Y2K20: Opportunities in design and testing for freelance application developers, small IT companies, medium, large and huge.

It was not uncommon to find the earliest of the Web Application Developers to assume that all domain names would end in .com, all email addresses would follow the format @xyz.com. While developers took into account newer domain names such as .info in due course, most continued to design applications to accept Domain names and email addresses in ASCII just as software developers in the 80s assumed that it would be unnecessary to have any more than two digits to denote the year, which led to the famous Y2K issue towards the year 2000.

Imaginary logo of y2k20, a name that does not exist

Now there are new Top Level Domain Names (such as .family and .game) and Internationalized Domain Names (in various native non-ascii scripts of India and the world, such as .??????? and .???? (I typed India in Tamil and Devanagiri, displays here as ???) as well as Internationalized email Internet Domain Names that would allow users to have addresses in their native scripts.

If a browser or a form in a webpage limits acceptance of domain names or email addresses with a rule such as “a domain name must be in English and end with .com, or .net or .org” or “an email address must be in English or numerals” then it is archaic.

It is a problem far larger in its dimensions than the Y2K problem of year 2000 which kept the IT community of the entire world talking. On this problem of “Universal Acceptance” there appears to be inadequate attention to the problem in global public interest as well as to the commercial opportunities it presents for enterprising Developers and Corporations. This might emerge to be a huge commercial vertical in itself in view of the Design changes to be brought about and in terms of the testing requirements. #Deity #NASSCOM #WIPRO #TiE #TCS #Cognizant (If you are from a different country, please feel free to rewrite this post to suit your country and publish it. This post is not copyrighted.)

For more information, follow the publicly archived, transparent discussions in the IETF forum, at ICANN and at the Internet Society on this issue. You could also write to isocindiachennai (At) gmail (dot) com for additional pointers or any clarification. Or ask your Executives at a higher level to take part in ICANN meetings that are open and held as multi-stakeholder global meetings. And also join the Internet Society India Chennai Chapter. Such participation would lead you to positive involvement in the global Internet and also connect you to business opportunities not only in the y2k20 (there is no such term, the term is coined to describe the issue and the opportunity) but also in DNSSEC, IPv6 transition, Internet of Things (IoT) and new gTLDs.

What does the phrase “Universal Acceptance” mean?

“Universal Acceptance of domain names and email addresses” (or just “Universal Acceptance”, or even “UA”, for short) means that all apps and online services should accept all Internet domain names and email addresses equally.

Universal Acceptance is an important concept these days because the Internet is changing. One way that it is changing is that addresses no longer need to be composed of ASCII characters. (ASCII characters are the 127 Latin-script letters, numerals and punctuation marks that are dominant on the Internet today. All the characters in this document so far have been ASCII characters.)

Most people on earth are not native speakers of languages which use the ASCII characters, so moving from a character set limited to 127 characters to an alternate which can support more than one million characters is essential for those people to fully use and benefit from the Internet. This alternate is called Unicode.

Another way that the Internet is changing is by allowing lots of new domain names. Not only are there simply more of them, but some are longer than any of the older domain names and many of them use the same Unicode system mentioned above.

Note: “Universal Acceptance” is sometimes confused with “Universal Access” or “Universal Accessibility”; those phrases refer to connecting everyone on earth to the Internet, and to building Internet-connected systems for all differently-abled people on earth, respectively. Universal acceptance is limited to domain names and email addresses.

A special group called “Universal Acceptance Steering group (UASG) has been created to work on issues related to Universal Acceptance. UASG doesn’t work on anything else (e.g. Universal Access or Universal Accessibility).

How does an app or an online service support Universal Acceptance?

Software and online services support Universal Acceptance when they offer the following capabilities:

A. Can accept any domain name or email name as an input from a user interface, from a document, or from another app or service

B. Can validate and process any domain name or email name

C. Can store any domain name or email name

D. Can output any domain name or email name to a user interface, to a document, or to another app or service

Unfortunately, older apps and online services don’t always offer those capabilities. Sometimes they lack support for Unicode; sometimes they make wrong assumptions about new domain names, or even assume they don’t exist. Sometimes they support Universal Acceptance in some features but not in all.

How can Universal Acceptance be measured?

Universal Acceptance can be measured in a few ways.

1. Source code reviews and unit testing

2. Manual testing

3. Automated testing

#1 means inspecting the source code and verifying that only the correct programming techniques, software libraries and interfaces (AKA “APIs”) have been used, then verifying that the app or service works by testing against specific test cases for the capabilities A-D listed above. #1 is only practical for app developers and online service providers.

