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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Digital infrastructure must get smarter

(Via Dan Farber)Keynoting at the Digital ID World conference, VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos outlined how the move toward digital infrastructure, like the build out of railroad, power grids and telephone networks before it, almost went off the rails during the frenzy of the dotcom boom, survived the bust and has now emerged as the driver of economic growth and societal transformation. "About a decade into every build out, it almost goes off the rails," Sclavos said. "There is such a rush, and it gets swamped. You can't support both a massive amount of usage and the complexity introduced. An intelligence layer gets built on top." For the digital world, the challenge is dealing with from 50- to 200-percent growth rates in Internet users, broadband, ecommerce, and wireless access.The railroads used the telegraph to provide intelligence (operators could signal ahead about incoming traffic), aviation got air traffic control systems and the telephone SS7 networks. Digital infrastructure needs intelligence built in to drive further innovation. Sclavos identifies strong authentication and identity management as a foundation for leveraging the digital infrastructure. It's not an insignificant problem. Internet users have an average of 17 passwords, which cost about $85 each to replace when lost or scammed. Most users are more willing to give up vital information about their online identity than to enter their credit card info for an ecommerce transaction. Identity theft will impact an estimated 10 million users in 2005. With RFID, hundreds of millions of products have IDs, which will result in trillions of lookups per day (currently VeriSign does 14 billion DNS lookups per day), requiring trace-and-track mechanisms to deal with supply chain management, Sclavos said.Identity management–including authentication and authorization–is tightly bound to the issue of security and regulatory compliance. Security is a race between good guys and bad guys that has no end point, Sclavos said. It's a game of leapfrog. "If you look at infrastructure build outs, guess who follows the money–criminals. Every time the economy moves, so do the crooks," Sclavos said.
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