In the waning hours of 2016, Donald Trump issued a statement that sensitive and classified information should not be transmitted using computers. To back up his claim, he cited the expertise of his ten-year old son.
“It’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe. I don’t care what they say, no computer is safe. I have a boy who’s 10 years old. He can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.”
As Trump is due to be sworn in as the next President of the United States in January of 2017, it is important that scientists look toward a way of implementing his preferred standard.
Thankfully, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the organization that sets the standards for the Internet has already released such a protocol, and they did it back in 1990.
RFC 1149, or A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers, was the first draft of a protocol that addressed the reliability and speed of carrying data traffic via avian carriers, or homing pigeons. The protocol demonstrates that high delay, low throughput, and low altitude service can be accomplished with a point to point topology. Even though there is individual low throughput with individual carriers, multiple carriers can be used because they operate in a three-dimensional space, as opposed to the one-dimensional space used by current internet standards.
Other benefits of RFC 1149 are that the packet carriers are self-regenerating (albeit at a very slow rate), and that they self-generate auditing trails, usually found on logs, cars, and the occasional unfortunate person underwing. Unfortunately, transmissions made via RFC 1149 are subject to dropped packets, and the transmissions are extremely vulnerable to storms. When used in tactical environments, the packets should also be encrypted to avoid data interception.
Because nothing in the world of communication is ever static, the RFC was revisited and a new experimental protocol was issued. RFC 2549, or IP over Avian Carriers with Quality of Service, was issued in 1999 and served to amend RFC 1149.
RFC 2549 introduces new service levels for Internet Protocol over Avian Carrier (IPoAC). The levels in decreasing order of speed and reliability are Concorde, First, Business, and Coach. Using this network allows the user to also gain frequent flyer miles as well as bonus miles if Concorde or First classes are chosen. An alternate carrier that has a greater bulk capacity was also introduced, but ostrich delivery is slower and requires bridges between domains.
The protocol stresses the advantages of IPoAC, as they will avoid standard tunneling or bridging, enabling them to avoid long queues. However, when they deal with web traffic, spiders are often absorbed into the packet carrier and ejected in a more compact form. If data encapsulation is required or requested, standard saran wrap can be used. Alternately, encapsulation of the data carrier in a hawk has been known to occur, but the data is often mangled and irretrievable.
The protocol has been tried in numerous real world applications. The first test occurred in 2001, when the Bergen Linux user group tested out the Carrier Pigeon Internet Protocol (CPIP) over a three-mile test distance. There were 9 packets transmitted but only 4 packets received, resulting in a 55 percent packet loss. The ping was an atrocious 5222806.6 ms, however.
Another test occurred in 2009, when CPIP was used with a data carrier named “Winston” raced against a Telkom SA ASDL line. The test was to send 4 GB of data over 60 km. The CPIP beat the ADSL transfer handily, completing transmission in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 57 seconds. The ASDL line had only completed 4 percent of the required data transmission at that point.
While some may lambast President-elect Donald Trump for not being computer savvy, his awareness of this little-used Internet Protocol actually shows great awareness of the evolving conditions of technology. Here’s hoping that President Trump is able to find a way to fund RFC 1149 and 2549 so that American state secrets can remain even more secure in the future.
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