UASG is reaching out directly to the community of app developers and the largest online service providers to encourage them to perform source code reviews and testing to determine the level of Universal Acceptance in their offerings. UASG is also providing a list of criteria which can be used to develop test cases for the capabilities A-D listed above.

#2 can be done by anyone, but it’s labor-intensive. Examples of #2 would include submitting an email address when registering for an online service and verifying that it has been accepted. Since there are lots of potential online services to sign up for, and lots of potential new email address combinations, one must pick and choose which combinations of app, services, email address and/or domain name to test.

UASG is developing a list of top web sites, apps, email addresses and domain names suitable for testing.

#3 requires up-front technical work, but is more scalable to large measuring and monitoring efforts. An example of #3 is the recent gTLD investigation performed by APNIC on behalf of ICANN. <http://www.potaroo.net/reports/Universal-Acceptance/UA-Report.pdf >

UASG is investigating methods of automated testing for Universal Acceptance and will share these as they are developed.

RoundTable at the Asia Internet Symposium: What can India bring to Internet Governace

Asia Internet Symposium Chennai, was organized around the theme “India in the Free and Open Global Internet” in two sessions.

Full Playlist starts with the inaugural introduction to the Event, followed by the recordings of speeches by the Invitees including the Key Note Speaker, in turn followed by the recording of Round Table Session ( bit.ly/aischennai  look for the video titled “AIS Chennai 2014 – Roundtable: What can India bring to Internet Governance?”) followed by Closing Remarks on the intended follow up.


The event brought together local Community Leaders from different stakeholder groups and created awareness on the participation opportunities and the receptiveness of the Internet Governance process for global participation. The event also aimed to bring in committed participants to the multi-stakeholder process in India for Internet Governance Policy and programs.

AIS Internet Society India Chennai
Asia Internet Symposium Internet Society India Chennai Key Note by Shri Bharat Epur

The event started with a short duration inaugural session  on India’s concern with a Key Note Address by Bharat Epur, Director, Epur Investments and Talks on Internet Governance by David Appasamy, Founder, Raising iBrows, Samiran Gupta, Head of ICANN for India and Rajnesh Singh, Director, Asia Pacific Regional Bureau of the Internet Society.  This session was followed a very broad Round Table with the these invitees and visionary Business Leaders from TiE Chennai, spiritual leaders from Art Of Living, Students from MOP Vaishnav College, Anna Universtiy and Loyolla College as also several member of Internet Society India Chennai. The discussions went beyond India’s concerns as a Nation, and endeavored to bring up higher thoughts on ways of strengthening Internet Governance in a manner that is fair for the whole world. This was to MAKE A START of a process of generating broad thinking on positive ways by which different cultures could broadly contribute to further the evolution of the Free and Open Internet.

Internet is Global and the process of Internet Governance has enormous responsibilities as it has the well being of all the people of the world at stake. This makes it necessary for the Internet Governance Institutions to look beyond the existing models that happen to be more based on corporate governance models and strengthen it further as a larger and higher governance framework for universal good, broadened with values that are far more profound.

At the moment this is largely an undefined exercise, would get defined as it takes shape further.

AIS Chennai RoundTable
Internet Round Table at Chennai

The RoundTable with participants from India brought up the idea of “Vasu Deva Kudumbakam” – the world as one family – any notion of separation is superficial, but on a deeper level the whole world is an undivided unity. Especially among people of India, this notion of the world as an undivided family is deep rooted. India has the inherent psychological strength to awaken this notion, discuss and nudge others to embrace this idealistic notion.

AIS Internet Society India Chennai
Asia Internet Symposium Internet Society India Chennai Table of Students from MOP Vaishnav College and Anna University

The Round Table brought up thoughts that included abstract ideas of such as the concept of five elements as also ideas drawn from the Constitution of India that could be relevant to global Internet Governance. Other ideas mentioned included the Indian concept of a “Guru” or “RajaGuru” and possible modernization of such a concept into that of an enhanced Advisory Body so as to keep Governance on the path of broader justice. Participants also sought to explore the Indian concept of “Dharma” and its relevance as a component of the existing foundation of Internet Governance.

