The Chinese government is well on track in its plans of implement a modern and more secure internet infrastructure. The web is getting really, really old and creaky, and naturally attempts to modernize its infrastructure and protocols have been made. The west is lagging far behind in its efforts, while China is close to setting up an internet grid of the future. Whether this will be used primarily to strengthen its natural security and fight crime or just to strengthen China’s tight leash on its people will remain to be seen.
The internet as it is built today is being ate up by two major flaws. Number one: there isn’t enough room anymore. When the web was transferred to the public from military and corporate applications decades ago nobody was likely thinking that we would ever run out of IPs or if we had, someone would think a solution out. Each computer is assigned a space on the web through a standard called Internet Protocol Version Four (IPv4), a system which allows some 4.3 billion internet slots. Considering the millions and millions of smartphones that have been released on the market in the past few years alone, you can imagine how crowded things are.
Of course, a solution has been pondered and engineers have been working on a new standard for years – version six (IPv6), which boost the number of available internet slots by a mind-boggling 80,000 trillion trillion times. Implementing the standard has been a really tough mission with very slow progress being made so far, in the west at least.
“China has a national internet backbone in place that operates under IPv6 as the native network protocol,” says Donald Riley, an information systems specialist at the University of Maryland, who also chairs the Chinese American Network Symposium.. “We have nothing like that in the US.”
IPv6 is just one side of the newly improved Chinese internet, though, and this time I’m referring to the second major flaw in the current internet infrastructure, which again has been settled by China. Number two: poor security. Let’s face it, the web is like the Wild West right now, even though major efforts have made in strengthening security. Billions of dollars are flowing each day through various transaction on the web, a myriad of important classified documents are stored here as well, while the national security and defense infrastructure is also linked to the web. Cyber warfare is far from being a SciFi idea anymore, it’s a dire reality, and with so much at stake it’s rather foolish to leave loose ends.
Today, the current protocols and infrastructure offer an insufficient ability to authenticate IP addresses of computers that try to connect to your network. The next generation internet backbone has a feature called Source Address Validation Architecture (SAVA) that fixes this issue by adding various checkpoints across the network. These build up a database of trusted computers matched up with their IP addresses and packets of data will be blocked if the computer and IP address don’t match. Will this stop hackers? Not the VERY good ones probably, but it will definitely offer a significant added protection.
The dark side of all these new features, however, especially in neo-communist China is that every person will become more accountable for what he shops, downloads, uploads, reads, writes or talks over the internet. Privacy will be a lot easier to intrude on by government bodies. We’ve heard of a number of websites and internet services being blocked by China in the past, imagine the level of censorship from now on.
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.