Distributed Systems Approach to Secure Internet Mail, Computers and Security, vol. 24 no. 6 pp 492-499, 2005

One of the obstacles to improved security of the Internet is ad hoc development of technologies with different design goals and different security goals. This paper proposes reconceptualizing the Internet as a secure distributed system, focusing specifically on the application layer. The notion is to replace specific functionality by an equivalent, based on principles discovered in research on distributed systems in the decades since the initial development of the Internet. Because of the problems in retrofitting new technology across millions of clients and servers, any options with prospects of success must support backward compatibility. This paper outlines a possible new architecture for internet-based mail which would replace existing protocols by a more secure framework. To maintain backward compatability, initial implementation could offer a web browser-based front end, but the longer-term approach would be to implement the system using appropriate models of replication.

(published version)