequence of revolutions or is it in a state of constant evolution?
Revolution is a sudden change which historically can be quite violent and many fall by the wayside as a result. Evolution on the other hand is something that can take many generations and typically creeps up on you without you noticing. From the very beginning the Internet is something that has grown and evolved. The original Internet, created by DARPA (Defense and Research Projects Agency) in the early 60s was in itself a revolution but pretty much from that day forward it is something which evolved over time. The first revolution that occurred after the initial creation of the first interconnectivity between machines was FTP. This was the only means of transferring data between machines. This was achieved even without IP initially. This was followed quickly by the next revolution, which was SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). This particular revolution was forced by the plethora of competing mail tools that existed at the time.
IP came when it was decided to create a layer that underpinned all of the other protocols being created to operate on the Internet. This was probably the greatest of the revolutions to occur in the Internet’s early life. Many other protocols were created including HTTP by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. This was the revolution that brought the Internet to the masses. However, in the background what was really happening to the Internet? It was continually evolving, with the addition of more nodes, routers, colleges, companies and countries. Who ever really noticed the gradual creep of the Internet’s coverage? Only those that were able to connect after the Internet came their way. Those that were already on it sat and watched evolve.
Additional providers with their products, services and information were coming online almost as fast as users were. Revolutions continued to occur after the great Dot Com revolution which was HTTP but they were fewer and further between. Was the creation of ebay a revolution, perhaps a small one yes. But was the creation of Amazon? Not really, Amazon was just the biggest winner in the evolution of online shopping companies, also known as survival of the fittest. Chat facilities such as Twitter was essentially an evolution from email, just providing a briefer means of talking to the world.
Cloud computing brought probably the last big revolution to the Internet. What else can you think of that really brought a revolutionary change to the Internet? Yet can you say that it hasn’t continued to evolve with providers coming and going by improving their services and evolving with the Internet to survive and hopefully become the next Amazon. So why is this important to a Security Professional?
It is vital to understand how security functionality has developed alongside the Internet and the vulnerabilities that evolved with it. Apart from the revolution that was the first email virus, it has just been a matter of the evolution of these viruses into ever more sophisticated code to get around our defences. Following that we had the Spam revolution, which from that day to this has continued to evolve. Revolutions brought radical change to the attack vectors and also to the methods we use to defend our information and environments. However, evolution is that which creeps up on us and will threaten to overwhelm us if we do not remain vigilant.
Evolution is why we have controls that maintain virus and intrusion detection signatures. Evolution is why we have patching standards and ensure that the products we use are kept up to date. We, as Security Professionals, cannot afford to sit and wait for the next revolutionary change to bring us a safer world. It is up to us to evolve our defences and controls continuously as the Internet and its threats evolve around us. We cannot afford to sit still and wait for the next revolution because the world will simply continue to evolve whether we do or not and it will boil down to survival of the fittest and those that do not evolve will go the way of the dinosaurs and the woolly mammoth. Evolve or become history!
Authored by Daniel Blaes
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