Open-source Leader Advocates Strong FCC Enforcement of Routing Security

The Federal Communications Commission should consider imposing comprehensive tests and fines—after fair warning and guidance—to ensure internet service providers are taking minimal steps to protect the global internet routing system from malicious hackers, according to comments a leader in the open-source security community submitted to the agency.

“Voluntary compliance has failed to ensure compliance with even basic measures; companies have negligently allowed hijacking for decades, even when well-known and practical countermeasures exist,” wrote David Wheeler, director of open source supply-chain security for the Linux Foundation. “The FCC should establish a testing regime to ensure that Internet routing, if depended on by others, strongly resists hijacks using currently practical measures such as [Resource Public Key Infrastructure]”

Comments were due Monday in response to an inquiry the FCC made on the issue in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The commission is concerned about hackers’—particularly powerful nation-state actors’—ability to manipulate the Border Gateway Protocol to redirect internet traffic by pretending to offer a more efficient network path. Resource Public Key Infrastructure, or RPKI, refers to a system of certificates and cryptographic attestation for stakeholders to validate the origin and authorize the route internet traffic should take. 

In response to the FCC asking about the extent to which network operators have implemented available security measures, Wheeler pointed to a test established by the content distribution network Cloudflare. The test is a simple red-team exercise that advertises a route known to be spurious. Cloudflare committed to implementing RPKI in the fall of 2018.   

“Those US organizations who fail should be notified, provided guidance on how to fix the problem, & given a grace period … to (re)gain compliance,” Wheeler said. “After the grace period there need to be incentives for failing US organizations to change to implement at least minimal efforts … These incentives should include grants if the organization is a not-for-profit, publishing a list of non-compliant entities, and then…