Photo Op: You too can have your picture taken with

I don't whether to laugh or cry. Its just a computer.

If you destroyed the copy of the US Constitution in the National Archives
in Washington DC, would that mean the end of the US Government? If someone
broke into NARA and scribbled a new amendment on the tail of the
parchment, would the US Government be bound to follow what ever he wrote
on the Constitution? No, of course not.

The Root Zone files aren't unique historical documents, and there is
nothing special about the copy on If a tornado blew
through Verisign's offices tomorrow, would it mean the end of the
Internet? No. If someone corrupted Verisign's files, would that mean we
have to follow the bogus records? No, we'd clean them up. Or more likely,
the other operators would rollback their zone files to the previous known
good copy.

Would it disrupt our operations. Yes. Would it be irrecoverable? No.
The root files are important business records, and I expect the custodian
to take reasonable precautions appropriate for their value. Do I expect
to see machine-gun nests outside Verisign's office? No. is just a piece of hardware. If it was destroyed,
we've got more.

However, do not forget that only Verisign operates the .com, .net, and
.org name servers.

While it seems that the government meeting yesterday was focused on
physical security, which as pointed out below, is somewhat a moot point
given the physical diversity of the multiple boxes, we
can't forget about the network security of these machines.

IIRC, Verisign operates every server, and as such, I'm presuming that they feature very
similar software builds. As such, a security exploit found on one of them
could potentially be present on all of them. If such an exploit were to be
found and used, the results could be catastrophic for anyone with servers
(or trying to access servers) in the .com, .net and .org namespaces.

Does Verisign use the same hardware and OS on all of these servers, or are
the vendors distributed?


Interestingly, this revolving photo op with the A root name server has been
going on for several years. To those who are not very technical, there is
something uniquely reassuring about the idea that the internet has a
"center" or a "brain". It is difficult to say why, but I speculate that the
idea that the internet is easier to cripple or destroy helps government
officials sleep at night, because it maintains the illusion of control.
Distributed systems are much harder to control, and are disconcerting to
those who's task is control of systems rather than their perpetuation.

- Daniel Golding

These is something singularly unnerving about the following statement:

"What cheers us about this kind of visit is the fact that the kind of
security measures we have in place are getting better and better known,"
VeriSign Director of Public Policy Michael Aisenberg told Newsbytes.

Not "the kind of security measures we have in place increasingly assure our
customers of integrity..." but advertising your security measures for their
own sake can only have negative security ramifications.

Deepak Jain

Daniel Golding

Yes and no. Las Vegas casinos regularly show off their security to
visitors. There have been several Discovery Channel shows giving
details how casino security works. Like most things, security is a
multi-disciplinary activity. And deterance does play a small role.
The problem is when your PR people start engaging in puffery and the
deterance becomes a challenge.

Discussing security is good, because we can all learn something. But
I wouldn't issue a challange, directly or indirectly. We take reasonable
precautions, have contigency plans for things which we didn't cover.

I'm more annoyed at the politico's than verisign.

The Department of Commerce issued a press release announcing their
trip. There are more root name servers around washington dc than any
where else in the world. With all the choices, if they are concerned
about security why do they always go to the same place?

Touring Verisign to learn about the security of the Internet is about
as useful as visiting the NASDAQ marketsite near Times Square in New
York City to examine the stability of the US market system. It has
pretty visuals, flashing screens, and a fake button.

If the politico's wanted to see how well the Internet is really protected,
they would visit the non-show places. Security usually depends on your
weakest link, not your fanciest show place.

The "roots" are a huge distraction. Most of the problems with DNS are
outside the root name servers.

I have to admit ICANN was an eye-opening experience for me. The parts
of DNS I care about are in relatively good shape (compared to other
utilities). But there are other parts which are scary. I don't know if
Darwin will prune that part of the tree in time.

Yeah, but ICANN doesn't look like it is going away anytime soon.

(warning: former netsol employee):

Politicos like flashing lights and such. When we gave VIP a-root tours at
NetSol, it was so they could reach out and 'touch' the server and become one
in spirit with the box. From a marketing (or lobbying!) perspective, this
was a very big draw for us, and for politicos it was like going to the
Vatican to experience the "laying on of hands" only in cyberspace.

In some rare cases, there were some politicos that actually GOT IT and
understood what the reality of things were.....but most gave things their
token nod of approval as if to thank us for a catered meal and chance to get
outside the Beltway away from the office for a while. There were some
Senators that visited us so many times I was ready to issue them employee
badges and get them a desk outside the data center - fortunately these two
were the more 'informed' of the group and asked a lot of "right questions."

But in the grand scheme of things - VRSN or anywhere else in any industry -
seeing guards in starched shirts and being told that biometric controls
prevent unauthorized access are only part of the total security picture, yet
that image gives the uneducated the warm fuzzy feeling that all is secure.
The equivalent is assigning the National Guard to patrol the airports, when
in reality, they do little if any real good to improve the security posture's just public relations. The earlier post by someone that said
the DNS security issues are outside of the DC area is probably a fair
statement, too.

While VRSN has their own fair share of issues elsewhere, as far as the
Registry side of their business goes, they have their act pretty squared
away, and have been on top of things since becoming a standalone business
unit. I always felt the Registry team really cared about security issues -
both managers and techies - and things actually got done that led to
generally-effective security and operational success. They didn't just pay
it lip service. (Of course, if and how ICANN's new "anti-terror" agenda will
factor in is anyone's guess.)

As to why politicos go there every time, it's probably a "ceremonial" thing
more than anything else - the so-called "center of the internet" isn't at
AOL, MCI, or anyplace else, and besides, VRSN purports to be a security
company, so why not spin that angle up in today's post-0911society?

(former netsol employee)