“In 22 short days, if Congress fails to act, the Obama administration intends to give away control of the internet to an international body akin to the United Nations.” – Senator Ted Cruz (September 8, 2016)
On Friday, October 21, the nation experienced massive internet outages as a result of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. It took down major websites like Twitter, Reddit, Yelp, Netflix, Spotify, and the New York Times. This was a result of a coordinated attack on Dyn, a major DNS host. Essentially, DNS is like the address book of online addresses. This attack is like wiping the map clean of addresses and then trying to use your GPS to get somewhere.
Below is a map of the outages.
What’s unique about this attack is that it used internet connected devices. In other words, it wasn’t a direct hack, it was a DVR machine running malicious hardware, an unsecured router, a toaster, or a television. The identity of the attackers hasn’t been made public yet, if anyone even knows who did it, but many in the US believe it to be of Russian origin.
Over the last couple months, Republicans, led by Senator Ted Cruz, have been warning Americans that it would be dangerous for the Obama Administration to relinquish control of the internet. Essentially, President Obama and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) let the contract between the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) expire on Ocober 1. This means that ICANN will be self governing, like all other nonprofits. ICANN says it’s always been self governing, even when under contract with the US Government.
ICANN is an American nonprofit based in California that was created by the US Department of Commerce in 1998. Until October 1, the US Government, in theory, had the final say over the domain name system, but there’s no evidence to suggest that the US Government intervened in that way.
Did the Obama administration cause this by giving away DNS stewardship to an international body?
In my opinion, yes and no.
The Obama administration did relinquish control of a crucial part of the internet to an international nonprofit based in California, but they did so with a multi-year plan and the blessing of most of the major tech companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google.
Did this directly cause the outage? No.
Did it embolden hackers since there’s no US Government covering? Probably.