Follow up

Organized as a session of the Asia Internet Symposium, this Round Table discussion on this theme is the first of the two or more discussions planned at Chennai.The Chennai meeting was a START for this process and the thoughts brought up at this first meeting form a minuscule part of the ideas from the wealth of wisdom from this region, from past and present. There is a plan to organize a larger event with expert participation as a larger round table, possibly with the participation of some Internet Community leaders. Some of the ideas – many more to be identified – to be explored in follow up meetings in Chennai and possibly in certain other parts of the world are:

  • concepts from business including the ISO model of creating an overall propensity to standards across the organization, rather than by inspection of individual products or service components;
  • governance models from large, global Charitable or Non-Governmental or Regional Organizations such as the Tata Trust, Virgin Atlantic, various Foundations or the Council of Europe.
  • concept of Trusteeship as conceived in India.
  • concept of Non-confrontational conflict resolution
  • notions of Commitment and Justice from earlier cultures
  • North African cross cultural notions of do’s and don’ts, right and wrong.
  • notions on various advisory / governance bodies such as the Council of Elders or the seat of a RajaGuru, placed on par or above the Seat of Governance
  • notions of division of powers/ balance in governance from earlier governance models or from National constitutions.
  • ideas on common good by fair governance from Eastern and Western philosophers

Internet Society India Chapter intends to write to other Chapters with a suggestion to replicate this event in their regions as also intends to work on a few jointly organized meetings in one or two locations. (Even this meeting benefited from collaboration, as Joly MacFie of the Internet Society of New York spent ample time guiding Hostmacro Web Services who sponsored Technical Support in-kind for the Webcast, and post event, Joly MacFie received the 12 GB video file, reviewed and edited it upload this Playlist in YouTube.)

The recommendations from this Round Table and follow up events are to be shared with the Internet Community Staff and possibly with any Community working groups exploring topics related to this theme.


Youtube : http://bit.ly/aischennai (a playlist of seven videos)
blog : http://isocindiachennai.org/?p=1915
Twitter: http://twitter.com/isocchennai


isocindiachennai (aT) gmail {dot} com

Fellowship Application Round Opens for ICANN International Public Meeting 45 in Toronto, Canada

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is now accepting online applications for the 17th round of the Fellowship program. Successful candidates will participate in the ICANN meeting to be held in Toronto, Canada from 14-18 October 2012.

The Fellowship program is open to applicants who are current residents of developing and least developed nations and interested in participating in ICANN and its supporting organizations, constituencies and stakeholder groups. Priority is given to individuals new to the ICANN environment from government and the ccTLD community, as well as those from academic, civil, business and non-profit entities, which are NOT involved in or associated with other ICANN supported travel programs. The program provides the support and opportunity for these participants to gain knowledge on how to have their voices heard in the Internet community and ICANN. More information regarding terms and conditions, as well as eligibility is available online at http://www.icann.org/en/fellowships/ or email at fellowships@icann.org regarding any questions about this process or program.

The Fellowship program arranges the airfare, hotel and a stipend for those individuals selected to participate in this ICANN meeting. Recipients are expected to actively participate in and contribute to ICANN processes, both at the meeting and in the future. As always, registration for ICANN’s meetings is free for anyone wanting to attend.

Applications for the meeting in Toronto will be accepted from 23:00 UTC on 23 May 2012 until 23:59 UTC on 8 July 2012. Successful candidates will be posted on the ICANN Fellowship webpage by 17 August 2012.

What Is ICANN?

To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer – a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn’t have one global Internet.

ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.

ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.

World War 3 ? Who should control the Internet (if the idea of control is right)?

These are subjectively highlighted excerpts from the well researched Vanity Fair May 2012 article “In the Battles of SOPA and PIPA, who should Control the Internet”  Michael Joseph Gross, reposted here with a comment, some pictures and a mischievous cartoon.

ITU Secretary General, Dr Hamadoun Touré.
ITU Secretary General, Dr Hamadoun Touré.

This year, in the month of December, Diplomats from 193 countries will converge at the World Trade Center, Dubai to renegotiate a United Nations treaty called the International Telecommunications Regulations. The sprawling document, which governs telephone, television, and radio networks, may be extended to cover the Internet, [would raise] questions about who should control it, and how. Arrayed on one side will be representatives from the United States and other major Western powers, advocating what many call “Internet freedom,” a plastic concept that has been defined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the right to use the Internet to “express one’s views,” to “peacefully assemble,” and to “seek or share” information. The U.S. and most of its allies basically want to keep Internet governance the way it is: run by a small group of technical nonprofit and volunteer organizations, most of them based in the United States.

