August 14, 2008

A CYBER-HOLE IN HOMELAND SECURITY?

Despite a recent high-profile vulnerability that showed the net could be hacked in minutes, the domain name system — a key internet infrastructure — continues to suffer from a serious security weakness, thanks to bureaucratic inertia at the U.S. government agency in charge, security experts say.

If the complicated politics of internet governance continue to get in the way of upgrading the security of the net’s core technology, the internet could turn into a carnival house of mirrors, where no URL or e-mail address could be trusted to be genuine, according to Bill Woodcock, research director at the nonprofit Packet Clearing House.

“The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the Department of Commerce, is the show-stopper here,” Woodcock said.

At issue is the trustworthiness of the domain name system, or DNS, which serves as the internet’s phone book, translating queries such as wikipedia.org into the numeric IP address where the site’s server lives.

Bureaucracies tend to move slowly, which is not an asset here. Bring back Janice Obuchowski!

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