The Internet Is Your Oyster: MANRS at International Telecoms Week

This article was originally published on the Internet Society’s Blog.

What do oysters, clams, and mussels have in common with network operators? Hint: it’s not just that they are both in Atlanta this week, either in exhibits in the Georgia Aquarium or for the 2019 International Telecoms Week.

It’s that both bivalves and network operators play an incredibly important role for their ecosystems: they filter the bad stuff out and leave things a lot cleaner.

As water quality is vital to life in the ocean, the global routing system is vital to the smooth functioning of the Internet. The routing system’s decentralized structure, made up of thousands of independent networks tied together through business decisions and trusted relationships, provides flexibility, scalability, and overall durability.

However, despite its strengths, thousands of routing incidents occur every year. Some of these can be pretty scary, with route hijacks sending government traffic through the networks of foreign adversaries; route leaks slowing parts of the global Internet to a crawl; or hackers using spoofed traffic to take down websites in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Network operators can help mitigate these problems by using stronger filtering policies to block spoofed traffic coming from their networks (helping guard against DDoS attacks) and filter route announcements from neighboring networks to separate the real announcements from the bogus (helping guard against routing incidents). They can help filter out the pollutants of the routing system.

Yet, both network operators and bivalves suffer from serious image problems.

Sure we all know mussels as the things that look like shells and taste great when cooked with butter and white wine, but did we know they are also one of our best allies in cleaning the oceans? And who knew that network operators do so much to ensure the smooth function of the Internet?

Bivalves are incentivized to clean the ocean as a part of getting food – so they will always do it. Network operators, as businesses, also need incentives to do the right things on routing security. Unfortunately, while the solutions to routing security are known, a lack of incentives, particularly the difficulty of credibly signaling one’s routing security to customers or peers, holds back their implementation.

The Mutually Agree Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) is trying to change that.

As a visible, measurable, and actionable set of principles, network operators who join MANRS can show their customers, peers, and governments that they are doing their part to improve routing security online. And, with the forthcoming MANRS Observatory and Dashboard, people everywhere will be able to see the quantitative difference that MANRS members have vs. non-members in implementing routing security best practices.

These days, people tend to like the humble oyster or mussel. Sure they look like rocks and live in the mud, but they play an important part in making their ecosystem safer for everything else in it.

Network operators have an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership in improving the security of the global routing system.

Come see our booth this week at ITW to learn more about MANRS and how joining could help your business.

Join MANRS and take simple, concrete steps to improve Internet security and reliability!

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