Meet the 7 People Who Hold the Keys To Internet Security

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: seven keys, held by individuals from all over the world. Together, their keys create a master key, which in turn controls one of the central security measures at the core of the Web. Their responsibility is to restart the system in case of disaster. Since no one trusts anyone completely on the Internet, the only way to create a key that the Internet will trust, and therefore use, is to have no one party control it. The seven individuals were carefully chosen to make sure different parts of the world were represented. So, who are these keyholders? From the United States is Dan Kaminsky, Chief Scientist of White Ops, a firm specializing in detecting malware activity. Other members include Paul Kane from the UK; Bevil Wooding from Trinidad and Tobago; Jiankang Yao of China; Moussa Guebre of Burkina Faso; Norm Ritchie from Canada; and Ondrej Sury of the Czech Republic. The physical keys unlock safe deposit boxes stashed around the world, and inside those boxes are smart key cards. Put the seven smart keys together and you have the master key. The master key is actually computer code that can access the database of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which is responsible for assigning numerical Internet addresses to websites and computers. If someone were to gain control of ICANN’s database, that person would control the Internet. That’s why it’s important that someone outside of ICANN be able to restart the Internet in the case of an extreme disaster.