On the other side will be representatives from countries where governments want to place restrictions on how people use the Internet. These include Russia, China, Brazil, India, Iran, and a host of others. All of them have implemented or experimented with more intrusive monitoring of online activities than the U.S. is publicly known to practice. A number of countries have openly called for the creation of a “new global body” to oversee online policy. At the very least, they’d like to give the United Nations a great deal more control over the Internet.

Just an ineresting movie for our Leaders to watch.

Mediating these forces in Dubai will be Hamadoun Touré,  Charming and wily, Secretary-General of the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union. Noting that Internet users in America represent only a tenth of the total, he says, “When an invention becomes used by billions across the world, it no longer remains the sole property of one nation, however powerful that nation might be. There should be a mechanism where many countries have an opportunity to have a say.”

[ Comment by Sivasubramanian M, as individual comments: Dr Toure does not say that ITU wants to take over Internet Governance. But the ‘unintended’ consequences of Dr Toure’s  “UN for Internet” master plan would be a situation where ITU would govern Internet Technical Standards and the Names and Numbers space. The overall design could result in a situation where the ITU would be the umbrella for the World Governments to negotiate Internet Policies that would determine imaginative models whereby the ITU Business interests would make Internet users pay to breathe online. ITU could control the information space and information ‘security’ totally and completely to take the World’s Communication Users, Business Corporations and the World’s Politicians to an era not unlike that of the J Edgar Hoover era of unspoken, plenipotentiary control over eight American Presidents, extremely difficult to balance. Our World’s Politicians and Public Administrators who propose invasive controls might not quite realize what they themselves are getting into 🙂 ]

There is a war under way for control of the Internet, and every day brings word of new clashes on a shifting and widening battlefront. Governments, corporations, criminals, anarchists—they all have their own war aims.

… The War for the Internet was inevitable—a time bomb built into its creation. The war grows out of tensions that came to a head as the Internet grew to serve populations far beyond those for which it was designed. Originally built to supplement the analog interactions among American soldiers and scientists who knew one another off­-line, the Internet was established on a bedrock of trust: trust that people were who they said they were, and trust that information would be handled according to existing social and legal norms. That foundation of trust crumbled as the Internet expanded. The system is now approaching a state of crisis on four main fronts.

The first is sovereignty: by definition, a boundary-less system flouts geography and challenges the power of nation-states. The second is piracy and intellectual property: information wants to be free, as the hoary saying goes, but rights-holders want to be paid and protected. The third is privacy: online anonymity allows for creativity and political dissent, but it also gives cover to disruptive and criminal behavior—and much of what Internet users believe they do anonymously online can be tracked and tied to people’s real-world identities. The fourth is security: free access to an open Internet makes users vulnerable to various kinds of hacking, including corporate and government espionage, personal surveillance, the hijacking of Web traffic, and remote manipulation of computer-controlled military and industrial processes.

There is no agreement about how any of these problems should be solved. There isn’t even agreement on how to define the basic terms of debate. “Internet freedom,” for instance, is the avowed objective not only of the U.S. secretary of state but also of Wiki­Leaks, which published hundreds of thousands of classified State Department diplomatic cables.

One way to think about the War for the Internet is to cast it as a polar conflict: Order versus Disorder, Control versus Chaos…

A conflict with two sides is a picture we’re used to—and although in this case it’s simplistic, it’s a way to get a handle on what the stakes are. But the story of the War for the Internet, as it’s usually told, leaves out the characters who have the best chance to resolve the conflict in a reasonable way. Think of these people as the forces of Organized Chaos. They are more farsighted than the forces of Order and Disorder. They tend to know more about the Internet as both a technical and social artifact. And they are pragmatists. They are like a Resistance group that hopes to influence the battle and to shape a fitful peace. The Resistance includes people such as Vint Cerf, who helped design the Internet in the first place; Jeff Moss, a hacker of immense powers who has been trying to get Order and Disorder to talk to each other; Joshua Corman, a cyber-security analyst who spends his off-hours keeping tabs on the activities of hackers operating under the name of Anonymous; and Dan Kaminsky, one of the world’s top experts on the Internet’s central feature, the Domain Name System.

