Packet Rat: Internet security needs a kick in the ICANN

Michael J. Bechetti

Last month's concerted attack on the Domain Name System root servers elevated the Rat's paranoia to new heights. It also raised his hackles.

With all the warnings that have been coming out of the FBI and White House cybersecurity adviser Richard Clarke, how could they have left the root servers wide open to Internet Control Message Protocol flooding?

After gulping decaf and doing deep-breathing exercises, the Rat resumed his rant. The attacks caused no more than a blip in overall Internet performance. But if a few more of the 13 DNS root servers had been taken offline'well, there's no way of telling what the impact would have been.

The Chicken Littles of the Internet security world still haven't given a straight answer. Almost all DNS information is cached across multiple layers of the Internet, so users would have begun to notice only as the cache aged and newly registered domains wouldn't propagate.

On the bright side, though, the Rat would have had a welcome break from entering new porn sites into his agency's Web and spam filters.

Given the level of world tension, the jerks who pulled off the distributed-denial-of-service attack against DNS servers probably fall into the audience demographic for MTV's 'Jackass' hit movie. But that didn't do much to reassure the whiskered one.

'What if somebody actually threw paid resources behind something like this?' he wondered aloud to his minions. 'What if we had a real cyberwar? We would be passing around stone tablets for e-mail backup.'

Speaking of MTV, it doesn't help that the DNS apparently is being run by people who could pass as 'Jackass' cast members.

The DNS attack was just another kick at ICANN's can. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and its contractor, VeriSign Inc., responded to the attack with lame comments.

'Life goes on,' said Louis Touton, ICANN's vice president.

'In other words, 'Stuff happens,' ' sighed the Rat. 'I guess we can all say that when the Commerce Department revokes your charter.'

ICANN has also raised a stink in cyberspace with its push to eliminate representatives of the broad Internet community from its board by eliminating their seats. And there have been complaints aplenty about ICANN's policies on domain name disputes and the way it selected the seven new top-level domains'.aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name and .pro.

ICANN's 'so what' attitude about the attack was the last straw for the Rat.

'Some things are better left in the hands of government,' he snarled as he browsed, a watchdog site that tracks ICANN decisions and events. 'At least then nothing would get done without congressional oversight. And in ICANN's case, doing nothing is better than doing something.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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