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Marby pledges low red tape in $1 million Ukraine donation

Kevin Murphy, March 28, 2022, Domain Policy

It’s been three weeks since ICANN promised $1 million to support internet access in Ukraine and CEO Göran Marby says he’s trying to get the money put in to action as efficiently as possible.

Thankfully, the Org doesn’t seem to be resorting to its regular fallback position of creating a time-consuming committee or esoteric process, but there are still some hoops that need to be jumped through.

Marby wrote today:

We made the decision to partner with an organization that is already on the ground in Ukraine providing support that is in alignment with our mission. I believe that contributing to an existing organization is a better option than creating our own tailor-made solution, especially when we do not have expertise in disaster recovery and crisis response work.

ICANN is doing due diligence on “several” organizations to make sure the Org meets “applicable laws, regulations, and ICANN’s fiduciary obligations”, he wrote.

While the money has been committed to help internet access — in line with ICANN’s mission — nothing has been publicly disclosed about what specifically it will be spent on.

One idea floated during ICANN 73 earlier this month was to provide satellite terminals that could be used to work around any infrastructure damage caused by the Russian invasion on the ground.

Marby wrote:

We are working diligently to implement this initiative in a timely manner, doing everything we can to speed the process, while at the same time proceeding in a cautious and responsible way.

He promised an update when the money has been allocated.

Ukraine registry hit by 57 attacks in a week

Kevin Murphy, March 24, 2022, Domain Registries

Ukrainian ccTLD registry Hostmaster today said its infrastructure was hit by 57 distributed denial of service attacks last week.

On its web site, which has continued to function during the now month-long Russian invasion, the company said it recorded the attacks between March 14 and 20, which a top strength of 10Gbps.

“All attacks were extinguished. The infrastructure of the .UA domain worked normally,” the company, usually based in Kyiv, said.

Hostmaster took the initiative in the first days of the war to move much of its infrastructure out-of-country, to protect .ua from physical damage, and to sign up to DDoS protection services.

101domain throttles its business in Russia

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2022, Domain Registrars

101domain has become the latest registrar to say it is limiting its business in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The company, owned by Altanovo Domains, said today it is suspending all new accounts, orders and inbound domain transfers for customers located in Russia.

It will also no longer sell or accept transfers for domains in Russian-linked TLDs .ru (including third-level names), .рф (.xn--p1ai), .МОСКВА (.xn--80adxhks), .рус (.xn--p1acf), .дети (.xn--d1acj3b), .su, and .tatar.

“We will continue to process renewals of existing services for the time being, however this may change at any time and without notice,” the company said.

101domain follows fellow registrars Namecheap, IONOS, and GoDaddy in announcing what effectively amount to commercial sanctions against Russia.

Industry bodies CENTR and ICANN, along with ccTLD registry Nominet, have also committed to concrete actions to sanction Russia and/or support Ukraine.

ICANN bigwigs support sanctions on Russian domains

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2022, Domain Policy

Current and former ICANN directors are among 36 high-profile tech policy veterans to support the creation of a new domain block-list that could be deployed in humanitarian crises such as the current war in Ukraine.

An open letter (pdf), published last night, calls to effectively create a list of sanctioned domain names and IP addresses that could be blocked in much the same way as current lists help network operators block spam and malware.

The letter says:

We call upon our colleagues to participate in a multistakeholder deliberation… to decide whether the IP addresses and domain names of the Russian military and its propaganda organs should be sanctioned, and to lay the groundwork for timely decisions of similar gravity and urgency in the future.

Signatories include current ICANN director Ihab Osman, former chair Steve Crocker, founding CEO Mike Roberts, former CSO Jeff Moss and former director Alejandro Pisanty.

Other signatories include three members of the European Parliament, various academics and security researchers, the bosses of networking coordination groups, and the CEOs of several ccTLD registries.

Dmitry Kohmanyuk, founder of Ukrainian ccTLD registry Hostmaster, also signed the letter.

The letter deconstructs Ukraine’s recent requests for internet sanctions against Russian, including its request for ICANN to turn off Russia’s .ru domain, and concludes “the revocation, whether temporary or permanent, of a ccTLD is not an effective sanction because it disproportionately harms civilians”.

Such a sanction would be trivially circumvented and would lead to the proliferation of alt-roots, harming international interoperability, they say.

