Why Do Seven People Hold The Keys To The Internet?

It may sound straight out of the movies, but it's true: seven people from all over the world hold the literal keys to worldwide internet security. Specifically, each of these keys access a safety deposit box, which in turn holds a smartcard, which combines with every other smartcard to generate a master key. That master key controls one of the internet's central security measures known as the domain-name system, or DNS. DNS is what makes it possible for you to enter a web address, like, instead of the series of numbers known as an IP address, such as The keyholders exist to verify that each web address is authentic. If they didn't, hundreds of fake web addresses could pop up to send people to malicious sites. The master key can also reconstruct the entire system in case of disaster. But how does a person gain this much power? Just an online application. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), the private US company that runs the system, only received 40 applications in their initial posting for 21 positions. Each keyholder was chosen for their experience -- all have lengthy careers in internet security -- and for their location, since there are limits on the number of keyholders any one country can have. Every time the group meets, they undergo extreme security measures: they walk through two doors that each require a smart card, a pin code, and a hand scan in various sequences, then a third that uses an iris scanner. There's no limit to how long one keyholder can serve, and in the time the group has existed, only one has resigned. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

Written by Curiosity Staff July 11, 2016

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