Although they may feel a certain kinship with one another, they are not an organized group. Their main point of agreement is that the Internet has changed the world forever, in ways we are only beginning to understand. They know that Order is impossible and that Disorder is unacceptable. They understand that the world is a messy place whose social arrangements come and go. But they are united in the conviction that what must be preserved and promoted at all costs is what the forces of Order and Disorder, in their very different ways, are both intent on undermining: the integrity of the Internet itself as a reliable, independent, and open structure.

II. Free-for-All

image from http://www.bartnagel.com/newarchive/photos/cerfVint_5x_3020.jpg
Vint Cerf, internet pioneer and cocreator, TCP/IP

… Vint Cerf is frequently referred to as the father of the Internet. … Most of the Internet’s problems, Cerf believes, stem from the issue of state sovereignty. The Internet was designed to ignore national boundaries. It was designed this way, Cerf says, because “it was intended to deal with a military problem”: how could soldiers exchange messages without letting their enemies know where they were? Cerf and others solved that problem by building a decentralized network that routed mes­sages from place to place using addresses that had nothing to do with physical locations. This was something new. International telephone transmissions were marked with country codes that named their origins and end points and had to pass through central switches in the countries at both ends. Radio transmissions, similarly, had to hop from the fixed points of towers. On the Internet, by contrast, traffic skittered from place to place on a network whose shape could be in constant flux. The Internet had no center at all, with one exception. The sole centralized feature of the Internet was the Domain Name System.

The United States created that system, which lives on root servers, and Americans maintained it even as the Internet started spreading. The first thing your computer does when you type a Web site or e-mail address into your browser is to ask a local D.N.S. server for the numerical IP address of that destination. Because the D.N.S. servers are the first stop, the D.N.S. is not just the Internet’s address book. It’s also the corner post office. Whoever runs the D.N.S. system can potentially control whether your browser requests get to the proper place and thus control where you can and can’t go online. …

Clinton … set out to turn the D.N.S. over to the private sector. The result was ICANN, a nonprofit body whose advisory committees include representatives of more than 100 countries and scores of corporations. Technically, ICANN remains under the Commerce Department’s authority, but other governments have a meaningful say in the group’s decisions. For instance, Xiaodong Lee, one of China’s Internet czars, is icann’s vice president for Asia. The creation of ICANN signaled that the Internet would be something akin to global patrimony, not an online version of American soil.

This shift helped set the Internet free. But the more the global economy came to depend on the Internet, the harder it was for governments to tame or limit it. This, too, was intentional. To ensure a surge of e-commerce, the administration systematically pushed aside or revised whatever might stand in the way, including taxes, tariffs, regulations, and intellectual-property standards. Grabbing with both hands for the Internet economy meant letting go of old ideals of governance.

Whole new problems eventually arose as markets and communications moved online, and as all these online exchanges were preserved digitally and became searchable. Who owned all this data? Who should have access to it? Corporations such as Microsoft, Google, and Facebook began butting heads with the government. They also began butting heads with their own customers.

Corporate ambitions are a huge issue, but “the real War for the Net,” Cerf believes, “is governments who want to control it, and that includes our own government. If you think about protecting the population and observing our conventional freedoms, the two are real­ly very much in tension.” Cerf cites the debate over the U.S.A. Patriot Act, enacted in 2001, which greatly expanded the U.S. government’s domestic-surveillance authority. He also cites efforts by Middle Eastern governments to control online communications, particularly as the Arab Spring began to unfold, in 2011. And then there’s the vast example of China, whose Great Firewall puts severe limits on what Chinese users can view online.

On the Internet, what constitutes a “government” anyway? When Google announced in 2010 that it had fallen victim to Chinese hackers, it chose to publicize the fact that the Gmail accounts of Chinese political dissidents had been compromised. Congressional staffers asked company officials at the time about rumors that Google’s data losses were in fact far more extensive. They recall tense conversations with Google executives, who in effect asserted executive privilege. One Hill aide recalls, “Clearly these people are used to having their way with everybody, which pissed us off. Because they are not a state within a state, even though they practically claim sovereignty.”

III. The Dark Tangent

Jeff Moss image from http://www.heise.de
Jeff Moss, founder of the Black Hat, DEF CON and Vice President and Chief Security Officer of ICANN

… In 1992, a very young man named Jeff Moss, whose hacker name is the Dark Tangent, organized “Def Con”… He now sits on the U.S. government’s Homeland Security Advisory Committee, and he serves as the chief security officer for ICANN. Where Vint Cerf argues that sovereignty lies at the heart of the War for the Internet, Moss—who as a hacker cut his teeth gaining access to systems and information that belonged to others—argues that the heart of the matter may be intellectual property.

