Through whose eyes will we see the Internet?

10. 02. 2020.

DIDS 2020 has an important question to ask you. Do you think about whose eyes you will (or already do) see the Internet through? Will freedom of movement through what is still the freest territory in the world be subtly restricted by the application you use? Can more online privacy mean less security?

We are used to typing an address into our browser or clicking on a link and peeking into practically any corner of the global network, almost any part of the world, without thinking about the journey our request makes before reaching the destination. What if the browser we are using “decides” that a certain web destination is not for our eyes, or an application made by someone we do not even know circumvents security measures and sends us content which could harm us or the youngest users of the Internet – children?

When you think of online privacy, what exactly do you mean? You avoid posting your home address on social networks, you occasionally clear your browser history, you hope you are logging into secure sites when you pay online. You can only trust that your privacy is being protected when you use the Internet and the services provided on it, and at the same time you can only trust that you are secure.

Whom do you trust with the privacy of your DNS requests? And what is a DNS request, anyway? Only a minority of Internet users will be able to answer this question without consulting Google. By using one of the leading browsers you will already have ensured the privacy of these requests, while the other popular browsers intend to implement this soon. Yet this browser, which now provides privacy when submitting requests, searching and surfing, which hides our digital trail by encrypting requests, has been branded “Internet villain of the year” by the UK association of Internet service providers.

Many ISPs are required to filter content – in the positive sense of this we can all agree that blocking malware, phishing sites, child pornography etc. is not censorship. However if these companies and their filters are bypassed when a DNS request is sent, the harmful content from which they previously protected their users become accessible, with no warnings given.

A great deal of effort has been invested in improving Internet security. Numerous solutions have been put in place – the https protocol, DNSSEC, firewalls that use lists of malicious domain names, and so on. Companies all over the world are investing considerable amounts of money and resources in protecting their business and their users. Now those companies are beginning to invest in protection against DNS request encryption, and they have some fairly convincing arguments as to why they are doing it. A great many security solutions can now be circumvented, and the efforts thus far to make the Internet as safe as possible may end up having a quite different effect. We all want to use the Internet safely and care-free, but whether an application (and its creator) wants the same is another matter.

This brings us to our story about freedom, privacy, security, trust and DoH. What is DoH? Well, DoH is the most controversial abbreviation to appear in the Internet community last year, splitting experts into not two but at least three camps. DoH is an Internet protocol that has been adopted with the best of intentions – to ensure that we can use the Internet as discreetly as possible, and exercise our full right to privacy. But its implementation has opened up all the issues mentioned above, and many more, as well as cause security experts not a little discomfort. However it has not raised sufficient interest among those it affects the most – the end users of the Internet.

So DIDS 2020 asks – is the structure of the Internet as we have known it for more than forty years, founded on the DNS service, about to change for ever? And will that change be for the better or for the worse? Are we teetering on the brink of Internet anarchy, or is the Internet set to become a better place for everyone?

At DIDS 2020 we will talk about the freedom, privacy, security and trust of the users of the Internet. And about DoH.