By Burke Hansen in San Francisco
14th April 2007
Amid the outcry over allegations that the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) wants the security keys to the DNSSEC encryption
technology slowly very slowly being adopted by internet overlord ICANN,
one ICANN board member, the refreshingly candid Susan Crawford, has
recently  taken her own swipe at security standards in place at the
According to Crawford, the DHS is woefully unprepared for what lies
ahead. She noted at a recent conference that ICANNs major security
concern after the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack  on six
of the internets root servers in February has been a repeat of the
incident powerful enough to cause a is a massive virtual blackout.
Although the alleged power grab by DHS has gotten all the headlines, the
security keys - still are not actually in use - wouldnt provide the DHS
with any information it does not already have access to. How the DHS
would respond to a massive DDoS attack that succeeded in shutting down
large chunks of the internet is another matter entirely.
According to Crawford the DHS has a long way to go. "From the outside,
it looks as if [DHS] doesn't really know what it's doing," she said.
"They're trying, but many of their efforts lack timeframes for
completion." Other problems, such as a high turnover rate among senior
officials at DHS, have had an impact, but there seems to be a general
failure of imagination at the agency. Crawford has been advocating the
creation of a new internet governance group to tackle the problem.
As she stated in her blog  last week, All of the internet governance
models we have right now have strengths and weaknesses. For responses to
problems like DDoS attacks, we'd need a forum for discussion that has
(1) the non-mandatory merit-based processes of IETF, including real
industry involvement leading to substantial market pressure, (2) the
globalness of IGF, (3) the agility of a private group, and (4) the clear
voice of leadership that can be provided by government involvement. And
we'd need to avoid the problems that all of these fora have.
Sher went on, To prevent future attacks, we'll need to prevent machines
from being turned into zombies that can be directed at targets. That's a
big task that requires coordination among many hardware manufacturers
and operating system designers. It can't be mandatory, this
coordination, because that won't necessarily lead to the right set of
solutions -- but it can be agile, global, and well-led.
With Greg Garcia, formerly vice president at the Information Technology
Association of America, now cyber-security czar at the DHS, the time
could be ripe for a change in focus at the lumbering agency. However,
Crawford held out more hope for a new, more nimble group to take
control. A new entity "with a new, friendly acronym" might be the best
bet, she said. "None of the existing institutions will work."
She has a point. The notoriously ineffectual ICANN seems an unlikely
agent to do the job because of its fear of confrontation and a general
disinterest in policing cyberspace even in a largely technical sphere
that cuts to the core of ICANNs mission, which is to protect the
integrity and stability of the net itself.
She wants an ICANN-style multi-stakeholder entity that is not the ICANN
we currently know and love. Of course, that begs the question of whether
or not two ICANNs are really better than one.
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