… When social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook merged those two functions—turning the common person’s scrapbook into a cash cow for corporations—they sparked the Internet’s next evolutionary adaptation. The consumer and the citizen now combined to form a complicated new species, most of whose members experienced the change as extremely empowering—even as they were also becoming extremely vulnerable. …

Privacy advocates sounded alarms about the problem, but the 2009 Green Revolution protests in Iran were a major turning point. The ease with which the Iranian government spied on its own citizens—using techniques that anyone could deploy, with free and open-source software—showed the fundamental insecurity of all unencrypted data (which is almost all data) on the Internet. Iranian-government authorities were able to read citizens’ e-mails, diagram their social networks, and keep watch on almost anything else they wanted to observe. The spectacle of that violation, Moss says, underscored for everyone that the character of the Internet had fundamentally changed. It had evolved from, as he puts it, a place “to put pictures of your cat” to a place where “your liberty’s at stake.”

Even so, the most influential Web sites, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, balked at adapting to the new reality they’d helped bring into existence. No communications on any of those sites were fully encrypted yet. Without mockery, Moss recites their arguments in a plain tone, strained only by mild weariness: “It’s too expensive. We never designed it to be all encrypted. And, you know, the Net is not a private place anyway. It’s not really our problem.” His response, in the same tone, is that, since these corporations built their empires by encouraging everybody to share everything, they have a responsibility to provide security.

During that violent week in 2009, Iran also blocked its citizens’ access to popular dissident Web sites. Government authorities hijacked the Internet’s address book—using a technique called D.N.S. blocking—so that when people tried to organize via Facebook or Twitter, they got sent elsewhere. Today, as chief security officer for ICANN, Moss is implementing a set of technical changes that will eventually make it more difficult for anyone to engage in D.N.S. blocking—difficult, but not impossible. “I’m curious if it’s fixable,” Moss admits. “Everybody always calls it rebuilding the airplane in flight. We can’t stop and reboot the Internet.”

Technical constraints are complicated by politics. Not everyone approves of the changes Moss promotes. This winter, Congress considered two bills designed to stop online piracy. The Protect Intellectual Property Act (pipa) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (sopa) could have allowed the U.S. government to mandate D.N.S. blocking—the technique that Iran had used… But a ferocious Web revolt, incited, in part, by Internet giants such as Reddit, Google, and Wikipedia, invoked the specter of censorship. The legislation was effectively killed.

According to Moss, people who want more government control of the Internet are saying, “Well, we’ll just do this. We’ll just do that.” He says, “It’s like, You just don’t do that with the Internet. Don’t have the legislator who doesn’t understand how anything works make the decisions. The biggest fear is that you’ll have governments around the world legislating technical standards. And then everything comes crashing down.

Besides, he goes on, “the more government tries to regulate, the more people will try to build an Internet that is uncensorable and unfilterable and unblockable” …

Even Moss, who participates in the highest-level discussions about global Internet policy, finds himself unable to keep up with all of the efforts to control the Internet that are happening right now. …

IV. The Summer of Lulz

… Aaron Barr, the former C.E.O. of the cyber-security firm HBGary Federal, had plotted to discredit WikiLeaks by faking documents to make the group look unreliable. Then Barr investigated the Anonymous hackers who were supporting WikiLeaks, and boasted to the Financial Times that he had “collected information on their core leaders, including many of their real names.” In retaliation, Anonymous hackers annihilated Barr’s Web site, spilled HBGary’s archive of 71,000 e-mails onto the Web, raided Barr’s Twitter account, and remotely deleted everything from his iPad. ”

After the HBGary hack last February, the public image of Anonymous went split-screen. On the one hand, Anonymous operations supported the Arab Spring (and, later, Occupy Wall Street). On the other hand, a group of hackers … launched a series of attacks that trashed all standards of privacy and security. The attacks, known as “the summer of lulz,” were, on the whole, as pathologically anarchic as something the Joker might have done. …

Reporters generally refer to Anonymous as a “group” or, somewhat more accurately, as “a loose collective.” Anonymous, Corman explains, is not real­ly a group, and it is a “collective” only insofar as there is some overlap among the individuals who perform the deeds attributed to Anonymous. … Hacking by Anonymous generally expresses a hunger for the complete transparency of governments and corporations. Anonymous hackers often oppose surveillance and promote self-government. Beyond these principles, there is little consensus.

