DHS could tap data on Internet domain names

The Homeland Security Department wants VeriSign Inc. to allow it access to the so-called master keys of the Internet to allow authorities to better track suspected terrorist activity, according to published reports.

Whether DHS actually made such a request is unclear. An industry source close to VeriSign and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers said a federal contractor at a recent ICANN meeting offered the idea of DHS obtaining the master keys, but that DHS has not taken any official action on it.

The keys enable identification of sources of domain names. A spokesman for DHS' National Cyber Security Division declined to comment on the reports, published in the German magazine Heise Online and in other UK and German newspapers. Requests for further information from department officials received no response.

The reports say DHS wants access to the "key-signing key" to the Internet domain name system currently held by VeriSign. The topic reportedly was raised at an ICANN meeting in Lisbon, Portugal.

According to Heise Online, European Union Commission officials are discussing the matter.

John Papa, a spokesman for Greg Garcia, assistant secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications at DHS, told Washington Technology that Garcia was not involved in the recent ICANN meeting and has not commented on the newspaper reports about the master keys.

Papa said the DHS Science and Technology Directorate is the lead for the department's work with ICANN, but officials there did not respond to requests for comment.

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