Radio Netherlands Worldwide

SSO Login

More login possibilities:

Close
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • LinkedIn
Home
Friday 31 October  
In response to NSA revelations, the internet’s engineers PRISM-proof the net
Map
Nusa Dua, Indonesia
Nusa Dua, Indonesia

In response to NSA revelations, the internet’s engineers set out to PRISM-proof the net

Published on : 26 October 2013 - 12:25pm | By Julie Blussé (CC)
More about:

Greatly disturbed by the recent revelations of mass internet surveillance, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) have announced plans to ramp up online security. You may never have heard of them, but the IETF are the creators and engineers of the internet’s architecture. Is there a technical solution to the problem of mass surveillance?

For the IETF, Edward Snowden’s revelations were “a wake-up call,” said Jari Arkko, the task force’s chair. Arkko spoke at this week’s UN-initiated Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia. Surprised by the scale and tactics of surveillance, Arkko stated the engineers are “looking at technical changes that will raise the bar for monitoring.”

“Perhaps the notion that internet is by default insecure needs to change,” he said. The IETF’s will is there, and Arkko believes significant technical fixes  “just might be possible.”

Technical, not political

The engineers of the IETF keep a low profile, but they have been crucial to creating and setting the standards on which the internet was built, ever since its birth in 1969. They have developed email, instant messaging, and many protocols that hide behind acronyms that sound familiar yet mysterious to most Internet users, like HTTP and TCP/IP.

As the internet evolved from an academic project into a global network, the role governments and companies played in how it functions grew dramatically. But the IETF maintained its well-respected role, thanks in part to its fervently apolitical stance and focus on technical issues.

That focus remains in the current plans to make the internet more resistant to mass surveillance, Arkko emphasised in an interview with RNW: “This is a technical, not a political decision.” 

In his speech, Arkko chose his words carefully as he addressed an audience comprising representatives from governments that perpetrate the same mass-surveillance he hopes to curtail.

“I do not think we should react to specific cases,” Arkko stated during the forum’s opening sessions. “But our commerce, business and personal communications are all depending on the internet technology being secure and trusted.”

More, new and better security

Ideas about how the internet might be secured against mass surveillance are currently discussed over the IETF’s publicly accessible mailing lists, to which anyone can subscribe and contribute. While nothing is set in stone yet, Arkko sketched out a few of the IETF’s ideas in his public address.

Firstly, the IETF wants to eventually apply encryption to all web traffic.

“Today, security only gets switched on for certain services like banking,” Arkko explained, referring to IETF-developed standards like SSL the little lock that appears in the upper left corner of your browser to secure online purchases. “If we work hard, we can make [the entire internet] secure by default.” To this end, the IETF might make encryption mandatory for HTTP 2.0, a new version of the basic web protocol.

Secondly, the IETF plans to remove weak algorithms and strengthen existing algorithms behind encryption. This means that the US National Security Agency and other surveillors will find it harder to crack current forms of encryption.

In other words: the IETF proposes putting locks in more places and making existing locks harder to pick. If the protocols are applied, intercepting the traffic between any two points on the internet— the sender and receiver of an email, the visitor and owner of a website, the buyer and seller of a product—will be close to impossible.

Starting November 3, the IETF will hold a week of meetings in Vancouver, Canada to concretise the online security plans in person.

Raising the bar for surveillance

The IETF is confident that their plans will make a difference, but what do other experts on the internet’s technical infrastructure think?

Axl Pavlik, managing director of the Europe’s Internet Registry (RIPE NCC), is guardedly optimistic. 

“It wouldn’t stop the problem, but it would make the effort [of surveillance] more expensive.”

Pavlik likens the plans to a successful countermove in an indefinite arms race between internet users and snoopers.

“You and I have limited resources, and the surveillor has limited resources –maybe more than we have – but if millions of users of the internet raise the bar a little bit, the requirements to surveil every little bit of internet traffic would be much higher,” he explained to RNW.

The IETF’s plans also benefit people who are already encrypting their online activities themselves, argued Marco Hogewoning, technical adviser to RIPE NCC. According to him, these people currently stick out like a sore thumb to the very surveillors they hope to evade.

“If you see an armoured car now on the street, you know there must be something valuable inside,” Hogewoning explained. “If everybody drives around in an armoured car, I can go around and put a lot of effort into breaking into each and every car, and hope I get lucky and find something valuable inside, but it might be empty. If everybody encrypts everything, all you can see is armoured cars.”

Take it or leave it

Yet while the IETF can propose standards and protocols, it has no power to enforce their adoption. The onus to adopt the standards lies with the software developers who make browsers and web servers, as well as website owners, and everyday internet users who need to heed browser updates.

“It’s a great initiative,” said Gillo Cutrupi, a digital security trainer at Tactical Tech. “But it if it’s not adopted, it’s just a piece of paper.”

A standard like HTTPS, for instance, can already be applied by every website to improve security. Cutrupi explains that many websites unfortunately still make use of unsafe options.