Joshua Corman image from http://pabi.csoandy.com
Joshua Corman, Director of Security Intelligence of Akamai Technologies

Joshua Corman, is director of security for a firm called Akamai. Together with Jericho, known to the outside world as Brian Martin, a Denver cyber-security consultant, Corman started tracking Anonymous last year. …

Corman believes that the …. the terrifying part … is that the Web gives individuals immense power without instilling the “compassion, humility, wisdom, or restraint to wield that power responsibly.”

… Like everyone who understands the decentralized structure of the Internet, Joshua Corman is skeptical of government attempts to control it. Corman believes that the spread of “hacktivism,” which first made mainstream headlines when Anonymous attacked the Church of Scientology in 2008, demonstrates that “those who can best wield this new magic are not nations. They’re not politicians. The youngest citizens of the Net don’t even recognize allegiance to a country or to a political party. Their allegiance is to a hive. In some ways this is very exciting. In other ways this is terrifying.” The terrifying part, for Corman, is that the Web gives individuals immense power without instilling the “compassion, humility, wisdom, or restraint to wield that power responsibly.”

… The media has mainly served the purposes of Anonymous. “The stories are: Insert high-value target here; something bad happens; attribute it to Anonymous. And people are eating that up.”… “The media is a player in this drama. They’re not observing or describing. They’re being played.”

And they’re being played by all parties. The bust of Anonymous and LulzSec in March was hailed even by many leading cyber-­security bloggers as “the end of Anon.” The idea that any faction of Anonymous has a “head” that could be chopped off, as the F.B.I. claimed, suggests either a fundamental lack of understanding of the phenomenon or a willful misrepresentation of it. …  In other words: as an instrument of disruption, Anonymous may be too resilient ever to be killed.

V. Organized Chaos

A new telecom treaty is unlikely to result in either side achieving total victory. At the very least, however, the negotiation in Dubai will move countries to put their cards on the table and declare just how much control they want to assert over Internet governance.

The Net has given more individuals more power in a shorter period of time than any new technology in history. And unlike many other world-changing technologies, there is no institutional barrier to access. This has made it, on balance, mostly destructive of institutional authority, especially that of nation-states. National sovereignty encompasses many powers, but one of its core elements has been a monopoly on the control of overwhelming force. Now that hackers are able to penetrate any and all computer networks, including military ones, that monopoly no longer exists. Nation-states, not surprisingly, resist the erosion of their power and seek ways to reclaim it.

a cartoon from http://www.epinula.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/bigbrother_cartoon
ITU seeks nothing more than a “light touch” on the Internet’s operations.

Hamadoun Touré, who will be running the show in Dubai, says he seeks nothing more than a “light touch” on the Internet’s operations. He in fact chuckled when he uttered those words in the course of an interview.

At least three big issues are very likely to be on the table in Dubai, and there’s nothing light about them. One is taxation—a “per click” levy on international Internet traffic. Western countries and business organizations oppose such a tax, as you would expect. China and many Third World countries favor it, saying the funds would help build the Internet in developing countries.

A second issue is data privacy and cyber-security. Authoritarian governments want to tie people’s real names and identities to online activity, and they want international law to permit national encryption standards to allow government surveillance.

The third issue is Internet management. Last year, Russia, China, and some pliant allies jointly proposed a U.N. General Assembly resolution (which failed) suggesting the creation of a global information-­security “code of conduct” and—as if declaring open season on ICANN and the other non-­governmental groups currently in charge—asserting that “policy authority for Internet-related public issues is the sovereign right of states.”

All of these proposals amount to a wish list by the most extreme elements of the forces of Order. The forces of Disorder have no official voice at the negotiations—obviously they’re not invited …

In the War for the Internet, is there a middle way? The forces of Organized Chaos are not an organized group, don’t call themselves by any name, and disagree on many points.

Dan Kaminsky image from http://www.popularmechanics.com/cm/popularmechanics/images/wx/dan-kaminsky-470-b-1008.jpg
Dan Kaminsky, American Security Researcher and trusted Security Expert for DNSSEC for the root

The commitment that unanimously binds them is to make the Internet as reliable as possible. One leading apostle of reliability is Dan Kaminsky, a security analyst and D.N.S. expert and the head of a new stealth start-up. He is a close friend of Jeff Moss’s—and, like Moss, a self-appointed ambassador to Washington. He sometimes opens meetings on the Hill by saying, “There are bad guys on the Internet. Unfortunately, you’re helping them.” He is a serial entrepreneur whose current mission is to augment passwords with other ways for Internet users to prove their identities that are more robust, easier to use, and harder to crack. “The only thing everyone agrees on,” says Kaminsky, “is that the Internet is making everyone money now and it’s got to keep working.”

