Vint Cerf: Governance policy is biggest threat to the Internet, not technology

Google executive and 'god-father' of the internet Vint Cerf has warned against heavy-handed policing of the web in response to threats such as cyber attacks.


The main threat to the future of the Internet lies in attempts to control the internet through governance policy, according to Google executive and 'god-father' of the Internet, Vint Cerf.

Speaking at the Campus Party event at the O2 in London, Cerf said that technical issues such as the the rollout of IPv6 across networks by ISPs and introduction of DNSSEC protection provide less of a threat to the continued development and freedom of the web than the "tension" around introducing rules for how the web is run.

"I want to point out that, despite all the interesting and hard technical problems associated with the expanding internet, the harder problems have to do with policy," he said.

"There is a great deal of tension about who is in charge of the internet, who should have control over how it evolves and how it is used."

He added: "We are still struggling to understand what sorts of rules should be applicable for the use of the internet, and what rules there should be for its implementation and deployment."

Cerf is considered to be instrumental in the development of the TCP/IP stack, which allowed networks to connect with each other, providing the basis of the Internet thirty years ago.

Cerf, who is currently employed as Google's chief Internet evangelist has previously served as chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages domain names in the US, but does not take an active role in controlling the web itself.

He has been vocal in the past that organisations such as the UN's ITU International Telecommunications Union (ITU) should not have their role extended with regards to putting in place policies and regulations affecting the running of the Internet, advocating that there should be no centralised control of the web.  

At the event in London Cerf said there is a need to protect those who are victims of abuses to the net, but said that this should be done in a 'cyber-firefighting' role, rather than an attempt by certain parties or governments to actively 'police' the Internet.

"In the Internet environment there are 'fires' - cyber attacks for example, or viruses, worms, trojan horses DDOS attacks and the like - - and many small companies are not prepared to respond to that, as they don't have the capability or the tools and techniques to do so," he said.

"I think a cyber fire department is needed to defend against the various types of attacks and abuses, not a cyber police department. Not everything that happens on the net that is harmful is necessarily a crime, sometimes it is just a mistake or misconfigured software, but you still need to protect yourself against that."  

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