Such options might be popular because they are easier to use. Some websites don’t care for security, and ignore the standard; Yahoo Mail will only make HTTPS encryption the default setting starting January 2014.

Yet Arkko, the IETF chair, doesn’t see universal adoption as a big hurdle. “I have no worry about that,” he said. “Our standards are very widely applied.”

He stressed that in addition to increased security, newer standards offer multiple advantages.

“HTTP 2.0 has many other improvements.” In one example, he pointed out that “for the users, websites would load faster.”

These improvements would no doubt serve as an incentive for websites to implement the new protocol.

The end point of trust

Yet one major caveat remains. While the IETF might be able to secure the pipes through which users’ data travel, users must also be able to trust the parties where their data is stored: software, hardware and services such as Cisco, Gmail and Facebook. These parties can hand over user data directly to government agencies.

Arkko stressed the limitations of what the internet’s engineers can do. “We are trying to do as much as we can,” he explained, “which will help situations where there’s someone in the network monitoring you. It will not help situations where someone has direct access to your email provider.”

Axl Pavlik identifies the problem of trust at another level altogether

“In the end, it’s down to public policy, governments, secret services. And maybe the secret court orders to release a key [which] we will never know about. That shatters the trust of the internet as we know it. That’s the very bad situation that we need to get out of.”

Discussion

ovieta 24 October 2014 - 4:34am / indonesia

Thank you for the information you have conveyed in this web. http://exl.me/mkan

girish 14 October 2014 - 1:13pm / India

It is very nice to listen to your discussion on specific topic here. I too believe your points here. keep posting sensible blogs. however i need to grasp additional news concerning more about this topic and for that asking your facilitate. http://itfootprints.com/training.php?dd=Federation-Security-Services

toke 11 October 2014 - 5:03am / indonesia

very interesting information thank you for sharing information may be useful http://minyakikan.web.id/obat-trigliserida-tinggi-alami/ obat trigliserida tinggi alami

Jony Smith 8 October 2014 - 1:35pm

I actually enjoyed this site. Regards for sharing with us your mind. http://www.healthforus.info

Anonymous 8 October 2014 - 3:59am / Tasikmalaya

I am glad to visit your website
Thanks for the news
Greetings healthy
Obat Polip Hidung Herbal

ovieta 3 October 2014 - 5:18am / indonesia

information that you provide is very helpful. thank you

obat penyakit hepatitis

Sad Quotes 25 September 2014 - 6:51am / India

It is very nice to listen to your discussion on specific topic here. I too believe your points here. keep posting sensible blogs. however i need to grasp additional news concerning more about this topic and for that asking your facilitate. http://sadquotes.in

jojo khan 24 September 2014 - 1:53pm / newyork

great post! i enjoyed reading it keep up the great work i have got something new from here and i would love to read something new from you in future
Gright price pakistan

cricket live streaming 18 September 2014 - 1:06pm / usa

I just want to say I am newbie to blogs and actually enjoyed this site. Very likely I’m planning to bookmark your site . You absolutely have superb stories. Regards for sharing with us your mind.
cricket live streaming

extra ordinary 6 September 2014 - 12:05pm / newyork

awesome post dude, i hope you keep doing this work, like this was very useful for me thanks
extra ordinary

Sony Alexa 27 August 2014 - 8:30am

ADVERTISERS could stalk us. NO ONE whose involved in the design or engineering of the Internet will EVER do ANYTHING to hinder the NSA in any substantial way if they want to continue working with the IETF. http://www.rugged-wifi.com

Obat Gondok 6 October 2014 - 1:21pm / Indonesia

sundul Gan Obat GOndok

Obat Gondok 6 October 2014 - 1:25pm / Indonesia

mantap gan Obat Gondok

Obat Gondok 6 October 2014 - 1:23pm / Indonesia
Anonymous 22 July 2014 - 4:20pm

Given how the IETF wors, the politics and the messy, complex, over-engineered committee-work that has poured out from there the past decade or more, it is clear no increase of security can be expected from there. NSA does not have to sabotage their attempts, they do it themselves. Luckily, the industry keeps ignoring their work.

Obat Gondok 6 October 2014 - 1:25pm / Indonesia
brenwa7 13 July 2014 - 10:09am

Yet one major caveat remains. While the IETF might be able to secure the pipes through which users’ data travel, users must also be able to trust the parties where their data is stored: software, hardware and services such as Cisco, Gmail and Facebook. These parties can hand over user data directly to government agencies.

Arkko stressed the limitations of what the internet’s engineers can do. “We are trying to do as much as we can,” he explained, “which will help situations where there’s someone in the network monitoring you. It will not help situations where someone has direct access to your email provider.”

