Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

IGF-USA 2010 Workshop – Web security will define the future of the Internet

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Panelists discuss the different options, perspectives and issues surrounding web security.

Brief description:

This panel, moderated by Robert Guerra of Freedom House, focused on critical Internet resources and how to ensure that the underlying principles that have led to the Internet’s success persist in the face of security challenges. These principles include openness (open standards, open technologies), accessibility transparency, bottom-up decision-making, cooperation and multi-stakeholder engagement. Key to implementing these principles is also a broadened understanding of the role of the infrastructure providers, such as global and national Internet services/connectivity providers who build and operate the backbones and edge networks. The panel was also expected to address some of the implications for the implementation of DNSSEC and IPv6 on a national basis that contribute to the security and resiliency of CIR on a global basis.

Details of the session:

The Internet’s success well into the future may be largely dependent on how it responds and reacts to increasing security challenges, according to panelists in a critical Internet resources workshop at the IGF-USA conference July 21 in Washington, D.C.

The Internet continues to evolve. It is also growing, as it becomes accessible to billions more people. The major challenge of our generation is to make the Internet more secure while continuing to promote openness, accessibility, transparency, bottom-up decision-making, cooperation and multistakeholder engagement. It is important that organizations continue to retain these values as much as possible as they react to cybersecurity and cybertrust issues.

Panelists at this workshop included:

  • Moderator Robert Guerra, Freedom House
  • Trent Adams, outreach specialist for the Internet Society
  • Matt Larson, vice president of DNS research for VeriSign
  • Steve Ryan, counsel to the American Registry for Internet Numbers
  • Patrick Jones, senior manager of continuity and risk management for ICANN
  • Jeff Brueggeman, vice president for public policy for AT&T

Panelists all expressed a desire to continue to engage in multifaceted talks because a single governmental entity is not the solution; it takes many people working together. As Brueggeman put it, there’s no “silver bullet” for the issue of Internet security.

“What we do on a day-to-day basis is ensure that those conversations take place,” Adams said. “The (critical Internet) resource is not a thing you can touch. You have this mesh of interconnected components that is the critical resource. You can’t pull one of those components out. Everyone must be around that table.”

So what’s the solution? The answer to that question is still a little unclear because Internet service providers and other organizations are often reactive to issues. Brueggeman said it’s time to embrace a forward-thinking approach.

“Things can get complicated when you’re reacting to an attack,” he said. “The best way to deal with these things is to try to think about them up front. How do we detect and prevent rather than react after the fact? How can we have more cooperative information sharing before attacks to try to prevent them and have the best information we can?”

Ryan stressed, though, that not all government is bad. He said citizens and organizations need to think “carefully about what the role of the government is.” But still, there should be a symbiotic relationship.

“There’s become a sense in government policy circles, including in the most sophisticated, that somehow (the Internet) runs on its own and you can’t break it,” he said. “I have news for you: You can break it. We look at government as something that has an increasingly important role because the Internet has an increasingly important role in economies.”

Ryan continued by saying non-governmental organizations have a responsibility to work with governments and to educate the people who work in them. He and the other panelists agreed that an international governmental organization wouldn’t work, though, unless core Internet values are embraced and upheld. They said a set-up that would allow countries around the world to vote on how the Internet is governed would not be a favorable solution.

“Until we get it right,” Ryan said, “I think we’re muddling along rather well.”

Panelists weigh in on the debate surrounding web security.

DNS issues and DNSSEC

Larson spoke specifically about the security of the Domain Name System because he views the DNS as an absolutely critical Internet resource. “If you don’t have the DNS, you don’t have the Internet,” he noted. He said users can’t truly trust the DNS, though, which is a bit disconcerting because of its necessity.

He supports DNSSEC—Domain Name System Security Extensions—which give users digital signatures (origin authentication) and data integrity. “Once you have that, you can validate data and have a higher level of confidence that the data you’re getting back is valid,” Larson said.

(You can read more about DNSSEC here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dnssec.)

He also said that DNSSEC makes DNS more trustworthy and critical to users as more applications—not just host names—depend on it. “We’re going to look back and realize it enabled a whole new class of applications to put information in the DNS,” Larson said. “Now you can trust the information coming out of the DNS.”

Going from IPv4 to a combination with IPv6

Ryan emphasized the importance of Internet Protocol version 6, IPv6, a new Internet layer protocol for packet switching that will allow a “gazillion numbers” vastly expanding the address space online. There is a rapidly decreasing pool of numbers left under IPv4. Ryan said the increased flexibility of IPv6 will allow for the continued growth of the Internet, but it won’t be a free-for-all.

“The numbers we have issued are not property,” he said. “We have a legal theory that’s embodied in every contract we’ve issued. They belong to community. If you’re not using them, you have to give them back. They are in essence an intangible, non-property interest, so over the next couple of years there will be some very interesting legal issues.”

ICANN in action

Jones said ICANN, which recently passed its 10-year milestone, has continued to work collaboratively with the community to take on major initiatives, such as the introduction of internationalized domain names in the root.

“We have taken requests from countries for internationalized country codes and approved 15,” Jones said.

“There’s a huge development in those regions of the world where you can now have domain names and an Internet that reflects their own languages and scripts. That will have an impact as discussion around critical Internet resources continues, especially in the IGF space.”

Physical critical resources

Brueggeman said AT&T has a broader perspective of critical Internet resources because the company is responsible for carrying Web traffic and for the underlying infrastructure, not just involved in issues tied to the DNS. He said the transition to IPv6 is daunting because it’s not backward-compatible. His main challenge has been in outreach efforts to customers.

“We have to deal with a lot of traffic that’s generated as we’re making changes to DNSSEC and IPv6,” he said. “In some cases, you might create some new security concerns, but overall both are important essential transitions.”

Brueggeman emphasized that multistakeholder discussions will be important in the coming years.

“We really need all of the parties who have the direct stake at the table to be part of the solution,” he said. “We need to have the resources handled in a way that promotes openness and promotes interoperability. There’s a huge policy risk of not managing these resources in a multistakeholder way.”

-by Colin Donohue, http://imaginingtheinternet.org

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