How the IETF plans to protect the web from NSA snooping

Speaking at the UN's recent Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia, IETF chair Jari Arkko laid out a plan to protect the U.S. Internet from the NSA's surveillance efforts.

Arkko pointed to current web security protocols, such as SSL, that are enabled only when users access sensitive personal information. With this technology available, there's no reason the entire web shouldn't be secured by default, Arkko said. Basically, secure web browsing technology like SSL would be extended to all web services, preventing invasion of privacy for both trivial and sensitive information. The IETF could achieve this by making encryption mandatory as part of the HTTP 2.0 protocol, which is expected to be submitted for consideration as a proposed standard in November 2014.

In order for this approach to be effective, the encryption technology needs to be secure. Arkko pointed to the need to improve encryption technology at large by strengthening the algorithms behind it. A Radio Netherlands Worldwide article on the speech says Arkko's suggestions aim to obscure all users of all web services in the U.S.

RELATED:Report: NSA breaks into Yahoo, Google data center links

"In other words: the IETF proposes putting locks in more places and making existing locks harder to pick. If the protocols are applied, intercepting the traffic between any two points on the Internet -- the sender and receiver of an email, the visitor and owner of a website, the buyer and seller of a product -- will be close to impossible," the RNW report says.

The IETF is reportedly looking to put this plan into action, at least in some capacity, starting with the IETF-88 event in Vancouver beginning on Nov. 3.

Several experts provided their opinions on the plan to RNW, with the consensus agreeing that it's an optimistic plan that could be plagued with challenges. One expert said that although the plan "wouldn't stop the problem," it could at least cause some difficulty for the NSA.

Meanwhile, Tactical Tech digital security trainer Gillo Cutrupi praised the initiative while warning that many companies and website operators might overlook it, just as they do with the security tools available to them today.

For what it's worth, Arkko isn't concerned about adoption issues, pointing to the performance benefits that might drive users to HTTP 2.0 instead. The security improvements would be just an additional feature.

"I have no worry about that," he said. "Our standards are very widely applied."

Colin Neagle covers emerging technologies and the startup scene for Network World. Follow him on Twitter @ntwrkwrldneagle and keep up with the Microsoft, Ciscoand Open Source community blogs. Colin's email address is

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags YahooGooglesecuritynsaWide Area Network

More about GoogleIETFMicrosoftNSAYahoo

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Colin Neagle

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place