The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) concluded its Plenipotentiary meeting in Guadalajara recently. The Plenipot, which happens once every four years, is the most important decision-making process for the 160-nation intergovernmental organization. For students of Internet governance, the Plenipot was notable for two things: 1) some movement toward acceptance of ICANN, and 2) some movement toward more open and accessible documentation of ITU resolutions, standards and other information.
A new essay in Harvard National Security Journal by Dr. Dan Geer, the Chief Information Security Officer of the CIA's venture firm In-Q-Tel, reveals how militarizing the internet puts the brakes on new business opportunities or innovations that might come from the internet. Geer argues that
“…the recent decision of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to wildly proliferate the number of top-level domains and the character sets in which domains can be enumerated is the single most criminogenic act ever taken in or around the digital world.” To security Taliban, any change is bad because it makes things less “secure,” but it is especially dangerous to expand access to internet resources. The more information technology people have in their hands, the worse the world becomes.
Responding to a cacophony of opposing voices, citing free expression and global governance concerns, the proposed Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) has been slowed down for now. COICA is now scheduled to be taken up during the lame duck session following the November elections, which makes this “intergalacticly bad idea” still very dangerous. For those legislators who won't be returning there is nothing to lose, they might as well placate the well-funded and powerful intellectual property lobby behind it.
An amended version of the bill is now floating around. A comparison reveals that staffers are getting feedback from the network operators who will have to implement the process – namely ISPs and registrars. Changes have been made in an attempt to limit COICA's effects on operation of the global DNS. However, an under appreciated facet is how the bill's attempt to use Internet intermediaries for the purpose of enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) could impact the Internet's security.