The 7 people who can restart the Internet

ICANN picks the team that will reignite the fire shoud it go out

Call them this era's Magnificent Seven. Seven people around the world hold the keys to the Internet, uniquely charged to restart the global network should a terrorist attack, hacking event or other calamity put it out of commission.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers developed the plan and chose the seven keyholders, according to a report at NewScientist.com. In the event of a major attack, the keyholders would combine the code they hold to recover the master signing key, necessary to restore the Web servers that power much of the Internet.

While no one could actually turn off the entire Internet, the new Domain Name System Security Extensions being deployed throughout the system ensures that Web sites had official approval and are digitally signed to document their authenticity. In the event of a major attack, DNSSEC could break the connections to the signed sites to protect them, according to a report in Metro in the United Kingdom.

The keyholders would be summoned to a base in the United States to oversee a reboot of the system, using their keys to enable it.

ICANN has chosen not to keep the keyholders' identies secret. They are:

  • Paul Kane, chief executive officer of CommunityDN in England;
  • Dan Kaminsky, chief scientist at Recursion Ventures in New York City;
  • Jiankang Yao of China;
  • Moussa Guebre of Burkina Faso;
  • Bevil Wooding from Trinidad and Tobago;
  • Ondrej Sury of the Czech Republic, and;
  • Norm Ritchie of Canada.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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Reader comments

Tue, Sep 15, 2015

There are seven keys but five are required to reboot the internet

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 Indianapolis

There must be more to the story. Surely all 7 keys aren't required. Otherwise China could imprison/kill their keyholder and then attack/shutdown the internet knowing there was no way to "rekey" it.

Fri, Jul 30, 2010 Rick Murphy Falls Church, Virginia

This is really making a mountain out of a molehill. The seven people each have part of the private key that was used to sign the DNS root. If that root gets somehow compromosed and has to be revoked, the seven will get together and sign a new root key. This has nothing at all to do with "restarting" the Internet. The Metro report is equally inaccurate; unfortunately, you've just added credibility to their inaccurate reporting.

Thu, Jul 29, 2010 misty

Seven keys to rule it all :)

Thu, Jul 29, 2010

What would happen if one or more of them were killed during the terrorist attack?

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