Agencies will team up with ICANN to raise Web security

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology announced Wednesday that they will work with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit group that administers the Internet addressing system, to enhance Web security and stability in the face of increasing global threats.

The announcement came on the eve of a House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee hearing intended to explore ICANN's relationship with the U.S. government.

The agencies will collaborate with ICANN and Internet infrastructure firm Verisign to create an interim approach to put into place by year's end a security technology at the authoritative root zone, the address book for the Internet. Verisign is under contract with ICANN to run the .net and .com Domain Name System as well as the authoritative root zone.

There will be further consultations with the Internet technical community as the testing and implementation plans progress, officials said.

"The Internet is an ever-increasing means of communications and commerce, and this success is due in part to the Internet domain name and addressing system," Acting NTIA Administrator Anna Gomez said in a news release. "The administration is committed to preserving the stability and security of the DNS."

NIST has been active in developing specifications for securing information provided by the DNS, and the forthcoming activity will speed up the global rollout of those protocols, NIST Information Technology Laboratory Director Cita Furlani added.

Witnesses at today's hearing will focus on the Sept. 30 expiration of a joint project agreement that has allowed Commerce Department oversight of ICANN amid transparency and accountability concerns. NTIA Associate Administrator Fiona Alexander will tell the subcommittee that regardless of whether the JPA is terminated, modified, or extended, her agency will be active as part of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee and by filing comments in various public consultations.

Also on Wednesday, former Vice President Al Gore and Vint Cerf, known to many as the father of the Internet, released statements in support of ICANN.

Gore, who chaired an interagency panel 12 years ago that led to the group's creation, emphasized the ICANN model works. Cerf, a longtime chairman of ICANN's board who is now Google's chief Internet evangelist, said the group is "better positioned to fulfill its mandate" than ever before and the JPA should be allowed to expire.