As they devise new systems of authentication, Kaminsky and others are working to be sure that these authentication systems preserve the qualities of privacy and online anonymity—even though anonymity has contributed to, if not created, almost every problem at issue in the War for the Internet. The task at hand is finding some way to square the circle: a way to have both anonymity and authentication—and therefore both generative chaos and the capacity for control—without absolute insistence on either. It is a neat philosophical trick: Sun Tzu meets John Locke meets Adam Smith meets Michel Foucault.

No one can say exactly how these sorts of standards would be defined and applied, or who would be their custodians. World governance doesn’t work. It has been pursued for eons by hardheaded pragmatists and woolly-brained eccentrics. Time and again it has been defeated by the vagaries of human nature and the opportunistic conflict of competing interests. In the case of the Internet, the number of interested parties runs into the billions, and they come from divergent cultures and pursue irreconcilable objectives. As Vint Cerf points out, this basic reality seeps through every aspect of the War for the Internet. Around the world and across generations, people have different tolerances for civility, incivility, and invasion of privacy. “I think it will be very hard to resolve this in a way that’s globally acceptable,” he says.

Freedom in human society, by definition, includes some concept of bound­a­ries. Freedom on the Internet has, thus far, lacked any real concept of boundaries. But boundaries are being invented. It seems certain that nations, corporations, or both will create more zones on the Internet where all who enter will have to prove their real-world identities. Google and Facebook are already moving in this direction. The most heavy-handed suggestions entail a virtual passport or ID, which could include biometric data.

Some see stringent, universal, and mandatory authentication of identity as a commonsense solution to a number of the Internet’s biggest problems. ….

The forces of Organized Chaos reject this argument. Vint Cerf says, “When I hear senators and congressmen complaining about anonymous speech, I want to stop them and say, you should read your own history. The anonymous tracts that objected to British rule and rules had a great deal to do with the American Revolution. Weren’t you paying attention in civics?”

Given the radically decentralized nature of the Internet, the most important thing that anyone can do is to try to make the center hold—but not too tightly. That means protecting the Domain Name System, the Internet’s sole central feature, from government control while keeping governments involved in maintaining it. The point is: there is no single “safe pair of hands,” whatever the forces of Order might say. Any safe pair of hands is a dangerous pair of hands.

At the same time, the security of the D.N.S. itself needs to be radically upgraded, to obstruct hijacking and surveillance… Finally, “network neutrality” must be preserved. Net neutrality is almost as plastic a concept as Internet freedom, but to the forces of Organized Chaos, it means maintaining the telecommunications infrastructure as a level playing field. The Internet is open to everyone; service providers can’t discriminate; all applications and content moves at the same speed.

To accomplish any of these things, governments will need to create formal mechanisms to give the people who know the most about the Internet—including computer engineers and hackers—a meaningful voice in making policy.Basic Internet literacy is now as critical to good governance as basic knowledge about economics or public health …

Beyond this core agenda, the forces of Organized Chaos, by and large, think that the Internet should be allowed to evolve on its own, the way human societies always have. The forces of Organized Chaos have a pretty good sense of how it will evolve

Read the Michael Joseph Gross’s entire article in Vanity Fair

US Congress notices that the entire Internet is angry: SOPA postponed

Internet was on strike on January 18 in protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act. The public participation online and on the streets was huge.

U.S. Congress observed all these developments, paid attention to the public opinion and is postponing the votes on SOPA and PIPA and has agreed to revisit both bills.

US Congress postpones vote on SOPA
Capitol Hill

Internet Society released the following communication:

The Internet Society is very pleased with today’s news that the U.S. Congress is postponing the votes on SOPA and PIPA and has agreed to revisit both bills.  We issued the following statement on our website:

The Internet Society applauds the U.S. Congress’ decision to revisit the proposed online piracy legislation (SOPA and PIPA) and expresses its hope that any redraft will take into account the concerns expressed by the Internet community. In the fight against online piracy, the Internet Society encourages efforts that respect fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, and do not harm the overall stability and interoperability of the Internet. Any lasting solution will need to be based on international cooperation.

It feels good to know that Governments listen...