The Digital Forevermore

Thomas J. Ridge *

We now live in what I call the “digital forevermore.” It was not that long ago that the original computer base data transmission protocol was created simply to facilitate telecommunications between the United States Department of Defense and research universities. While certainly primitive compared to the digital global ecosystem that drives commerce and culture throughout the world today, its core features remain the same. The Internet is an open system based on anonymity. It was never designed to be a secure communication platform. The opportunities and vulnerabilities within this global network, with electrons racing everywhere, much of it with personal information about all of us, are probably beyond our individual comprehension. The ubiquity of the Internet is its strength, and the ubiquity of the Internet is its weakness. And we are all potentially exposed to the potential malignant use of the Internet and the nefarious use of our information that is on it.

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* Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, 2003–05. This speech was delivered by Thomas J. Ridge at the 2016 University of Richmond Law Review Symposium, National Security in the Information Age: Are We Heading Towards Big Brother, on October 28, 2016, at the University of Richmond School of Law.