Just 14 People Possess The Secret Keys to The Internet We Use

The internet may be considered one of the most open mediums to have been available to the public, but a new Business Insider report reaffirms that few things which look so good actually are.

Turns out, the entire internet’s responsibility is held by fourteen individuals who hold seven high-security keys. Should, in a hostile scenario, the keys all get obtained by a single party, the entire internet could come under the authority of a single individual. That individual will likely be among the most, if not the most, powerful man to have lived.

Come Thursday, most of them would come together in a Root Signing Ceremony, where new private root keys are generated. The ceremony is largely procedural and was initiated in 2010 by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which assigns numerical IP addresses of websites and computers.

The ICANN choses seven people to hold keys, and seven further people to hold backup keys. As this Guardian article points out, the smart card required to generate the master key is itself held in an incredibly protected environment.

The fact mentioned at the top was highlighted when Dyn, a Domain Name System provider (it acts as a buffer to help computers decode webpages) was attacked by hackers on Friday. The hackers took it offline for a few hours and couldn’t compromise any details but still brought down sites such as Amazon, Twitter, Github, Spotify, Netflix and Business Insider, placing enormous responsibility on the key holders.

Thursday’s ceremony is more significant than usual as the key pair which sits under the DNS will be changed for the first time. The ceremony will be streamed live on ICANN’s website, by the way.

Of course, ICANN had to carry out such an important event for it to maintain trust in the eyes of the public. The details are less grisly than one would expect, with participants going out to celebrate after the ceremony.

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