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DNS genius and ICANN key-holder Dan Kaminsky dies at 42

Kevin Murphy, April 27, 2021, Domain Tech

Security researcher Dan Kaminsky, best known for uncovering the so-called “Kaminsky Bug” DNS vulnerability, has reportedly died at the age of 42.

It has been widely reported that Kaminsky’s niece confirmed his death from serious complications from his longstanding diabetes.

On Twitter, she rebutted emerging conspiracy theories that his death was linked to the coronavirus vaccine, which he had received April 12, saying her uncle would “laugh” at such views.

During his career as a white-hat hacker, Kaminsky worked for companies including Cisco, Avaya, and IOActive.

He occasionally spoke at ICANN meetings on security issues, and was since 2010 one of IANA’s seven Recovery Key Share Holders, individuals trusted to hold part of a cryptographic key that would be used to reboot root zone DNSSEC in the case of a massive disaster.

But he was best known for his 2008 discovery of a fundamental flaw in the DNS protocol that allowed cache poisoning, and therefore serious man-in-the middle attacks, across millions of name servers worldwide. He worked with DNS software vendors in private to help them with their patches before the problem was publicly disclosed.

His discoveries led in part to the ongoing push for DNSSEC deployment across the internet.

The vulnerability received widespread attention, even in the mainstream media, and quickly came to bear his name.

For me, my standout memory of Kaminsky is one of his series of annual “Black Ops” talks, at the Defcon 12 conference in Las Vegas in 2004, during which he demonstrated to a rapt audience of hackers how it was possible to stream live radio by caching small chunks of audio data in the TXT fields of DNS records and using DNS queries to quickly retrieve and play them in sequence.

As well as being a bit of a DNS genius, he knew how to work a stage: the crowd went mental and I grabbed him for an interview soon after his talk was over.

His death at such a young age is a big loss for the security community.

NamesCon Europe founder Dietmar Stefitz reportedly dies

Kevin Murphy, December 4, 2020, Domain Services

I’m very sorry to report that Dietmar Stefitz, founder of the domainer conference that would become NamesCon Europe, has died, according to social media posts.

His Facebook profile this morning filled with tributes, variously describing him as “passionate”, “kind” and “genuine”, after his niece announced his death.

Stefitz was best known in the domain industry for founding the Domaining Europe conference in 2008, which he hosted annually, typically in his home town of Valencia, Spain, for a decade.

The event was eventually merged with GoDaddy’s NamesCon to become NamesCon Europe in 2018, and Stefitz took a backseat role in its management.

I did not know Dietmar well, but I spent a enjoyable evening at his table during the inaugural NamesCon Europe and found him warm and engaging.

Eerily, Stefitz’s Twitter profile was updated this afternoon, encouraging readers to “take advantage of the little moments”, over 15 hours after his death was announced. I don’t know whether it was a time-delayed post or was posted by a relative.

While the tweeted video prominently features the character of the Grim Reaper, and it’s a Christmas advertisement for meat products, it does carry the message “Disfruta en vida”, which I believe translates as “Enjoy Life”.

It’s a message that, by all accounts, Stefitz lived by.

Tributes as “great mentor” Marilyn Cade dies

Kevin Murphy, November 5, 2020, Domain Policy

Social media was flooded with tributes today after it was sadly announced that one of ICANN’s elder statespeople, Marilyn Cade, has died.

CadeCade, who participated in ICANN and the wider internet governance community for decades, was widely admired not only for her dedication to fighting her corner, but also her habit of taking the time to bring newcomers, particularly women, the young, and those from under-served regions, into the community.

Reading through tributes on social media and elsewhere today, the word “mentor” appears over and over again.

“She was incredibly dedicated and always trying to bring new people into the multi-stakeholder Internet Governance world. Every time I saw her at an ICANN meeting she would be introducing me to someone new,” wrote one community member.

“What meeting have I been to where Marilyn have not been? She was a mentor, a fighter, lots of energy, but also with attitude,” wrote another.

I myself recall being schooled, and charmed, by Cade over drinks in Mar Del Plata, when I was still a little green, over 15 years ago.

In the ICANN context, Cade was long a member of the Business Constituency of the GNSO, which she chaired for three years from 2010.

She was such a fixture at ICANN, reliably showing up to the open mic during Public Forum sessions at almost every meeting, that the simple introductory sentence “My name is Marilyn Cade” became something of a catchphrase and a source of friendly ribbing.

The phrase regularly showed up on Public Forum Bingo cards, and I once caught an ICANN technician using it to test the audio on a public webcast before the meeting went live.

