One Network to Rule Them All (Benevolent)
The American nonprofit Internet Society has launched a toolkit to help policymakers align regulatory and technical proposals with its vision for an open, secure, and globally accessible Internet.
The Internet Impact Assessment Toolkit outlines how new laws and technologies should be applied to protect, rather than undermine, five fundamental pillars that characterize “the network of networks”.
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One of these cornerstones is an open architecture of interoperable and reusable building blocks.
The “well-defined layered services” resulting from this principle enabled the TLS protocol to provide “a defined security service to any application,” according to an article published to accompany the toolkit.
The ubiquitous adoption of the protocol has “eliminated the need to invent this mechanism from scratch” and “provides greater security at lower cost”, according to the Internet Society’s “Internet Way of Networking”.
In contrast, efforts to “reinvent security rather than using standard building blocks” have often resulted in “security compromises and vulnerabilities”.
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However, some security products may flout the toolkit’s prescriptions, argues the Internet Society.
Firewalls and other “middle boxes” — such as load balancers, address translators, and security scanners — can “disrupt the layered model” if they cause two endpoints to not “communicate directly on an underlying network layer.
In contrast, “well-designed middleboxes minimize disruption to the layered model of the Internet by helping [to] preserve end-to-end communications”.
Although the paper defends the existing distributed routing model as offering “global reach, resiliency, and optimized connectivity”, it concedes security-related drawbacks to the lack of a central routing authority.
“Without the application of a common policy, human error and deliberate malice can lead to connectivity interruptions and security issues such as spying on Internet traffic or impersonating an organization. “, says the report.
However, the paper argues that collaborative approaches to solving routing problems have been largely successful by leveraging “peer pressure and community action”.
The status quo of a free and open Internet is increasingly undermined by the efforts of authoritarian governments to control the information regimes of their citizens.
For example, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was recently accused of cutting off Belarusians’ internet access during street protests following his disputed re-election.
Russia, meanwhile, has reportedly taken steps to emulate Iran and China by creating a government-controlled “gigantic intranet” isolated from the global internet.
The result of these moves is a less open, resilient, and vibrant “Splinternet,” the Internet Society said in a press release Wednesday, September 9.
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The Internet Society Toolkit warns against regulatory actions that hold Internet intermediaries such as ISPs, content delivery networks, and domain name registries accountable for the actions of their users.
“Misinformed regulation can dramatically alter the fundamental architecture of the Internet and harm the ecosystem that supports it,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, senior vice president for a strong Internet at the Internet Society.
The toolkit also criticizes the Trump administration’s “Clean Network program,” announced last month to bar “untrusted” technology vendors from participating in the nation’s digital infrastructure. (China has since launched an equivalent program.)
It’s part of a trend of governments encroaching on parts of the internet’s infrastructure to try to solve social and political problems through technical means, Hall said.
“The Internet Way of Networking” defines five properties that are essential to achieving “a universally accessible, decentralized and open Internet”:
- Accessible infrastructure with a common protocol that facilitates unrestricted global connectivity
- Open architecture of interoperable and reusable building blocks
- Decentralized management and a unique distributed routing system to support the growth of local networks
- Universal global identifiers for consistent addressability
- Technology-neutral general-purpose network that removes barriers to innovation
“The internet’s ability to sustain the world through a global pandemic is an example of the best of internet networking,” Hall said.
“Governments had nothing to do to facilitate this massive global pivot in the way humanity works, learns and socializes. The internet simply works, and it works because of the principles that underpin its success. »
The Internet Society was founded in 1992 by Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn with a mission to make the Internet “open, globally connected, secure, and trustworthy.”
The Daily Swig has contacted the Internet Society for further comment and will update the article if and when we receive a response.
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