Security to trump other matters at ICANN meeting

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have caused numerous organizations to increase their focus on security and ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which oversees the address system for the Internet, is no different.

In late September, ICANN announced that its November meeting, to be held next week in Marina Del Ray, California, would focus on security issues facing the Internet's name and address system. The move prompted critics to say that ICANN was ignoring other pressing matters including a study on how its at-large membership, ostensibly all Internet users, participate in its policy-making and matters concerning country code domain names and new registries.

Those criticisms are inaccurate because nothing critical is being pushed aside in favor of the focus on security, according to ICANN President and Chief Executive Officer Stuart M. Lynn, who spoke at a press conference Thursday. By changing the focus of the November meeting, ICANN hopes to raise general awareness of security issues and problems within its membership, to help its membership adopt best security practices and to discuss any needed policy changes, Lynn said.

The meetings, set for Monday through Thursday, are "intended to bring people into the discussion" and to "make sure there aren't some things we're missing," he said.

Lynn brushed aside concerns that the at-large membership committee study was being neglected, saying that the study wouldn't have been dealt with extensively at the meeting as a comment period is required before action can be taken. The study is likely to be accepted and redistributed for comment, but without further action, he said. The study examined ways Internet users can participate in ICANN decision-making and elections.

The change of focus to security at the meeting "is not having any affect on the schedule of the at-large study committee," he said.

Making security the key issue at the November meeting is important because "if we don't have a secure, stable domain name system, we can just as well forget about everything else," Lynn said.

ICANN won't be focusing on Internet security as a general topic, he said, but rather will specifically examine the security of the domain system because that is the area ICANN influences. However, ICANN does not view domain name security as a major problem, Lynn said.

Trying to counter the perception that ICANN had changed its focus, Lynn said that domain name security "was a subject of discussion before Sept. 11 and will be a topic of discussion long after." ICANN's move to examine security issues was not a response to any specific threats, he said.

Earlier this week, the U.S. National Infrastructure Protection Center warned of an increased likelihood of Internet attacks. The federally-funded computer security body CERT/CC also said in late October that Internet infrastructure, such as routers, is becoming an increasingly large target for attack.

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