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How often do you send a hardcopy postcard these days? In only ten years, electronic communications have developed into the critical utility on which our economic, social and cultural life depends. From banking, via politics to family life, everything is or wants to be mediated by the internet. The web makes communication easy, cheap, fun and is connecting people to knowledge by the billions. Surely, the kind of innovative paradigm shift people will be talking about for centuries to come.
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In large part, we thank this spectacular transition to the open and decentralised nature of protocols that underlie the internet, such as the aptly named Internet Protocol. These protocols are the blood veins of any communication via the web. They were designed with the democratization of the technology in mind. The early inventors of IP and other technical protocols, however, never imagined the extremely rapid uptake of the technology, and thus never prioritised information security.
Just read any given respectable news source on any given day, and you’ll read something about flailing information security in it. For me, this presents the foremost challenge to the future of our communications. Too slowly we are realizing, that we cannot blindly trust the security, the integrity and the confidentiality, of our communications. That is it hard or even impossible to be sure whether or not your communications are safe from snooping by cybercriminals, governments or corporations. And yes, this includes your tweets, likes
and mails. Insecurity is all around us.
Securing communications presents us with a challenge of enormous importance and complexity. If we still are to enjoy the enormous benefits of electronic communications, we need technical evaluations and legal safeguards that protect information security and privacy. I reckon the future of communications is all about realising and researching the current vulnerabilities of our communications infrastructure, and a collective effort to strengthen it. With an open and robust infrastructure at its core, the web may continue to foster not only our communications, but openness, freedom and access to knowledge.•