The Internet is down?

The Internet is a well established entity these days. When was the last time “the Internet” was down? Exactly.

But while we are used to the physical networks resilience to all sorts of technical, human, and political problems, there is one crucial service running on these networks that is largely unregulated – DNS and the root servers. These are the servers that popularized the Internet as we know it, letting people go to google.com instead of having to memorize 216.239.57.99.

If you control these servers, you effectively control a huge part of what makes the Internet so useful. These servers, currently operated by the United States, are facing pressure to be transfered to international control and increase accountability for everyone involved.

I found a pretty interesting take on how badly managed the existing system has become, and what needs to change to make accountability a factor.

The system has worked so far because everyone has been reasonable at compromise, but it’s current state is fragile. The author raises the alarmist sounding but still possible scenario: Imagine a nation who declares war on the US, and consequently has its VoIP traffic intercepted because skype.com resolved into a US military intermediary for that country’s network addresses? The DoD already runs root server G and the Army H – the technical know how is certainly there.

The future of what we know of as the Internet is potentially in for some changes.

Author: Pat Skinner

I make apps. Full stack web, React, Angular, iOS, Rails, DevOps. I love helping people, saving time, and delivering delight. I also play piano and speak German.

2 thoughts on “The Internet is down?”

  1. Care to substantiate your comments? I spoke to Daniel Karrenberg last week, who implemented most of the root servers in Europe, and he, like the other root server operators, exhibits a lot of concern for maintaining the single, international DNS namespace. The only threat he thinks has the potential to break that namespace is a government mandated split. How likely is that to happen? Lately, more than you might think.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the system currently is remarkably well thought out. A lot of care has been put to maintain stability, including funding from corporate, educational, and govermental authorities.

    The European Union said in September that it’s “very firm” on Internet governance reform…”We are going to WSIS arguing for a system that is very light-handed, that is minimalist but essential for stability and security,” said Richard Beaird, the department’s senior deputy U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy. “Others, including the European Union, would like to replace that with an intergovernmental council. We do not think that is the right way to go.”
    Anne Broache, CNET News

    So there is clearly some international contention. If politicians don’t reach an agreement things certainly have the potential to change.

  2. He is wrong. The people who are running the rootservers would never run into that problem, first off. Second, even if they did it would be a highly un-noticible difference. So stop your bitching about how it works, and realize that 99% of your queries have been cached on a lower lever DNS server.

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