A blog post from Jordan Carter, InternetNZ Chief Executive
28 January 2020
Over the years, you may have heard about people with “keys to the Internet,” and while this sounds secretive and exciting, like something from a spy or thriller movie, the truth has been twisted and changed so many times that it’s time to set the record straight.
Why do I need to do this? Beyond our mission to keep the Internet open, secure and for all New Zealanders, our very own Sebastian Castro has been accepted as a Trusted Community Representative! This is a huge recognition and we’re all very proud of Sebastian for being accepted.
That brings me back to the opening. While Trusted Community Representatives (TCRs) are important, less focus should be given to those with the “keys” and more to what this means, and why such keys are important. That’s what I want to clear up in this post.
What are Trusted Community Representatives?
TCRs play an important role in the everyday running of the Internet, even if it’s not well-known. There are different roles within this group, and members come from around the world who have plenty of experience with - and a strong connection to - the Internet and the Domain Name System, or DNS. This ensures there’s fair representation across countries, meaning no one place can be accused of favouritism.
The vetting process can take a long time, years even, and the number of spaces are limited so not everyone will be accepted. Being so thorough means those who do join are known and trusted across the industry, and keeping that level of trust is important for general users and the Internet community.
What do TCRs do?
So, we’ve established there’s a group and they have different roles.
Of this group, seven hold keys. These keys are required every three months for a ceremony to keep the Internet working as we know it. It’s important to note that these ceremonies don’t require all seven keys, and these individuals will normally attend only two of the four ceremonies each year.
These events are what keep the Internet running smoothly, and it’s all to do with the DNS. They’re called the Root Key Signing Ceremonies. While these are important occasions, and the key holders are essential to it, this is just one part of the Internet, which is why the phrase “keys to the Internet” is misleading. However, understanding what it involves shows us how important it actually is.
Put simply, every web address you type, with internetnz.nz being a good example, is linked to a series of numbers - the IP address of, for example, the server where the website lives. These numbers are the real web addresses, and they can be updated many times each day. The Root Key Signing Ceremony refreshes the cryptographic keys that add extra security to the DNS. If this didn’t happen, you might find yourself unable to reach the right websites - or, worse, being directed to the wrong ones - and this opens you up to scams, malware and phishing sites.
That’s what makes TCRs so important to our daily use of the Internet - without them we’d be lost...literally!
In case something goes wrong there are also Cryptographic Officers, Recovery Key Share Holders and Backup TCRs around the world, each with their own roles should they be needed.
What does this mean for New Zealand?
Sebastian’s success means he has a bigger part to play in ensuring the DNS is accurate for Internet users across the globe. It also means another direct connection to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the organisation that carries out the Root Key Signing Ceremonies, and New Zealand. This can only be a benefit to us.
Having a TCR in New Zealand again is very exciting and proves we have talented and engaged individuals who want to do their part to keep the Internet safe, secure and open to everyone. This ties in well with our mission and goals at InternetNZ. By continuing to advise on policy and regulation, along with making the Internet more open and accessible to all Kiwis, we’re showing that New Zealand has a lot to offer the rest of the world in realising the goal of an Internet for everyone.
To that end, I’m glad that all of the people working at InternetNZ are dedicated not only to improving their own skills but also how they can positively impact the lives of everyone in the country. This is just one example of that.
Once again, congratulations Sebastian!
Chief Executive, InternetNZ