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Solutions and Potential Technical Directions

The Internet has introduced us to a full range of possibilities. The response ranges from "Charge!" to "Retreat!" The issues described earlier are daunting, but we're likely to see some interesting changes in the near future.

As mentioned earlier, the rising costs of connection have forced some groups and companies to pull the Internet plug. The costs and risks are too high. Where is the return on investment? Really, the Internet is a venue—and mobile computing (wireless) is more of the same. If you don't really have a product without the Internet, you're in for a very rough ride. Likewise, if the job doesn't require connectivity, some companies are beginning to opt out of the Internet for now.

Similarly, some groups look at security from a balanced-cost perspective: The cost of recovery versus cost of prevention makes vulnerability appear cheap. This is a strange viewpoint, but it has some bottom-line benefits. If they don't get hit during a year, they have saved all the costs of prevention. Likewise, if they do get hit, the likely impact may mean only 1–3 days of recovery. This may equate to the costs of prevention (depending on the nature of the data and the size of the organization, of course).

Computer professionals frown on the idea of less security. However, under the light of profits, the option is still there, and some are moving toward it. Spam, flooding, and viruses fall into this category. The companies may standardize on a single virus detection but make no effort to combat spam, even though it may take time away from employees' productivity.

The industry may solve flooding in one of two ways. The first way is to require connecting sites and ISPs to monitor their clients' usage. If the client doesn't comply by strict rules of conduct, the ISP cuts off the client's activity. You can also expect to see more site blacklisting. The reason is simple: If Internet companies can't guarantee more security and profitability, anonymity may disappear.

A potential solution to these Internet problems is to require complete source identification. Any one person on the Internet, under these rules, must provide full identification for every transaction. This solution flies in the face of much of the Internet, however, and it conflicts with the strict privacy laws of the European Union, which restricts any personal information being collected and distributed across international borders.

The industry must look at all these issues and provide uniform, open solutions. Otherwise, governments will write laws that limit personal freedom and constrain technology.

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