Beneath the digital surface
G7 Issue

Beneath the digital surface

Digital transformation is shaping the world in which we live, but without domain name system security, the internet as a secure, trusted and safe resource is under threat

The internet today connects more than 5.1 billion people and is a shared resource on which government, business, technology and civil society depend. It was created on the premise that free and open access to information supports the greater good. The importance of the internet to the world’s economic, social and political systems continues to grow as its user base, content and applications expand. In digital transformation, the role of a stable and secure domain name system is recognised as a critical requirement for the infrastructure that supports the functioning of the internet. Due to the increasing interest from global policymakers, the DNS has been elevated from a technical issue to a global public policy issue included in national cybersecurity strategies.

The role of the domain name system 

What exactly is the DNS? The DNS enables people to navigate the internet in a human-centric way. Every time a user visits a web page, sends an email message or contributes to the global flow of data, the DNS helps them get around the internet by translating domain names (such as to the IP addresses (such as needed by servers, routers and other network devices to move traffic efficiently to the proper destination. 

One organisation – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – ensures the stable and secure operation of the internet’s unique identifier systems and coordinates the allocation and assignment of names in the root zone of the DNS. ICANN operates using a multi-stakeholder model of policymaking in which individuals, non-commercial stakeholder groups, industry, civil society and governments all have an equal voice in consensus-driven policymaking. Through advisory committees and supporting organisations, ICANN creates and implements policy that governs the complex management of the global DNS. Together with this multi-stakeholder community, ICANN works to develop effective means to mitigate security risks to ensure the stability and resilience of the DNS. 

Digital transformation depends on a secure and stable internet. This is increasingly the case given recent serious security threats to the DNS. Such threats include incidents that affect the availability, integrity and confidentiality of parts of the DNS ecosystem through such harmful activities as botnets, malware, pharming, phishing and spam. ICANN’s DNS Security Threat Mitigation Program works to make the internet a safer place for governments, businesses and end users by reducing the prevalence of these threats.

Mitigating system security risks

Most recently, ICANN launched the Knowledge-sharing and Instantiation Norms for DNS and Naming Security initiative. The goal of KINDNS is to engage the DNS technical community, DNS service providers, software vendors, registrants and others to catalogue, document and develop a programme to promote DNS operational best practices within various communities and ecosystems. Through KINDNS, a framework for the most critical security norms for DNS operations, such as for authoritative, recursive resolvers and software has been developed. DNS operators are encouraged to commit to their implementation voluntarily.

The Declaration for the Future of the Internet, signed in April 2022, recommits the United States and 60 other countries to a single, global internet based on a shared belief in the potential of digital technologies. It sets out the expectation for signatories to contribute to the “existing processes” of international organisations addressing internet governance issues, the G7, the G20 and ICANN. The declaration notes the support of the signatories for the multi-stakeholder model and exhorts them to offer “opportunities for innovation in the digital ecosystem, including businesses large and small” and to “maintain a high level of security, privacy protection, stability and resilience of the technical infrastructure of the Internet”. 

The single, stable and interoperable internet has been the basis for unparalleled innovation, economic growth and an engine for development for more than 35 years. As digital transformation continues to shape the world in which we live, our collective challenge is to ensure that the internet remains a secure, trusted and safe resource in the future.