But she is also fondly remembered in the wider internet governance governance community for many of the same reasons. At the Internet Governance Forum USA, she held the role of “Chief Catalyst”, a job title that perhaps speaks volumes.

The Internet Governance Forum, which kicks off its 2020 meeting online today, announced that it will hold a special session in Cade’s remembrance tomorrow, via Zoom.

“She was a staunch supporter and advocate of the IGF and Internet governance in general,” IGF wrote. “Her energy, enthusiasm and dedication, in particular to the meaningful inclusion of communities from developing countries resulted in dozens of countries establishing their National, Regional and Youth initiatives (NRIs).”

“We were blessed by her passion, her will and her immense love for IGF and the NRI community. I know many of you will be as shocked as us tonight; your pain and anguish is shared,” IGF-USA wrote.

The IGF has opened a comment forum for tributes. Details of the remembrance session can be found at the same link.

Top ICANN advisor Tarek Kamel dies at 57

Kevin Murphy, October 11, 2019, Domain Policy

Tarek Kamel, a senior advisor to the ICANN CEO and one-time shortlisted candidate for the top job, died yesterday, according to ICANN. He was 57.

His cause of death was not released, but he apparently had been suffering from health challenges for some time.

At ICANN, Kamel was senior advisor to the president and senior vice president for government and IGO engagement, a role he was appointed to in 2012 by then-incoming CEO Fadi Chehadé.

Kamel had been one of three shortlisted candidates for the CEO role and was hired immediately after Chehadé took over.

Born in Egypt, Kamel was considered locally as an internet pioneer, helping to found, then deregulate and reform the sector in his country.

He trained as an electrical engineer in Egypt and Germany, and is said to have established Egypt’s first connection to the internet in the mid-1990s, a period in which he also founded the local chapter of the Internet Society.

But Kamel spend much of his career in government, acting as Egypt’s minister for information and communication technology between 2004 and 2011.

His tenure ended in January 2011, as a result of the revolution which ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

During the final weeks of Mubarak’s regime, the government attempted to disrupt popular resistance by shutting down internet access across the country, causing pleas from Kamel’s friends for him to restore connectivity and preserve his legacy.

But Chehadé later defended Kamel’s actions during the revolution, telling DI in 2012 that he was not responsible for the shutdown and that he showed “near-heroism”, putting himself and his family at great personal risk, in order to restore services as quickly as possible.

Kamel was described yesterday by current CEO Göran Marby as a “dear friend” with a “big heart” and a “great sense of humor” who helped open diplomatic doors for ICANN in the Middle East.

Former ICANN chair and father of the internet Vint Cerf said “our Internet community has lost a kindred spirit so devoted to the idea of a global Internet to hold and use in common”.

He added, “if heaven does not have broadband yet, Tarek will make it so.”

Kamel is survived by his wife and two children.

Marby yesterday encouraged friends and colleagues to leave a memorial in the comments section of this blog post, assuring commenters that their words will reach Kamel’s family.

His family and friends have my condolences.

Stéphane Van Gelder dies after motorcycle accident

Kevin Murphy, March 26, 2018, Domain Policy

I’m very sad to report that domain name industry veteran and ICANN community leader Stéphane Van Gelder has died. He was 51.

SVGFriends tell me he died today of injuries sustained in a vehicle crash in Switzerland near the Italian border.

According to a local report, he and his wife were hit by a car March 23, while stopped on their motorcycles at a traffic light.

His wife, Julie, was also injured but survived.

Stéphane was a long-time member of the industry, in 1999 co-founding the French registrar Indom, which he sold to Group NBT in 2010.

After Indom, he became an independent consultant, first under the brand Stéphane Van Gelder Consulting, later as Milathan.

He joined new gTLD registry StartingDot in 2014 and saw the company through to its acquisition by Afilias in 2016.

He told us at the time of his rebranding that the name “Milathan” was a “derivative of words in Hindi that mean ‘union’ or ‘meeting’ in the sense of bringing people together”.

It was perhaps an appropriate name, given Stéphane’s record of successful senior leadership positions in the ICANN volunteer community.

Notably, he chaired the GNSO Council for two years from 2010, and was chair of the Nominating Committee from 2015.

His most recent social media posts show that he was on a motorcycle tour of Italy with his wife before his accident near Lake Como.

Stéphane and I were not close, but in our interactions I always found him knowledgeable, witty, and charming. A thoroughly nice guy.

He was also one of the very few people in the industry I’ve trusted enough to write guest posts for DI over the years. Here he is fighting the GNSO’s corner in 2012.

Stéphane is survived by his wife and, friends tell me, two children. They have our condolences, and we wish his wife a speedy recovery.

He will be missed.