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These 14 people hold the keys to global Internet security

Zach Epstein
March 3rd, 2014 at 1:05 PM
Internet Security Measures

We recently revealed the six organizations that secretly run the Internet, and interesting new details surrounding one of them were recently uncovered. In a great piece over at The Guardian, the site covers one of the most intriguing security measures taken by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the group responsible for the system that maps the Internet and ensures that web addresses point to the proper servers around the world. To protect the system that maintains all of this data, 14 people hold 14 keys, half of which must be used as part of a movie-like ritual in order to entire that the systems that map the Internet remain safe and secure.

“The east and west coast ceremonies each have seven keyholders, with a further seven people around the world who could access a last-resort measure to reconstruct the system if something calamitous were to happen,” wrote The Guardian’s James Ball. “Each of the 14 primary keyholders owns a traditional metal key to a safety deposit box, which in turn contains a smartcard, which in turn activates a machine that creates a new master key. The backup keyholders have something a bit different: smartcards that contain a fragment of code needed to build a replacement key-generating machine. Once a year, these shadow holders send the organisation that runs the system – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) – a photograph of themselves with that day’s newspaper and their key, to verify that all is well.”

Ball was invited to observe one of these ceremonies, which includes more than 100 steps. “These steps are a strange mix of high-security measures lifted straight from a thriller (keycards, safe combinations, secure cages), coupled with more mundane technical details – a bit of trouble setting up a printer – and occasional bouts of farce,” Ball wrote. “In short, much like the internet itself.”

The entire ordeal lasts more than five hours and you can read about it in Ball’s fascinating account, which is linked below in our source section.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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