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Action Plan 2021 / Strengthening the Internet

Strengthening the Internet

The Internet has radically transformed our lives for the better. In just a few decades, it has become a critical resource offering those with access virtually infinite opportunities to innovate and work together for the collective good. This didn’t happen by accident. The Internet owes its strength, resilience, and success to its open architecture. It was literally built to be built upon.

But what makes it great also makes it vulnerable. Governments and businesses are increasingly making decisions that could affect the Internet in negative ways – and they might not even know it. If we don’t consider how our actions could harm the Internet, we risk breaking the underlying foundation that makes it work for everyone.

A significant part of our work this year will focus on strengthening the foundation that underpins the Internet’s success – but we can’t do it alone. We’re going to grow, educate, and equip a movement of people across the globe to help protect and defend a strong foundation for the Internet, including strong encryption, the security and stability of Internet routing, and open standards. In doing so, we will bridge the gap between policymakers and the technical community, help keep data and privacy secure, and safeguard the critical properties that makes the Internet a remarkable resource. Together, we will make the Internet stronger.

Promoting the Internet Way of Networking

Keeping the Internet strong, resilient, and a place for infinite opportunities

To help people make smarter decisions about the Internet, the Internet Society worked through its members and chapters around the world in 2020 to define the foundation of critical properties that underpin the Internet’s success. We call this the “Internet Way of Networking” (IWN). We also developed a tool to both educate and empower people to protect this foundation by using the Internet Impact Assessment Toolkit (IIAT) to help analyze the potential impact of a new policy, business decision, technology, or trend on the Internet.

Protecting the Network of Networks

We’ll continue our efforts to grow and empower a movement of people worldwide working to champion a healthy foundation for the Internet by focusing on three areas.

We aim to graduate 200 people through an IWN training course that will equip them to understand the critical properties of the Internet Way of Networking and how to examine policy and technical proposals for their support of or damage to these properties. We will look to these alumni to promote and use the IIAT to advocate for policies and technology developments that will improve the network of networks. Our goal is to see the IIAT used to assess the impact of new or existing policies in at least four policymaking processes (including consultations, draft legislation, rulemakings, and similar activities), directly affecting the Internet.

We will continue to build a coalition of partners to promote IWN and Internet Impact Assessments, enlisting academics, governments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, and companies to recognize and promote the IWN. We will also engage existing partners, chapters, and individual and organization members, placing particular emphasis on ensuring they can understand and use the IIAT.

While the critical properties of the IWN are unchanging, we will continue to enhance the IIAT to ensure its relevance. Like the Internet, it is intended to be an evolving tool. Based on feedback from our community and partners and our own work and research, we will expand the toolkit through ongoing research and analysis of trends and proposals with our community, training alumni, and partners to assess the impact on the IWN. We also expect to see five external entities producing additional IWN use cases and case studies used to educate and advocate in their regions.

Extending Encryption

The Internet is under threat

Every day, we rely on encryption to keep our data and our privacy secure. It protects us while we browse the Web, shop and bank online, use secure messaging apps, and more. Unfortunately, we are seeing a troubling trend: governments around the world are finding new ways to undermine the use of strong encryption, making its future uncertain.

At the Internet Society, we stand against the growing number of challenges that threaten encrypted data. These include legislation or changes to intermediary liability laws that would force companies to weaken or limit the use of strong encryption. Forcing companies to be less secure online is dangerous and counterproductive. It threatens economic development and undermines the Internet’s global trustworthiness.

Addressing threats to protect and promote encryption through 2021 and beyond

Through our community, partners, and the newly formed Global Encryption Coalition, we are in a strong position to enable user-controlled encryption, including end-to-end (e2e) encryption, across the Internet. We will continue to mobilize this active network and create myriad materials to promote an undeniable truth: Strong encryption is vital to the Internet.

Our Global Encryption Coalition continues to grow since we first launched it with two founding partners in 2020: The Center for Democracy & Technology and Global Partners Digital. In less than one year, the coalition has expanded to include over 75 members from around the world. We will broaden its membership to include civil society, companies, organizations, chapters, and individual technology experts. Our goal, working in the Coalition, is to increase the adoption of e2e encryption by 10% globally in 2021. Further, we plan to mitigate at least three-fourths of government attacks on encryption in eight target countries in 2021. By working together, our voice and message are amplified at an exponential scale.

