There has been a bit of buzz lately regarding an Internet “kill switch” and a handful of trusted individuals given the responsibility of rebooting the Internet, should it go down from cyber attack or be shut down for whatever reason.
The operation is born of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICAAN). ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable, and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.
ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet. But through its role coordinating the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.
Popsci reports that “part of ICANN’s security scheme is the Domain Name System Security (DNSSEC), a security protocol that ensures Web sites are registered and “signed” (this is the security measure built into the Web that ensures when you go to a URL you arrive at a real site and not an identical pirate site). Most major servers are a part of DNSSEC , as it’s known, and during a major international attack, the system might sever connections between important servers to contain the damage.”
The lucky seven holders of the smartcard keys are from all over the world. Each key has an encrypted number which is part of the DNSSEC root key that by themselves are useless, but combined they have the ability to restart the Internet. The process of rebooting the web requires five of the seven key holders to be in the United States together with their keys. That’s a pretty lofty responsibility for anyone. You can learn more about the card process in this video.