ANN ARBOR – For the second consecutive year, the Merit Member Conference established an attendance record, hosting over 225 technology professionals from across Michigan and the United States. The 2010 Merit Member Conference was held at the Four Points by Sheraton in Ann Arbor and featured presentations and discussions covering a wide spectrum of topics related to information technology, security, networking, hardware and cutting-edge applications.
Varian stated his belief that it is the combinatorial innovation of the web—where code snippets and other components are melded together to form something new—that has helped spur the rapid progress of Internet developments. While manufacturing requires parts and material resources to create new products, software development and computer transactions rely on a continual supply of code development and new applications to create Internet innovations.
Part of the evolution of the Internet has included computer-mediated transactions, and while the original motivation for their creation may have been for accounting purposes, Varian noted that computer-mediated transactions enable better monitoring and enforcement of contracts. Transaction records produced by computers can be used to optimize the buying process, measure advertising performance, and easily track results over time.
The barrier to entry for online businesses is falling fast, according to Varian, and small organizations can now have better communication capabilities than large corporations had 10 years ago. Small organizations that cross geographic boundaries can have improved efficiency, and with data center space and infrastructure being available for rent, small organizations can scale their businesses to meet customer demands.
Ollam noted that there are many locks that are pick resistant. Higher-grade locks that incorporate side bars, rotating disks, and/or magnets provide better security. Ollam stated that good locks are not just about preventing intrusion, they’re useful for intrusion detection since a criminal that can’t pick a lock will need to use a different and more obvious method, such as breaking a window.
Educating security staff and other employees on social engineering tactics can also reduce the risk of a physical security breach. Ollam relayed a story involving two individuals who gained access to a data center by being nice to a security guard and providing the guard with a free chicken sandwich and a soft drink. To prevent similar incidents, employers should teach their staff members to stop an unauthorized guest, challenge an authorization request, and then authenticate the person’s request later by talking to management or other staff members later.
“Security is only as effective as the people behind it,” according to Ollam.
Ollam stated that the best locks currently available that have not been breached in a known attack are the Mul-T-Lok MT5 lock, the EVVA MCS lock, and the Abloy Protec lock.
Mitrano stated that the United States lags behind many other countries in terms of broadband deployment and to improve Internet connectivity across the country, the federal government may need to pay the cost of last-mile broadband deployment. She gave the example of the Rural Electrification Administration’s deployment of electricity across the United State in the 1930s and said that the federal government could improve broadband in the United States by taking a simi liar approach today.
The U.S. government relies on multiple departments for monitoring security, privacy and commerce involving the Internet, and Mitrano said that a single federal agency that handles Internet policy and regulation would better serve and protect consumers.
Merit Advanced Networking Symposium
Researchers from across Michigan were invited to share details about their academic projects during the Merit Advanced Networking Symposium. Security, authentication and mobile devices were among the topics discussed during the four sessions at the 2010 Merit Member Conference.
Engelsma stated that the Mac platform is much more rigid in terms of application development than the Android, which is much more open and less-constrained. He noted that students were able to complete applications on the Mac more efficiently than on Android.
For professors considering a mobile application project for their campus, Engelsma recommended use of a Mac to develop applications for the iPhone over Android development.
Pellegrini stated that it’s very difficult to break RSA encryption when long passwords are used. You can attack RSA encryption by spoofing the two keys used, but the increased complexity of the keys used in the encryption process decreases the likelihood of a security breach. Longer encryption keys take a lot longer to break, and generally discourage hackers from wasting their time.
He stated that a decrease in voltage at a data center can lead to a compromise in security by weakening the strength of an encryption signal, thus exposing the key to a side-channel attack. Not only should an organization protect its code base to prevent a security breach, the physical infrastructure that houses the servers should also be adequately secured.
The 2010 Merit Member Conference offered a wide array of presentation topics over two days. Individuals from Merit Member organizations, vendors, and information technology organizations shared their knowledge, demonstrated new applications and offered expert advice on ways to improve efficiency, security and organizational practices.
The Merit Awards
Prior to the conclusion, Don Welch, Merit Network’s CEO and president, hosted the 2010 Merit Awards ceremony to recognize individuals and organizations that have shown leadership in networking and information technology, engaged in community building, and shown strong involvement in the Merit community. The following individuals were honored during the ceremony:
Merit Award for Innovation in Networking and Information Technology
Dave Maki, Northern Michigan University (NMU)
Merit Award for Community Building
Ken Chinavare, Director of Technology, Clare-Gladwin RESD
Matthew McMahon, Coordinator of Technology Resources, Gratiot-Isabella RESD
Meritorious Service Award
Dennis Buckmaster, St. Clair County RESA
Travis Bussler, Chippewa River District Library
Mike Zimmerman, Macomb Community College
Merit, The Year Ahead
To conclude the 2010 Merit Member Conference, Don Welch described Merit’s mission, goals, and strategy for the upcoming year.
Welch stated that Merit’s long-term goals included building more fiber-optic network infrastructure in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan and that Merit has been pursuing stimulus funding to make the goal a reality. The REACH-3MC project in the Lower Peninsula will dramatically improve connectivity in many communities. Merit’s efforts during Round II of the stimulus funding are designing to improve broadband in the Upper Peninsula and the Northern Lower Peninsula.
Welch also described the organization’s research activities, which are working to improve Merit’s services and network. He noted a collaborative research project that Merit conducted with Arbor Networks, which documented a shift in Internet traffic.
“Last year saw the first decline in Tier 1 (backbone) traffic ever,” he said. “About 13 percent of traffic leaving Merit’s Members goes to the Tier 1 Internet. The rest of the traffic goes to other Members, caching services, peers and Internet2.”
Work on next year’s Merit Member Conference is in the initial planning phase, but the event is tentatively scheduled for spring 2011.