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Photo: Photoshot/Getty Images

Today's cybersecurity mess has its roots in decisions a small group of engineers made in the internet's youth. Axios caught up with one of them, Paul Vixie, on the eve of the annual RSA cybersecurity conference.

Why it matters: RSA is where the security elite gather each year to cope with the world those early decisions shaped — and, as Vixie explains it, the system was intentionally designed to be open.

How it happened: "Every app we built for the internet was designed as if it was for a boy in a plastic bubble, a completely clean environment with nothing malicious," Vixie said.

Why it matters: Vixie is confident that his work — focused on the domain name service protocol — hasn't caused today's security woes. But other basic elements of the internet have proven fundamentally insecure, like email and data routing.

  • "No one ever thought someone would want to lie in the 'from' field of an email, or send email the recipient wouldn't want. And that made sense for a network of academics and military contractors, before anyone who could pay an internet service provider could get online," he said.
  • By the time such openness stopped making sense, massive growth made it tough to change basic services.

Take Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which routes data from a far off server to a local computer. There are known flaws, "but the last update was BGP-4 in the 1990s," Vixie said. "Back then, only a handful of ISPs cared. If you could get a thousand people to agree to a change, you could change it."

Today, so many people, companies and institutions are affected by changes to fundamental services like routing and email that they are almost impossible to enact.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Technology

TikTok drives new nostalgia economy

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Older brands, trends and technologies are making a comeback as younger consumers desperately chase slower, less chaotic times.

The big picture: TikTok's algorithm makes it easy for flashback items to resurface and quickly go viral both on its platform and eventually on other social networks.

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

8 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

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