N Touch
Sunday 15 September 2019
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Gatekeeper of the Web

Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean have been the centre of international attention since news broke that Trinidad’s technology guru, Bevil Wooding, was one of only seven persons from across the globe specially selected to hold keys to the internet.

These seven gatekeepers, called Trusted Community Representatives (TCRs), have each been given a card with part of a special code that can be used to generate a master Recovery Key which can, in effect, reboot the internet.

The seven Recovery Key Share Holders were appointed by Internet domain name watchdog ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) in June, and their cards were handed out at a special ceremony at a high- security data centre in Culpeper, Virginia, USA in July.

“This development will fundamentally alter security and business on the Internet,” said Wooding.

He explained how his role as a Recovery Key Share Holder intersected with the “Domain Name Server Security Extensions” or DNSSEC protocol which was recently deployed to protect domain names on the Internet.

“DNSSEC makes sure that the website entered into a browser’s address bar is what actually shows up in the window. Before DNSSEC, unprotected domains were vulnerable to attacks where a fake page could be used to trick users into accepting viruses or providing personal information for identity theft or fraud. DNSSEC allows websites to use a computer-generated key to verify a site is real, making it harder for such an attack to happen,” Wooding said.

“Financial institutions such as banks and brokerage firms that verify identity will now be able to use DNSSEC to offer more secure connections to their customers. If the DNSSEC system were destroyed or critically damaged, it could shut down these services,” he added.

In the event of a catastrophic security breach, such as a terrorist cyber-attack or a major attack on internet infrastructure, Wooding and his six fellow internet guardians could be called upon to fly to a secure location in the United States where they will combine their respective encrypted fragments of a master Recovery Key in a process that would restore the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) and effectively reboot the web.

This disaster preparedness plan was drawn up by ICANN, a not-for-profit partnership of people from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable.

Wooding downplays the doomsday scenario, saying he does not anticipate having to be called to use his key. His reserve does not diminish the significant trust that has been placed in him and his new fellowship of Internet guardians. Wooding said he volunteered to take on the responsibility of holding a key because of his strong conviction that Internet and Internet Governance must always be open and transparent.

The seven key holders were selected from different parts of the world to ensure that a reboot had the involvement of the global Internet community.

The other six are: Jiankang Yao (China); Moussa Guebre (Burkina Faso); Ondrej Sury (Czech Republic); Norm Ritchie (Canada), Chief Information Officer of the Canadian Internet Registry; Paul Kane (UK), Chief Executive Officer of CommunityDNS in England; Dan Kaminsky (USA), Chief Scientist at Recursion Ventures in New York City. Wooding effectively represents the Caribbean and Latin America in this elite, global chain of trust.

“It was a privilege to represent the region in such a historic event. Developing countries have a responsibility to ensure that we play our part in defining the systems, policies and the standards that impact, influence and share our future. Business innovation, Government service delivery, national and regional competitiveness, social empowerment and human development are all now inextricably linked to the Internet and access to internet-based technology and systems. Therefore, no single entity or single government should have inordinate control over the operation or function of the Internet.

The role and selection of the Trusted Community Representatives was conceived with principle squarely in mind,” he said.

Wooding, who for years has been serving as a de facto Technology Ambassador for the Caribbean by bringing international attention to ICT issues relevant to the region, was the lone representative from the Caribbean to participate in the landmark Internet event. For those who have worked with him, his appointment is no surprise.

“I’ve worked with Bevil on various efforts over the last several years and have always been impressed with his dedication to building Internet infrastructure and the Internet community in the Caribbean. In its search for trusted community representatives, ICANN has certainly found the right man,” said Richard Jimmerson, Chief Information Officer, American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN).

(Courtesy Gerard Best)


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