Eastern Europe Regional DNS Forum (EE DNS Forum 2020) was held in Georgia, which focused on the development of Internet domains and digital infrastructure throughout the region. The annual forum was organized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and supported by Caucasus Online as the top-level domain administrator of .GE Georgia.
Mikhail Anisimov, Head of Global Stakeholder Engagement for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, spoke to BMG about the main issues discussed at the forum. As Anisimov noted, the representatives of DNS companies shared their experience gained operating through the times of COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from it, the panelists also discussed the state of adoption of new technologies like 5G and IoT.
Interview with Mikhail Anisimov
Can you tell us what ICANN is and what role it plays in the entire Internet ecosystem?
As for our role - ICANN means the Internet Corporation for assigned names and numbers. We are a non-profit organization operating internationally. Our main goal is to maintain stability and security throughout the internet. We have a rather narrow mandate in this regard, ICANN was created to coordinate the domain name system or DNS. That is the Internet Addressing System. It plays a specific and critical role in how the Internet is organized. Keep in mind that the DNS is not a platform. It is the framework that enables users to navigate the Internet and easily reach their preferred platforms – these are applications - such as Facebook or google- content (like news platforms), and services that ride on top of the Internet.
And, it is this framework that we must protect to ensure the interoperability of the Internet.
For our part, we help assign the IP addresses to our partners who then give them out to Internet service providers. We also serve as the central repository for the Internet’s protocols - the set of rules for the unique values and parameters that allow devices to exchange data, communicate with, and understand each other. Of course, ICANN doesn’t do this work alone.
ICANN, along with our technical partners, like RIPE NCC and ISOC, and our diverse community, work to help implement and evolve the rules that were developed some 40 years ago. At the same time, as part of an Internet community who work together for the global public interest, we also work together to address some of the most critical issues impacting the Internet today and in the future.
As the coordinating body for the DNS, ICANN’s mission is to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet's unique identifier systems.
Throughout our processes, it is our multistakeholder community who create policies for important segments of the technical operations of the Internet.
Can you tell us what is the purpose of the Eastern European DNS Forum and how did you choose Georgia for its virtual hosting?
This is a platform for DNS industry professionals. Obviously DNS and the Internet work internationally. This is a network of networks. It does not only cover a separate geographical area, so it means that we, our international colleagues, need to share experiences with each other and discuss together the issues that are relevant. That's why we created a number of DNS forums. Accordingly, we are organizing the Eastern European DNS Forum, the Middle East DNS Forum, as well as numerous other events around the globe.
This event is annually hosted by different countries. We have had quite successful forums in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and Armenia. This year the forum was planned in Tbilisi, for which we thank the co-host, Caucasus Online, which manages the country level domain - .GE. We thank them for their contribution and their suggestion to support us in hosting this event in Tbilisi. Unfortunately, this year we had to hold the forum remotely, but virtually we are still in Tbilisi and we have a very good opportunity to reach the local community to understand their needs and to address their problems.
What was the main topic of discussion at this year’s forum?
"The forum covers a wide range of DNS related topics. 2020 is a very specific year as you know and so far it has been really tough for DNS market players and for the whole industry. That is why we are discussing some new approaches and solutions to keep our industry sustainable. For example today we discussed how the registries (CCTLD-s) manage the crisis and what is their plan and their disaster recovery approach to keep the organization safe and secure.
We just understood that in this region the industry has a unique number of threats, based on many local peculiarities of our region.
Of course, we also discussed cybersecurity and technical issues, how DNS works in technical ecosystems like the Internet of things, 5G network; digital object architecture and object authentication and all of that works thanks to DNS. Therefore, that is a very wide range of topics we are trying to cover within this forum.
Can you tell us what IDN and UA are and what they mean for Georgian users?
IDN stands for internationalized domain names - these are domain names and addresses that can be typed in non-Latin script, in the national language of the user. We have the ability to use IDN domains in numerous languages, for example in Georgian, Armenian, Chinese, Arabic, Cyrillic and in many other languages. Our region is one of the leaders in this initiative. Many countries in our region are very enthusiastic about it.
Universal acceptance, UA for short, is a program focused not only local script, made possible because of IDNs, but also the new generic domains. We need companies to develop solutions to address this. When people go online, they need to be able to access content easily, whether in their local languages or using the longer domain names. Universal Acceptance is a technical compliance best practice that ensures all domain names and all email addresses can be used by all software. Increasing the ability to use domain names in languages that are non Latin based, with Universal Acceptance, would help bring the cultural, social and economic benefits of the Internet to everyone, not least the software and application providers who accept the new domain names.
By implementing UA principles, we can enable anyone to access the Internet using multilingual names and codes. This is especially important for ICANN,
Can you tell us what challenges exist today for DNS in the Eastern European region? In terms of cyber security, as well as in other areas?
Cyber threats have no borders, and the only way to mitigate them is to make a joint effort. That is why specialists should exchange the information and collaborate closely around the world no matter where they are. In order to increase awareness, ICANN staff and community members regularly participate in trainings and events around the world to share knowledge on matters relating to the unique identifier system management and cybersecurity.
Through partnerships with global law enforcement agencies, anti-abuse organizations, researchers, and operators, ICANN staff and community help educate and inform investigators, prosecutors, judges, and government leaders on the potential correlation between abuse of unique identifiers and cybersecurity issues. We at ICANN spend quite a lot of time working against such threats. Phishing is an example of this. For example, you are trying to log in to Internet banking, but this time there is an attempt to trick you into another address and steal your bank details and DNS security is critical in this case.
If we are talking about region specific challenges, I can say that sometimes we can have some regulatory risks. This is why ICANN is keen to share its technical expertise with legislators and regulators to help them to assess the potential impact of their projects on the global functioning of the Internet and its system of unique identifiers. This way we work on ensuring that the changes do not create difficulties for DNS infrastructure and to make the Internet stable and secure " said Mikhail Anisimov.
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