NetActuate leaders were privileged to attend ICANN63 in Barcelona, a gathering marking 20 years since ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was founded. ICANN brings together government policy makers and the technical community to manage unique identifiers on the internet – or in other words, your .com’s, .co.uk’s, .business and even .emoji’s. A helpful explanation of what ICANN and IANA (The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) can be found on their website:
To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer — a name or a number. That address must be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination, we wouldn’t have one global Internet.
In more technical terms, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) helps coordinate the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, which are key technical services critical to the continued operations of the Internet’s underlying address book, the Domain Name System (DNS).
The 63rd gathering of ICANN was opened with inspiring words of ICANN CEO and president Göran Marby:
“It takes 14 days, a one week meeting. We have 320+ sessions. We have 3000+ people from 140 countries. We are not a government. We’re nothing like anyone else. We’re a pure, multi-stakeholder model where we solve problems that no one has encountered before in world history. And we do that by consensus. By bottom-up, by discussions, and by agreeing. This is one of the world’s biggest peace projects in practice. “
The foundational tools and infrastructure that make the internet work, such as DNS and undersea fiber optic cables, are often overlooked or not well understood by the public at large. We were struck by how this overlooked technology motivated a relatively small group of people to build and grow something as important as an organization like ICANN.
(Photo – Paul Wilson talks about Jon Postel, who was instrumental in ICANN becoming what it is.) Just two years ago the handover of IANA from the US government to ICANN was completed, and ICANN continues to move full steam ahead on solving important and critical issues related to the coordination of unique identifiers.
As network and internet providers in this community, it was good to learn more about the policy side that helps keep the internet organized, and the ideas that drive our business forward, and make our work possible.
At its core, ICANN gatherings are a meeting of the minds. On the policy side, we learned about the GDPR process and how it’s impacted registrars, about ICANN’s budget and five-year planning, their new vision statement, and more. As engineers, we focused our learning more narrowly on the technical track of the meeting.
Part of ICANN63 was a smaller gathering of the ccnSO (Country Code Names Supporting Organisation). NetActuate’s Greg Wallace presented to an audience of over 100 about Anycast, Peering, and Sinkholes. This talk focused on what to do when a network is anycasting over internet exchanges, and experiences a sudden, unexpected shift of network traffic to a different part of the world – such as a user request from Germany being routed to South Africa instead of France.
Included in the ccnSO were several interesting topics, including Zone Poisoning by Maciej Korczyński, Next Generation Firewalls by Johannes Loxen, Running a Bug Bounty Program by Gavin Brown. One of our customers, Brett Carr from Nominet, presented Anycast in the Cloud which highlighted how Nominet built an global anycast network on NetActuate’s platform, and then connected it into the cloud to ensure fast, reliable resolution of URLs ending in “.uk.”
ICANN63’s events also included a DNSSEC workshop that lasted almost a full day. According to ICANN:
“Recently vulnerabilities in the DNS were discovered that allow an attacker to hijack this process of looking some one up or looking a site up on the Internet using their name. The purpose of the attack is to take control of the session to, for example, send the user to the hijacker’s own deceptive web site for account and password collection.”
DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions), are a way to address this threat. Although everyone knows that DNSSEC is critical, adoption has been slow for a number of both business and technical reasons.
During our time at ICANN63, we enjoyed spending time with our customers and learning more about their new products and services. At NetActuate, we provide foundational services that empower our customer’s platforms, connecting their products and services with the lowest possible latency to communities around the world. It’s amazing to be a trusted connectivity and infrastructure partner to so many different businesses, each with their own unique approach to solving their customer’s problems, and delivering world class service.