Having ruled out sledgehammers, the letter goes on to suggest a nutcracker approach, whereby the domain names and IP addresses of sanctioned entities are blocked by consensus of network operators like they’re no more than filthy spammers. The letter reads:

Blocklisting of domain names allows full precision and specificity, which is the problem that precludes action by ICANN. The system is opt-in, voluntary, consensual, and bottom-up, all values the Internet governance community holds dear. Yet, at the same time, it has achieved broad adoption.

We conclude that the well-established methods of blocklisting provide the best mechanism for sanctioning both IP routes and traffic and domain names, and that this mechanism, if implemented normally by subscribing entities, has no significant costs or risks.

The billion-dollar question is of course: Who would decide what goes on the list?

The letter, which says it’s designed to be a conversation-starter, is a bit vague on the policy-making aspect of the proposal.

It calls for the formation of “a new, minimal, multistakeholder mechanism” that would publish a block-list data feed after “due process and consensus”, adding:

This process should use clearly documented procedures to assess violations of international norms in an open, multistakeholder, and consensus-driven process, taking into account the principles of non-overreach and effectiveness in making its determinations. This system mirrors existing systems used by network operators to block spam, malware, and DDoS attacks, so it requires no new technology and minimal work to implement.

While such a system might well help protect gullible (to pick a nationality at random) Americans from the Kremlin’s misinformation campaigns, it’s not immediately clear to me how such a system would help shield blameless everyday Russians from their own government’s propaganda.

If, for example, were on the block-list, and Russia wanted RT available to its citizens, presumably Russian ISPs would just be told, at the barrel of a metaphorical gun, to stop using the block-list.

It will be interesting to see where this conversation leads.

Soviet Union “no longer considered eligible for a ccTLD”, ICANN chair confirms

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2022, Domain Policy

The former Soviet Union’s .su domain could soon embark along the years-long path to getting kicked off the internet, ICANN’s chair has indicated.

The .su ccTLD, which survived the death of the USSR thirty years ago “is no longer considered eligible for a ccTLD”, Martin Botterman said in response to a question by yours truly at the ICANN 73 Public Forum yesterday.

It seems ICANN will no longer turn a blind eye to .su’s continued existence, and that the policy enabling ccTLDs to be “retired” could be invoked in this case, after it is finalized.

The question I asked, per the transcript, was:

While it is generally accepted that ICANN is not in the business of deciding what is or is not a country, do you agree that the Soviet Union does not meet the objective criteria for ccTLD eligibility? And would you support dot SU entering the ccTLD retirement process as and when that process is approved?

I went into a lot of the background of .su in a post a couple weeks ago, and I’m not going to rehash it all here.

I wasn’t expecting much of a response from ICANN yesterday. Arguments over contested ccTLDs, which usually involve governments, are one of the things ICANN is almost always pretty secretive about.

So I was pleasantly surprised that Botterman, while he may have dodged a direct answer to the second part of the question, answered the first part with pretty much no equivocation. He said, per the recording:

It is correct that the Soviet Union is no longer assigned in the ISO 3166-1 standard and therefore is no longer considered eligible for a ccTLD.

ICANN Org has actually held discussions with the managers of the .su domain in the past to arrange an orderly retirement of the domain, and the ccNSO asked ICANN Org starting in 2010 and reiterated in 2017 to pause its efforts to retire the domain so that the Policy Development Process could be conducted. And that is a request we have honored.

So we’re glad to report that the ccNSO recently concluded that Policy Development Process and sent its policy recommendations to the ICANN board.

We will soon evaluate the ccNSO policy recommendations, and we will do so in line with the bylaws process.

It looked and sounded very much like he was reading these words from his screen, rather than riffing off-the-cuff, suggesting the answer had been prepared in advance.

I wasn’t able to attend the forum live, and I’d submitted the question via email to the ICANN session moderator a few hours in advance, giving plenty of time for Botterman or somebody else at ICANN to prepare a response.

The ccNSO policy referred to (pdf), which has yet to be approved by the ICANN board, creates a process for the removal of a ccTLD from the DNS root in scenarios such as the associated country ceasing to exist.

It’s creatively ambiguous — deliberately so, in my view — when it comes to .su’s unique circumstances, presenting at least two hurdles to its retirement.

