Universities tapped to build secure Net

Thursday, 26 September 2002, 4:08 AM EST

Amid heightened concerns over the Internet's continued vulnerability to failure or attack, the National Science Foundation has enlisted five university computer science departments to develop a secure, decentralized Internet infrastructure.

The joint project, dubbed Infrastructure for Resilient Internet Systems (IRIS), aims to use distributed hash table (DHT) technology to develop a common infrastructure for distributed applications.

DHT is like having a file cabinet distributed over numerous servers, explained Frans Kaashoek, a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and an IRIS project head. So if one server goes down, not all of the data is compromised.

Like in peer-to-peer networks, there is no central server in the system that contains a list of where all the data, or files in the cabinet, are located. Instead, each server has a partial list of where data is stored in the system. The trick for the researchers is creating a "lookup" algorithm that allows the location of data to be found in a short series of steps.

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