Former hacker 'Dark Tangent' issues warning over new internet rules

Rules to dictate the future of the internet being drawn up in Dubai will be technically impossible to implement, the world's authority on Web addresses has warned.

Jeff Moss, the vice-president of Icann, says the WCIT has overplayed the role of governments and excluded the internet builders. Silvia Razgova / The National
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Rules being drawn up in Dubai to dictate the future of the internet will be technically impossible to implement, an expert from the world's authority on Web addresses has warned.

Jeff Moss, a reformed hacker once known as "The Dark Tangent"who is now vice-president and chief security officer at the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), says proposals being agreed at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) will be unworkable.

That is because the Dubai conference has overplayed the involvement of governments and excluded the people who actually built the internet, says Mr Moss.

"It is leaving out the people who do the internet," he said. "Over 90 per cent of the internet is owned by individuals and companies, not by governments.

"So by having governments have this conversation, it leaves out the people who built the internet, who designed the technology that runs the internet - the researchers and academics."

Icann is the official body that allocates domain names and addresses for websites all over the world. These unique identifiers create one global internet.

Concerns have been raised that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN agency and the organiser of the WCIT, and some proposals put forward by member states will try to sideline Icann.

Fadi Chehade, the chief executive of Icann, addressed the conference on Monday and suggested the two bodies could cooperate for the first time and have "complementary roles".

Yet Mr Moss was doubtful of how effective the conference would be towards reaching its key goals.

"Until everybody is included, it will be really hard to mandate a solution. You can sign a treaty, but the concern is the treaty will be technically impossible to implement because the people who know the technology were not involved," he said.

The WCIT aims to review the International Telecommunication Regulations, which were last reviewed in 1988.

Sarah Parkes, the chief of media relations and public information at ITU, disagreed with Mr Moss's claims.

"Delegates can go into the panel sessions. The media has been allowed in.

"There is a huge amount of delegates from the private sector. It is entirely up to the delegation to appoint their spokespersons," she said. "The whole meeting is extremely collaborative. This is about networks. You can't start taking political-posturing type decisions. It's a really technical event. You have to make sure that the technology works with the technology of another [country]."

Yet while delegates do have access to the sessions, only governments have the right to put forward a proposal.

"There is not a lot of inclusion of civil society. At this stage it seems to be state-to-state, but at some point it needs to be more civil-to-civil," said Mr Moss.

Mr Moss likened the ITU's proposals to the Stop Online Piracy Act bill that the US government considered last year. That proposal attracted widespread public opposition, with Google drawing 7 million signatures to prevent its enactment.

"Congress tried to pass a law that would mandate technical solutions to problems, but the technology did not work that way. Had they passed the law they would have ended up breaking things. That's why it's important we spend a lot of time educating policymakers so they don't make bad policy," said Mr Moss.

Others have accused the ITU of trying to regulate and control the internet. One of the most vocal opponents of WCIT has been Google, which began an online campaign against the conference and some of the proposals a year ago.

One of the proposals that has attracted opposition is the introduction of a fee or network tax to content providers for using telecoms networks.

Mr Moss said this approach would negate the internet's purpose of creating "a global environment where information is equally accessible".

"Every country has a sovereign right to do what it wants within its own borders, but the concern is if it's not coordinated, you'll end up in a situation where you'll have regions or Balkanisations of the internet.

"If you start adding issues about trying to collect revenue on pay per click, why would you host in a country that charges per click? It would create islands of different experience," said Mr Moss.