First, the Soviet Union stopped being an officially recognized country in the early 1990s, long before this policy, and even ICANN itself, existed.

Second, the .su manager, ROSNIIROS, is not a member of the ccNSO and its debatable whether ICANN policies even apply to it.

In both of these policy stress tests, the ccNSO deferred to ICANN, arguably giving it substantial leeway on whether and how to apply the policy to .su.

I think it would be a damn shame if the Org didn’t at least try.

While it’s widely accepted that ICANN made the correct call by declining to remove Russia’s .ru from the root, allowing .su to continue to exist when it is acknowledged to no longer be eligible for ccTLD status, and the policy tools exist to remove it, could increasingly look like an embarrassing endorsement in light of Russian hostilities in former Soviet states.

Nominet cuts off Russian registrars

Kevin Murphy, March 10, 2022, Domain Registries

Russian registrars will no longer be able to sell .uk domains, due to the war in Ukraine, Nominet announced today.

“We are not accepting registrations from registrars in Russia — we are suspending the relevant tags,” the registry said.

A “tag” is the unique identifier Nominet issues to its registrars to enable them to access the .uk registry.

I believe it’s the first example of a national domain registry taking action against Russian companies in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

While Nominet is independent, it’s pretty tight with the UK government, which with international partners has implemented some quite tough economic sanctions against Russia.

Nominet said that the “very small” number of existing domains with Russian addresses “will continue to operate as normal”.

Other measures the company announced include a £200,000 donation to the war relief effort, a reduction of its roughly £100,000 of investments in Russian companies to about £1,000, and the monitoring of new .uk registrations for possible Ukraine-related scams.

Other domain companies to announce what effectively amount to sanctions against Russia include Namecheap, Sedo, IONOS, GoDaddy and CENTR.

ICANN has also offered money to Ukraine and concessions to Ukrainian registrants, though the latter may also apply to Russians.

Now Sedo pulls the plug on Russians

Kevin Murphy, March 9, 2022, Domain Services

Secondary market player Sedo has become the latest domain name company to stop dealing with Russians and Russian domains.

The company sent an email to its customers today saying that it has “suspended trading and parking” for .ru domains and domains in Belarus’ .by ccTLD.

It said it can no longer serve customers in Russia or Belarus and has “temporarily deactivated” their accounts.

It’s not clear whether the move is motivated by Sedo taking a principled stance against the war in Ukraine, or necessitated by the company’s inability to process cross-border payments due to international sanctions.

“Sedo disapproves of any kind of hate and violence, as well as anything that radically contradicts our corporate values,” the company said. “Therefore, for the sake of the civilians involved, we hope for an early resolution of this conflict.”

Sedo is part of the United-Internet group. Its sister company, IONOS, announced it was working on kicking out Russian customers last week.

Ukraine’s emotional plea to ICANN 73

Kevin Murphy, March 9, 2022, Domain Policy

A Ukrainian government representative has delivered a powerful speech at ICANN 73, calling on ICANN, the community, and the domain name industry to do more to help the war-ravaged country.

Speaking at the opening plenary session of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, Ukraine representative Andrii Nabok gave his personal account of coming under Russian fire at his home near Kyiv, and praised the “heroic” efforts of ISPs and local ccTLD registry Hostmaster in keeping the internet functional for many Ukrainians.

He went on to condemn the invasion in the strongest terms, calling the Russian Federation “the empire of evil, the terrorist state number one, the fascist of the 21st century”.

Nabok welcomed ICANN’s offer of $1 million to aid with connectivity, saying that Ukraine is in need of satellite terminals, but questioned ICANN’s decision to refuse the country’s request to disconnect .ru from the DNS root.

He went on to call for the domain industry to contribute to anti-Russian sanctions, and questioned whether it is still appropriate for ICANN to have a Russian as one of its DNSSEC “trusted community representative” key-holders.

His speech was followed by prepared expressions of solidarity from the UK, France, the European Union, Switzerland, Australia, the US, Canada, Burkina Faso, Argentina, and Burundi.

Russia took the floor briefly to say that it does not believe ICANN is a suitable forum to discuss “political issues”.

No government echoed Ukraine’s call for ICANN to use its DNS root management powers to sanction Russia, with most expressing support for the Org’s neutrality and the multi-stakeholder model.

