Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

The internet is doing nicely without its own UN

Filed under
Web

Who runs the internet? Who cares? As long as your internet browser sends you to the right location in cyberspace, the technical workings of the World Wide Web aren't really of much concern. Right?

For web users that's right, but for governments and technology bodies around the world, there's a brewing concern about the fact that most of the infrastructure that powers the internet is based in the United States. Of the 13 servers hosting the intricate system that directs us all to the right places on the internet, only three are based outside of the country.

So far that hasn't proven to be any problem.

A bunch of benevolent American university boffins, some military types and a few IT visionaries from the private sector were primarily responsible for getting the network now known as the internet off the ground in the 1970s. They are legends for doing so and have kept a close eye on the internet's development ever since.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Addresses (ICANN) is the web's current babysitter. But for a technology body, it courts a fair amount of controversy.

The reasons for that are political and commercial. Remember the "internet land-grab"? It kicked into high gear during the dotcom boom as corporates scrambled to reserve the best domain names. The current animosity towards the US-dominated ICANN is a lot like that. No one knows what the future will hold for the internet - and countries, especially developing ones such as India, want a say in how the web will work years from now.

The scenario has played out in the real world since time began. All those conferences of the "big three" (Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin) that took place toward the end of World War II, were to decide how to carve up control of post-war Europe.

It was a delicate game of give and take. Stalin was happy to abandon the communists in Greece for a bigger prize - dominance in Romania and Poland. Churchill, wanting to counter the power of Russia, demanded the French get a controlling slice of the new Germany.

They also talked about setting up a governing body for the world - the United Nations. Now, that same body is facilitating the debate about the delegation of power on the internet. Unable to agree on a single scenario for governance of the internet, a special UN body has drawn up four.

Option one is for the United Nations to create a "global internet council" that would take total power away from the United States in terms of its control of ICANN.

A more radical plan calls for control of the address system to shift from US to international hands - a new body called the International Internet Council.

Yet another plan calls for the creation of three groups that would be responsible for internet addressing. That sounds like a political and logistical nightmare.

The last option, and perhaps the most sensible, is to leave ICANN intact and simply create a forum for greater debate of net issues.

A long-term, official solution will be hammered out at the UN's World Summit on the Information Society, which will be held in Tunisia in November. It will consider taking up one of the proposed options.

Expect there to be some heated debate and intense lobbying as the future controllers of the internet are elected.

None of this would be an issue, were it not for a couple of ominous signs that the United States is willing to fight like hell to maintain the status quo.

Earlier this year, the US Department of Commerce said it planned to keep its hands on the "root zone" file, a simple text file that's integral to this system of turning internet protocol (IP) addresses into actual web addresses.

Apparently the United States "intends to preserve the security and stability" of the web's architecture and needs to keep control to do so.

On top of that came word last month from US Assistant Commerce Secretary Michael Gallagher that the US government is doing away with plans to have an international body overseeing the workings of the internet. In the context of the "war on terror", it's easy to see the Washington thinking behind this. Cyber-terrorism is a not insignificant threat.

ICANN cut its ties with the Department of Commerce late next year but its desire to keep the power base in the United States is unlikely to change.

US moves to draw the web closer to its chest shouldn't worry the rest of the world. The web is essential to US business. The biggest online traders - the likes of amazon.com and eBay.com - are all American. It's in the interests of the United States for all of us to have unfettered, global access to the web. That's why they haven't ring-fenced it and tried to charge us money to use it.

ICANN needn't change much, but a forum for major new issues needs to be established and the UN needs to have "power of veto" when it comes to major decisions that could inhibit access to the internet in any part of the world.

By Peter Griffin
The New Zealand Herald.

More in Tux Machines

Red Hat's Survey in India

From Raspberry Pi to Supercomputers to the Cloud: The Linux Operating System

Linux is widely used in corporations now as the basis for everything from file servers to web servers to network security servers. The no-cost as well as commercial availability of distributions makes it an obvious choice in many scenarios. Distributions of Linux now power machines as small as the tiny Raspberry Pi to the largest supercomputers in the world. There is a wide variety of minimal and security hardened distributions, some of them designed for GPU workloads. Read more

IBM’s Systems With GNU/Linux

  • IBM Gives Power Systems Rebates For Linux Workloads
    Big Blue has made no secret whatsoever that it wants to ride the Linux wave up with the Power Systems platform, and its marketeers are doing what they can to sweeten the hardware deals as best they can without adversely affecting the top and bottom line at IBM in general and the Power Systems division in particular to help that Linux cause along.
  • Drilling Down Into IBM’s System Group
    The most obvious thing is that IBM’s revenues and profits continue to shrink, but the downside is getting smaller and smaller, and we think that IBM’s core systems business will start to level out this year and maybe even grow by the third or fourth quarter, depending on when Power9-based Power Systems and z14-based System z mainframes hit the market. In the final period of 2016, IBM’s overall revenues were $21.77 billion, down 1.1 percent from a year ago, and net income rose by nearly a point to $4.5 billion. This is sure a lot better than a year ago, when IBM’s revenues fell by 8.4 percent to $22 billion and its net income fell by 18.6 percent to $4.46 billion. For the full 2016 year, IBM’s revenues were off 2.1 percent to $79.85 billion, but its “real” systems business, which includes servers, storage, switching, systems software, databases, transaction monitors, and tech support and financing for its own iron, fell by 8.3 percent to $26.1 billion. (That’s our estimate; IBM does not break out sales this way, but we have some pretty good guesses on how it all breaks down.)

Security News

  • DB Ransom Attacks Spread to CouchDB and Hadoop [Ed: Get sysadmins who know what they are doing, as misconfigurations are expensive]
  • Security advisories for Monday
  • Return on Risk Investment
  • Widely used WebEx plugin for Chrome will execute attack code—patch now!
    The Chrome browser extension for Cisco Systems WebEx communications and collaboration service was just updated to fix a vulnerability that leaves all 20 million users susceptible to drive-by attacks that can be carried out by just about any website they visit.
  • DDoS attacks larger, more frequent and complex says Arbor
    Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are becoming more frequent and complex, forcing businesses to deploy purpose-built DDoS protection solutions, according to a new infrastructure security report which warns that the threat landscape has been transformed by the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) botnets. The annual worldwide infrastructure security report from Arbor Networks - the security division of NETSCOUT - reveals that the largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack reported in 2016 was 800 Gbps, a 60% increase over 2015’s largest attack of 500 Gbps.