On Point: Q&A with Vint Cerf

February 1, 2021

 

Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google, is considered by many to be one of the fathers of the Internet.

How will new mobile technologies, such as 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), change military communications?

Smart devices, sensors, controllers are increasingly important for military operations, including surveillance, situation awareness. These devices are deeply dependent on wireless deployment and will benefit from 5G capacities. By implication, the U.S. and its allies will need to cooperate to assure secure interoperation of their 5G implementations.

What is the role of strong authentication in battlespace communications?

Strong authentication is essential to assure that information goes only to authorized destinations from known and authentic sources, lest false information be injected into sensor systems or valid information reach inappropriate destinations. Users and devices will benefit from these technologies. A challenge is to assure that the public/private keys used are, in fact, from valid sources. Not all certificate authorities can or should be trusted, implying that their authentication is equally important. The same technologies that afford strong authentication can also protect conventional symmetric key distribution, adding significant deployment flexibility for secure communication.

What should we watch most closely as information systems evolve?

Continued risk of software bugs that are exploitable should drive research efforts into better programming environments to highlight software mistakes. Increased testing and so-called “fuzzing” can help by exercising “corner cases” that might create exploitable vulnerabilities. Heavy use of software libraries should spur regular analysis and verification of these software repositories to avoid supply chain exploitation through the use of compromised open-source software, for example.

What is the most important component capability in future communications?

A combination of higher power high frequency amplifiers in the 60-120 GHz range would offer substantial increase in available bandwidths at increasing range. At these frequencies, CDMA becomes even more attractive in terms of capacity to share common spectrum among a larger number of devices. 

What do you think is the next great information technology trend?

Quantum effects seem to have the edge. Using them produces significant gains in sensitivity and thus signal-to-noise ratio. I admit, however, that I am less excited about quantum key distribution, believing that post-quantum public key cryptography that is resistant to cracking by quantum computation may prove to be more reliable.

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