[AfrICANN-discuss] DNSSEC: the internet's International Criminal Court?

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Sat May 8 20:41:56 SAST 2010

DNSSEC: the internet's International Criminal Court?


By Kieren McCarthy in San
more from this author<http://search.theregister.co.uk/?author=Kieren%20McCarthy>

Posted in Networks <http://www.theregister.co.uk/networks/>, 7th May 2010
23:03 GMT

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*INET* The DNSSEC protocol could have some very interesting geo-political
implications, including erosion of the scope of state sovereign powers,
according to policy and security experts.

“We will have to handle the geo-political element of DNSSEC very carefully,”
explained Peter Dengate Thrush, a New Zealand patent attorney and chairman
of ICANN, at the INET conference in San Francisco.
   [image: Click Here]


“The Internet has the capacity to dilute some aspects of sovereignty,” he
said, “and we may find that the power to rewrite Internet traffic may need
to be tempered against some other international standard.”

Dengate Thrush then referenced other examples from history where national
sovereignty has yielded to a higher international standard, such as the
Nuremberg Trials, where Nazi war criminals were tried against a new standard
of international law, and the International Criminal Court, which can try
people outside of one country’s jurisdiction, as examples of where
inter-governmental treaties can produce a higher standard that people are
held to.

Other experts agreed that the DNSSEC standard – which allows Internet
servers to confirm that data sent over the Internet came from a specific
source – could make it more difficult for countries that wish to alter or
censor information to do so without being noticed.

Jim Galvin of Afilias, an expert in DNSSEC, warned that a “split DNS” –
where a country effectively sets up its own Internet within its borders and
controls access to the global Internet - and the DNSSEC protocol “do not
match very well”. However, he said that technically it was possible for
someone at the interface of the global Internet and a country-wide Internet
to strip electronic certificates attached to data and repackage the data
with a new one. “But that’s a political issue,” Galvin added.

The discussion came on the back of the news this week that the first tests
on applying DNSSEC at the “root” had been completed and were successful. Now
it is a matter of slowly rolling out the technology to registries (such as
dot-com), then registrars (such as GoDaddy) and finally registrants (the end

Galvin explained that to be successful, DNSSEC would have to be implemented
at first at the center of the Internet and kept away from the average
consumer until it was sufficiently simple. He accepted that this went
against the usual pattern of placing Internet security systems as close to
the end-user as possible, but identified it as the only way that the “next
generation of the Internet” will be achieved.

Alex Deacon, the director of technology strategy at VeriSign, confirmed that
the company was working first with ICANN and the US Department of Commerce
to apply DNSSEC to the Internet’s root, with an expansion out to dot-edu,
then dot-net and finally to the dot-com registry in the first quarter of

Eventually, as the security standard cascades down toward the end-user, it
will become the “cornerstone of what security will be in future” said
Galvin, and from there “will change the Internet in ways we can not yet

Whether one of those ways will be to make it harder for countries to control
or censor the content their citizens see is something we will have to see. ®
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