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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2007 / 03 

Virginia Tech alumnus to chair Internet Engineering Task Force

March 30, 2007

Russ Housley, a computer science alumnus of Virginia Tech, is the new chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), an international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet.

Housley, of Herndon, Va., graduated with a computer science degree in 1982, and earned a master's in computer science from George Mason University in 1992. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with the U.S. Air Force, Vista Laboratory (part of Xerox Corporation), SPYRUS, and RSA Laboratories. He is currently the owner of, and consultant for, Vigil Security, LLC, also located in Herndon.

"Earlier in my career, I used computer protocol developed by others in the U.S. Air Force," Housley said. "I debugged implementations that were written by others. Since then, I have been involved in the development of new computer protocols, especially security protocols and the infrastructure to support them."

Internet security and many other aspects of computer security are areas of continued concern and emphasis, according to Housley, who served the IETF as its security area director for four years before becoming chairman, and who has long considered security to be the internet's weakest spot.

The IETF is dedicated to developing and promoting Internet standards, cooperating closely with the W3C and ISO/IEC standard bodies; and dealing in particular with standards of the TCP/IP and Internet protocol suite. Simply put, the IETF's mission is to make the Internet work better.

"The IETF is the protocol engineering and development arm of the Internet," Housley said. "However, no one person or entity is 'in charge' of the Internet. Many people must cooperate to make it work. Others have described the work in the IETF as 'herding cats' because there are many different perspectives advanced, and sometimes reaching a consensus is difficult. But when a consensus does emerge, the outcome is better, clearer, and more strongly supported than the initial position of any one participant."

The IETF is also concerned with finding a solution to the most pressing operational and technical problems encountered on the Internet. With his new responsibilities, Housley has included more aspirations in his agenda. "In my new role as IETF chair, my goals are continuous incremental improvement of the Internet and of the IETF standards development process," he said. "As time goes on, I would like to see less unwanted traffic and a more robust infrastructure."

The IETF is an open, all-volunteer standards organization, with no formal membership or membership requirements. It is open to any interested individual. For more information, visit the IETF website.