As the Internet is increasingly becoming a vehicle for large-scale surveillance, an Internet task force is pledging to improve Internet security and privacy.
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is holding its 88th meeting this week, drawing over 1,100 engineers and technologists from around the globe to Vancouver. The focus of the meeting is Internet security, more specifically protecting against pervasive surveillance.
“Ensuring the global Internet is a trusted platform for billions of users is a core and ongoing concern for the IETF community. Discussions over the past few months, including many in the more than 100 working group sessions this week, are carefully and systematically reviewing Internet security and exploring ways to improve privacy and other aspects of security for different applications,” said Jari Arkko, Chair of the IETF. “Internet security has many facets, and the IETF is focused on ensuring that the technical Internet protocols that it develops provide a strong foundation for privacy and security.”
The IETF is the Internet’s standards organization. It focuses on the evolution of the Internet and ensuring that the Internet runs smoothly from an engineering point of view. IETF standards form the foundation for online services used billions of times each day, including instant messaging, email and domain names. The task force says its participants are looking at new approaches to Internet security.
“The Internet has been turned into a giant surveillance machine,” said Bruce Schneier, who spoke at the meeting’s technical plenary. “This is not just about any particular country or individual action. We need to work broadly to fix the problems of today and tomorrow.”
With this in mind, the Internet task force is taking action. It’s working to develop technical specifications for improving the privacy and security of the Internet. The IETF says that it has reached a broad consensus to improve the security of Internet protocols, to respond to pervasive surveillance.
“The IETF is taking steps to develop the technical specifications to improve the privacy and security of the Internet,” said Russ Housley, Chair of Internet Architecture Board. “However, others need to take on the non-technical aspects that are part of a comprehensive response to mass surveillance on the Internet.”
Other IETF leaders agree that steps need to be taken: “At the IETF technical plenary, participants agreed that the current situation of pervasive surveillance represents an attack on the Internet,” said Stephen Farrell, one of the IETF’s two Security Area Directors. “While there are challenges isolating the specific areas of attack that IETF protocols can mitigate, all of the working groups that considered the topic have started planning to address the threat using IETF tools that can mitigate aspects of the problem.”
IETF participation is open to any interested individuals. Its international community includes network designers, engineers, operators, vendors and researchers.