I’m going to publish Nabok’s entire speech here, taken from the official transcript with only minor formatting edits. Recordings of the session can be found on its web page (registration required).

“One world, one Internet.” This slogan in our opinion is wonderful. Multistakeholder model, a community-based, consensus-driven approach to policymaking, this model is great. Ukraine admires both the slogan and this model. Ukraine believes both in this slogan and this model. The Ukrainian government showed its support for them in its numerous actions and statements before.

On February 24th at 5:00 am, my family woke up from explosions. We saw a little fire and smoke in the window. Our city near Kyiv was shelled by rockets. I cannot put into words the feeling when you have to explain to your seven-year-old daughter that we urgently need to leave home to save our lives. In a few minutes, my friends from all parts of Ukraine confirmed that there had been missile strikes in the whole country. At once, all the values you lived with yesterday cease to exist, and now the main task is to save our families, relatives, and friends.

So Russian missiles attacked Ukraine. Putin said it is a special military operation in the territory of independent country. Putin said the goal is demilitarization and denazification to ensure the security of Russia. Security of the largest country in the world with the most enormous nuclear potential seems to be defending itself against [inaudible] without nuclear weapons.

Logic has left our chat. Today is the 12th day of the war. Not some operation, but a war. A war in Europe, undeclared Russian war on Ukraine. It is the 12th day of Russian bombing in our peaceful Ukrainian cities and even villages, schools, kindergartens, maternity clinics, even nuclear stations. But Putin’s blitzkrieg became blitz failure. The whole world admires the courage of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, on social media, in private messages, on TV. Unfortunately, thousand Ukrainians have been killed, including 38 children.

Millions of Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes. Many of you sent us many words of support, sheltered us, and helped our army. Many thanks to you. Many of you understood that the real goal of Kremlin and Russian dictatorship is to destroy freedom, peace and human rights, right to life, right to dignity, right to freedom, and right to Internet.

Last year our team carried out a large state infrastructure project for deploying fiber optics networks in the most remote villages of our country. According to our last data, we had the highest level of coverage of high-capacity networks among all the European countries. About 97% of the Ukrainian population had the opportunity to connect to Internet based on fiber optic technologies.

Those settlements where the Russian army enters are cut off from the Internet. For example, in one of the villages where my relatives live, there are currently several thousand Russians. As soon as they captured the village, they immediately cut the optical cable and shot at the mobile operator’s base station with a machine gun. People are now cut off from the world.

Today is the 12th day of destroying Ukrainian Internet infrastructure by Russian bombs. Our heroic ISPs rebuild it under fire, risking their lives to save communications for people. Thanks to our heroic ISPs and Elon Musk’s support, people in bomb shelters still have a chance to know whether their relatives are safe or not, whether they are alive, or unfortunately, no more.

Our cybersecurity is also under threat. Thanks to heroic efforts, the .UA domain is stable. All services have been moved to backup positions and function independently from the Ukrainian infrastructure. Hostmaster LLC strengthened Anycast secondaries to prevent possible attacks on domain service.

“ICANN has been built to ensure that the Internet works, not for its coordination role to be used to stop it from working.”

I fully support these words of Göran Marby, ICANN CEO. But I would like to ask you, will it be okay for you if Internet is working for all except Ukrainians? Just because Russian assassins will kill Ukrainians. Of course, this is an apocalyptic scenario that will not be implemented. Ukrainians will not allow this. Ukraine has already received invaluable support from nearly all ICANN constituencies and at individual level. We are grateful for your help in strengthening the cybersecurity of .UA as well as other items of our critical infrastructure. We welcome the decision of ICANN Board to allocate an initial sum of 1 million US dollars to be used to provide financial assistance to support access to Internet infrastructure in emergency situations.

It will be great to spend a part of this sum to buy more Starlinks for Ukrainian Internet users. Of course, ICANN cannot close the sky over Ukraine, but I would like to ask all of you to appeal to your governments to protect Ukraine, and the infrastructure of the Internet for that matter, from the barbaric actions of Putin’s Russia. We fully support ICANN’s commitment to ensure a single and global Internet. Moreover, we have already asked to limit the Kremlin’s influence on our common free digital space since the national Russian peculiarities of Internet governance are known worldwide. Kremlin wants and will be happy to get the sovereign Internet, and they will get it by destroying “one world, one Internet” if we do not unite against such threats.

