If you face internet problems over the next 48 hours, you may do well to not sweat about it too much. That is because the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will be updating the cryptographic key that helps protect the Domain Name System (DNS), which can also be considered the world-wide web’s address book. The ICANN, which is based in Los Angeles, California, is responsible for maintaining the registry of domain names and IP addresses on the internet.
What is a DNS?
The DNS addresses can be considered as address book for the internet. The way it works is that it understands the web addresses we punch into the web browsers in our PCs and phones, for example, and then matches them in the database with the correct domains and internet protocol (IP) addresses—so that you are directed to the page you actually need to go. Every web domain is listed in this directory. And this is how all the web traffic is managed and directed correctly.
What does the ICANN need to do?
Keeping in mind the ever increasing and changing security threats on the internet, ICANN needs to update the encryption keys for the DNS addresses. This means that the DNS, and subsequently the webpages that it links to, will be unavailable during the process of updating. It will be as if those pages don’t exist, for that duration. Alternatively, some pages on a domain could still be accessible, but they will load very slowly.
Will my internet be completely dead?
No, ICANN’s process of updating the encryption does not mean that the entire internet will be unavailable, or that we will have a complete shutdown of the world wide web. It will happen in batches, and could see certain websites, web pages and web based services and resources being unavailable for a certain duration of time. Once the new security measures are updated and authenticated, things should be back to normal.
It is interesting to note that most websites are cached as well, so the changes or the break in content during this update period could actually be noticeable in a couple of days post the encryption key update. As per ICANN’s estimates after initial tests, only 1% of the total internet users around the world are expected to be impacted by the shutdown. That would still calculate to more than 36 million people, at least, as per the numbers shared by the organization. The problem perhaps gets compounded when you aren’t able to access Netflix over the weekend.
What should I do?
Nothing at first—wait it out. If the websites and web pages are still not accessible, you could do well to restart the router installed at home—this will ensure that it accesses the DNS data updated by your internet service provider. If the problem persists, that could be because your internet company is still using outdated DNS, which means they need to wake up and smell the coffee.