Axl Pavlik identifies the problem of trust at another level altogether

“In the end, it’s down to public policy, governments, secret services. And maybe the secret court orders to release a key [which] we will never know about. That shatters the trust of the internet as we know it. That’s the very bad situation that we need to get out of.”

judi bola online

Obat Gondok 6 October 2014 - 1:27pm / Indonesia

mantap gan Obat Gondok

Anonymous 6 July 2014 - 6:17am / Vietnam

Everyone knows that FB Marketing is hot right now. FB Content Pro is a software will allow you to capture that trend and make a nice profit due to the ease of use of the plugin, but also it’s incredible power to have all internet content at your fingertips and ready to post to any fanpage or facebook group.
FB Content Pro Review

pakraflhi 7 July 2014 - 11:49pm / pakhasanuddin@gmail.com

kami sekeluarga tak lupa mengucapkan puji syukur kepada ALLAH S,W,T
dan terima kasih banyak kepada AKI atas nomor togel.nya yang AKI
berikan 4 angkah 0228 alhamdulillah ternyata itu benar2 tembus AKI.
dan alhamdulillah sekarang saya bisa melunasi semua utan2 saya yang
ada sama tetangga.dan juga BANK BRI dan bukan hanya itu AKI. insya
allah saya akan coba untuk membuka usaha sendiri demi mencukupi
kebutuhan keluarga saya sehari-hari itu semua berkat bantuan AKI..
sekali lagi makasih banyak ya AKI… bagi saudara yang suka main togel
.
yang ingin merubah nasib seperti saya silahkan hubungi AKI SOLEH,,di
0823 1333 6747,, insya allah anda bisa seperti saya…menang togel 175
juta, wassalam.

dijamin 100% jebol saya sudah buktikan...sendiri....

Apakah anda termasuk dalam kategori di bawah ini !!!!

1"Dikejar-kejar hutang

2"Selaluh kalah dalam bermain togel

3"Barang berharga anda udah habis terjual Buat judi togel

4"Anda udah kemana-mana tapi tidak menghasilkan solusi yg tepat

5"Udah banyak Dukun togel yang kamu tempati minta angka jitunya
tapi tidak ada satupun yang berhasil..

Solusi yang tepat jangan anda putus aza....AKI SOLEH akan membantu
anda semua dengan Angka ritwal/GHOIB:
butuh angka togel 2D3D4D SGP / HKG / MALAYSIA / TOTO MAGNUM / dijamin
100% jebol
Apabila ada waktu
silahkan Hub: AKI SOLEH DI NO: (((082313336747)))

angka GHOIB: singapur 2D/3D/4D/

angka GHOIB: hongkong 2D/3D/4D/

angka GHOIB; malaysia

angka GHOIB; toto magnum 4D/5D/6D/

angka GHOIB; laos

pg 24 May 2014 - 3:55pm

For the bride, the wedding ceremony, in addition to the dress according to the happiest moments in life, the choice of dress is also very important. It can reflect the bride's personality and aesthetic greater extent. The bride's dress can colors, styles, fabrics and other aspects of different options. For most brides, the romance may be their first choice. Lace flounced fabric and design elements are classicGalajurken
Galajurken 2014

pg 24 May 2014 - 3:48pm

For the bride, the wedding ceremony, in addition to the dress according to the happiest moments in life, the choice of dress is also very important. It can reflect the bride's personality and aesthetic greater extent. The bride's dress can colors, styles, fabrics and other aspects of different options. For most brides, the romance may be their first choice. Lace flounced fabric and design elements are classicGalajurken
Galajurken 2014

Anonymous 23 May 2014 - 2:44pm

For the bride, the wedding ceremony, in addition to the dress according to the happiest moments in life, the choice of dress is also very important. It can reflect the bride's personality and aesthetic greater extent. The bride's dress can colors, styles, fabrics and other aspects of different options. For most brides, the romance may be their first choice. Lace flounced fabric and design elements are classicGalajurken 2014
Lange Galajurken>

Anonymous 23 May 2014 - 2:42pm

For the bride, the wedding ceremony, in addition to the dress according to the happiest moments in life, the choice of dress is also very important. It can reflect the bride's personality and aesthetic greater extent. The bride's dress can colors, styles, fabrics and other aspects of different options. For most brides, the romance may be their first choice. Lace flounced fabric and design elements are classicGalajurken 2014
Lange Galajurken>

Anonymous 22 May 2014 - 2:17am

For the bride, the wedding ceremony, in addition to the dress according to the happiest moments in life, the choice of dress is also very important. It can reflect the bride's personality and aesthetic greater extent. The bride's dress can colors, styles, fabrics and other aspects of different options. For most brides, the romance may be their first choice. Lace flounced fabric and design elements are classicGalajurken
Galajurken 2014

Anonymous 21 May 2014 - 3:45pm

Good choice, better reflect their own perfection. A unique Trouwjurken, Samaranch not the same as your own!

Post new comment

Please be reminded all comments must be in English, short and to the point - guideline 250 words. Abusive and inappropriate comments will be removed.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

RNW on Facebook

RNW Player

Video highlights

Ladies on the move
RNW is keen on featuring inspiring women in our target countries, women who...
What about men?
In many countries, men don't stick around to raise their children. This is...