The IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) maintains standards for the fundamental technologies and services used on the global internet. The standards body held its 88th meeting this month with 1100 engineers and technologists from the world over discussing the need to upgrade internet standards to counter pervasive surveillance online. Bruce Schneier notes the urgency of improving internet protocols for online security. “The Internet has been turned into a giant surveillance machine. This is not just about any particular country or individual action. We need to work broadly to fix the problems of today and tomorrow,” said Bruce Schneier while speaking at the meeting’s technical plenary.
More than 100 working group sessions were held during the event. These working groups have been carrying out a systematic review of internet security with a focus on building strong foundations for privacy and security online. “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.”
Even as the IETF commits to the technical undertaking of internet privacy Russ Housley, the Chair of Internet Architecture Board notes that “others need to take on the non-technical aspects that are part of a comprehensive response to mass surveillance on the Internet.”
The process of adopting internet standards has been created to be open and transparent. The process includes reviewing and critiquing standards and protocols which have been proposed for information exchange over the internet. The promise of openness allows interested parties to participate in reviewing and critiquing the different standards. The process also offers a clear audit trail for inspection by the public.