Supporting this effort, we will introduce Global Encryption Day as a focusing event to help people, companies, and governments take action to protect e2e encryption. This will be an opportunity to bring our entire community together to rally around the value of strong encryption. By shining a light on strong encryption, we expect this celebration to increase its use by companies and people around the world – by raising awareness, showing target audiences how encryption is critical to their daily lives, growing the Global Encryption Coalition, and mobilizing our existing community. Our goal is that at least one million people will participate in Global Encryption Day and Global Encryption Coalition events.

Securing Global Routing

There is no Internet without routing

When we conduct online transactions, send email, or conduct business on the Internet, we expect our information to go where it is intended to go. However, the global Internet routing system that ensures that correct paths are selected has vulnerabilities that allow manipulation of routing information (e.g., route hijacks and route leaks) and that permit spoofing source IP addresses. These can lead to misdirection of traffic and denial of service, and can result in reputational damage, lost revenue, and exposure of sensitive data.

This is why the Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) work is vital to an Internet we can all trust: MANRS participants implement the crucial fixes needed to reduce the most common routing threats. By adopting the core set of MANRS Actions as norms to guide their operations, network operators can help improve the security and stability of Internet routing for everyone.

In 2021, we will continue to promote MANRS as the baseline of secure routing even as we develop a sustainable governance model for the vibrant MANRS community.

Reducing global routing incidents

As of November 2020, MANRS has over 500 participants, and we are proactively working to steadily increase this number in 2021. As the number of MANRS participants increases, the number of networks adopting best routing practices increases, and the likelihood that routing incidents occur should decrease. While we cannot claim direct causation, we can attribute fewer routing incidents to the simple fact that more and more network operators are implementing basic routing security. By the end of 2021, we expect a 10% decrease in the number of routing incidents.

Increasing uptake in routing security measures

MANRS is not just about asking operators to join the initiative. We promote Routing Security in general and would like to see operators implementing Routing Security measures. We will target the following as evidence of broader uptake in routing security:

  • A 10% increase in ROA (Route Origin Authorization) creation by the existing MANRS participants, which shows they support cryptographic validation of IP address ownership;
  • 5% of existing MANRS participants implementing ROV (Route Origin Validation), which shows they are actually checking that a given network is authorized to announce routes to a given IP address range; and,
  • 30% improvement in MANRS participants’ conformance from 3 months before joining MANRS and 3 months after, showing that MANRS participants and the MANRS governance structure work well to keep networks clean over time, and not just when they apply and first join.

Assessing community readiness

We are committed to providing ongoing support to MANRS as a community-designed and, ultimately, a community-led initiative. The goal is for MANRS itself to be a self-governed community in coming years. In 2021, we will work with an advisory group to determine definitively whether the community is ready to receive, cultivate, own, and govern MANRS and the MANRS Observatory moving forward.

Preserving the Open Internet Model at the WTSA

Promoting openness, transparency, and collaboration

Open standards provide a “common language” for the more than 70,000 interconnected networks that comprise the global Internet to communicate with each other. Developed through open, bottom-up, and consensus-based processes at various Standards Development Organizations, open standards underpin the open Internet model. This model has been crucial to the Internet’s success to date, having brought more than half of the world’s population online in just a few decades.

As we work together to bring everyone online, open standards are as critical now as they were in the early development of the Internet and will remain so for the future growth and evolution of the Internet.

Because of this, the Internet Society takes a proactive approach to the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA), an event within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The event defines the senior leadership team, work program, working methods, and structure of Study Groups for the ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T).

Working with our community and partners to preserve the open Internet model, we will advocate for greater openness and transparency in ITU standards development processes. We will also work to ensure that the standards activities undertaken respond to technology and market demands as opposed to policy or regulatory needs.

Our goal is to ensure forthcoming initiatives within the ITU-T, including proposals related to so-called “New IP”, do not duplicate work of other Internet standards bodies, including the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). In the lead-up to or during WTSA, we aim to have four governments or governmental agencies express support for our positions.

Getting the message out

The ITU’s membership is comprised of government delegations (Member States), private industry, and other approved organizations; however, Member States are the only voting parties at WTSA.

As a trusted source for technical and policy advice, we will provide Member States with accurate, timely information to enable thoughtful decision-making, especially where we are actively engaged with their governments through our work. We will also provide information to regional organizations on key Internet-related topics that will be debated at the WTSA.

Internet Society Chapters and Organizational Members are often in the best position to reach out to their government and local stakeholders in preparation for the WTSA. We will provide them with useful and relevant information to strengthen their local advocacy. We will publish a matrix of proposals, thought pieces and other materials that position the Internet Society as a go-to source of information about the WTSA and a premier advocate for the Internet in this forum.

Creating an Internet for
everyone everywhere

Members globally

Chapters & SIGs

Organization members

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