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All About Global Internet Shutdown

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Starting from today, Internet users across globe could experience network failures in next 48 hours. Read on to know more about the global Internet shutdown…

If you face problems accessing Internet and with some websites over the next 48 hours, you may not have to worry about it too much. That is because the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which is responsible of maintaining global web address will be updating the cryptographic key that helps protect the Domain Name System (DNS), which can also be considered the world-wide web’s address book. According to reports, Internet users across the globe could experience network connection failures as the main domain servers and their associated infrastructure will be down for some time in the next couple of days. In addition to this, global Internet users could also experience difficulty in accessing web pages and making transactions.

The ICANN, which is based in Los Angeles, California, is responsible for maintaining the registry of domain names and IP addresses on the Internet.

About DNS
So, what actually is a DNS? Well, the DNS addresses can be considered as address book for the Internet. The way it works is that it understands the web addresses we type in the web browser bar in our computers and smartphones and then matches them in the database with the correct domains and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses — so that you are directed to the page you actually need to visit. Every web domain is listed in this directory and this is how all the web traffic is managed and directed correctly.

DNS Upgradation
Keeping in mind the ever increasing and changing security threats on the Internet, ICANN needs to update the encryption keys for the DNS addresses. This means that the DNS, and subsequently the webpages that it links to, will be unavailable during the process of updating. It will be as if those pages don’t exist, for that duration. Alternatively, some pages on a domain could still be accessible, but they will load very slowly.

Notably, DNS is a system that is serviced through hundreds of root servers that are across the globe. So theoretically, when one server is down, the other one should pick up the slack till the faulty server is back online. This means that, on paper, end users should encounter no major difficulties when using the Internet.

It is interesting to note that most websites are cached as well, so the changes or the break in content during this update period could actually be noticeable in a couple of days post the encryption key update. As per ICANN’s estimates after initial tests, only 1% of the total internet users around the world are expected to be impacted by the shutdown. That would still calculate to more than 36 million people, at least, as per the numbers shared by the organization. The problem perhaps gets compounded when you aren’t able to access Netflix over the weekend.

However, the onus of maintaining a smoothly running Internet also lies in the hands of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who can have an efficient system in place to juggle the traffic.

Meanwhile, a report by RT.com suggests that the organization has carried out some preliminary tests that indicated that the key maintenance process would create minimum disturbance. However, users could face some inconvenience in accessing the Internet, especially if they are using an outdated ISP.

Need for Upgradation
From the cyber security aspect, during its maintenance work, ICANN will change the key to this address book, which in turn will help in countering the rising cases of cyber-attacks on the Internet.

The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) in a statement said that the global Internet shutdown was necessary for ensuring a secure, stable and resilient DNS. “To further clarify, some Internet users might be affected if their network operators or Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have not prepared for this change. However, this impact can be avoided by enabling the appropriate system security extensions,” the organization added in a statement.

Internet Users
Internet users need not worry about the DNS updating process.  ICANN’s process of updating the encryption does not mean that the entire internet will be unavailable, or that we will have a complete shutdown of the world wide web. It will happen in batches, and could see certain websites, web pages and web-based services and resources being unavailable for a certain duration of time. Once the new security measures are updated and authenticated, things should be back to normal.

If the websites and web pages are still not accessible, you could do well to restart the router installed at home and this will ensure that it accesses the DNS data updated by your Internet service provider. If the problem persists, that could be because your Internet company is still using outdated DNS, which means that they need to update.

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