On March 11th, Russia will completely disconnect from the global Internet but the Russian representative will retain his role as one of the 12 holders of the DNSSEC root key. Are you serious? That is why we call on ICANN community, IANA, registrars and registries and the vendors who make the Internet free and available for everyone on the Earth to join the enforcement to the sanctions of the civilized world recently imposed on Kremlin, Russian companies and individuals. Do not allow them to use the Internet as a cyber battlefield against fundamental human rights and do not allow them to attack critical infrastructure for bloody warfare.

We also call on public and private entities to make steps in technological exodus from the Russian Federation, the empire of evil, the terrorist state number one, the fascist of 21st century. Last person out turns off the lights. I hope it will not be ICANN.

Thank you, dear community, for your support. We believe that you are also on the side of freedom and light.

ICANN extends Covid-19 abuse monitoring to Ukraine war

Kevin Murphy, March 9, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN has started monitoring domains related to the war in Ukraine for potential abuse, expanding an ongoing project related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

CEO Göran Marby has during multiple sessions at ICANN 73 this week said that the Org will soon announce an extension of its DNSTICR project — pronounced “DNS Ticker” and standing for Domain Name Security Threat Information Collection & Reporting.

The plan is to alert registrars about Ukraine-related domain names being used to scam people or drop malware.

“There will be coming up more information about this very soon, but we have decided to also add names in relationship to the conflict in Ukraine,” Marby said during a session with the Commercial Stakeholders Group.

DNSTICR was launched in March 2020, when the pandemic was in full swing, to find new domains containing keywords such as “covid”, “pandemic” and “coronavirus”, and check them against domain abuse lists.

From May 2020 to August last year, it flagged 210,939 pandemic-related domains, and found that 3,791 of them were malicious with “high confidence”.

CTO John Crain said in a session on Monday: “There’s a lot of stuff in the press and some technical papers out there that show clearly that the bad guys, as always, have, once again, pivoted to whatever is happening in the world. So if we can do a little bit to help, we will.”

ICANN’s Ukraine relief may extend to Russians too

Kevin Murphy, March 9, 2022, Domain Policy

Russian domain name registrants affected by sanctions could benefit from ICANN’s relaxation of its renewal rules.

ICANN on Monday announced that it was classifying the war in Ukraine as an “extenuating circumstance” under the terms of its standard Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

This means that Ukrainians cut off from the internet due to the invasion could be cut some slack, at their registrar’s discretion, when it comes to renewing their gTLD domains.

But ICANN’s executive team was asked, during a session at ICANN 73 later that day, whether the same benefits could be extended to Russian registrants, perhaps unable to pay due to Western sanctions on payment systems.

Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Paypal are among those to restrict Russian accounts in recent days.

ICANN mostly ducked the question.

Co-deputy CEO Theresa Swinehart responded by deferring to the original blog post, and general counsel John Jeffrey followed up by quoting some of the post’s language:

“I think we’re clear in that the events in Ukraine and the surrounding region are now considered by ICANN to be an extending circumstance under the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, under,” he said.

The words “surrounding region”, found in the original post alongside “affected region” and “affected area”, seem to be key here.

They could just as easily refer to Russia as they could to places such as Poland and Hungary, which are currently accepting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees.

It seems the registrars may have the discretion here; ICANN was apparently in no hurry to provide clarity.

The exchange came during a 90-minute session in which ICANN’s executive team were peppered with community questions, many related to the war and how ICANN might be affected by US-imposed sanctions.

Execs said that ICANN would comply with any US laws related to sanctions but that so far it had not seen anything that would affect its ability to contract with Russian companies.

A question apparently related to whether ICANN was reviewing its relationships with law firms and banks that may be involved with Russian oligarchs, much like Tucows is doing, was ducked.

They were also asked how the $1 million ICANN at the weekend earmarked to help keep Ukraine online might be spent, and while CEO Göran Marby alluded to a broad request from Ukraine for satellite terminals, he said it had been less than a day since the resolution was passed and it was too early to say.

“We obviously will focus on what we can do that makes the maximum impact as close to our mission as we possibly can,” added Sally Costerton, senior VP of stakeholder engagement.