back to article ICANN responds to Ukraine demand to delete all Russian domains

ICANN on Wednesday rebuffed a request from Mykhailo Fedorov, First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, to revoke all Russian web domains, shut down Russian DNS root servers, and invalidate associated TLS/SSL certificates in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Fedorov made his request because Russia's assault has been " …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They won't and can't get everything they ask for.

    While Ukraine has been owning the role of asymmetric warfare, and I don't really blame them for swinging for the fences, this is one of the rare cases I agree with a statement coming out of ICANN. It wouldn't surprise if they collected six bribes before breakfast, inculding two from each side of this issue. In this case they, regardless of their other motives are making the right call.

    Whatever action the might have took would have set a precedent for every future conflict, and risked embroiling both the organization and internet in a permanent state of turmoil. The consequences of knocking down the gTLDs would have been a hot mess anyway. Indiscriminate and disruptive actions on that scale during war is a great way to teach the law of unintended consequences. While it might of felt good for a second to pwn the Russians that hard, it at minimum could have turned sentiment against them in the Russian public, and would have necessitated Putin engage in an escalation of similar scale. And that's just THIS conflict.

    1. ShadowSystems

      Re: They won't and can't get everything they ask for.

      ICANN has a point in that they need to remain neutral to maintain the stability of the global network. You can't let politics get into it else the stability turns rather fragile.

      The problem is that when one nation uses that same network to attack another nation, that's when the neutrality gloves need to come off. In order to maintain that stability you need to defend it from serious abuses like the very one being done by one nation against another.

      Update all those DNS records to stop sending traffic to/from Russia until/unless Russia stops the electronic warfare via the global network. Over their own infrastructure without using global resources, sure, but absolutely not over the general global internet.

      Yes it will take a while to update all the records, YES it may not populate to *every* DNS holder on the net (especially any smaller ones that refuse to update regularly), but enough of them will update soon enough to put a serious dent in the Russian traffic to cut back on their ability to misuse the internet.

      "The only thing Evil needs to succeed is for Good men to do nothing." So if ICANN decides to sit on it's hands & twiddle it's thumbs up it's arse, it will have decided to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: They won't and can't get everything they ask for.

        "The problem is that when one nation uses that same network to attack another nation, that's when the neutrality gloves need to come off. In order to maintain that stability you need to defend it from serious abuses like the very one being done by one nation against another."

        The problem with that is that Russia's information war would not be stopped or even dramatically harmed by carrying out Ukraine's requested action. They have propaganda sites ending in .ru and with servers based in Russia, certainly, but they also have propaganda sites ending in .com and .ua with servers in lots of countries. As each one is identified, the hosts can be targeted and requested to shut down the site or revoke the domain. Even if they wanted to set up this shutdown and had the authority, it wouldn't solve the issue. Doing it, however, would have some dramatic side-effects.

        I think nearly everything should be done to get Russia out of Ukraine and charge them with war crimes. If an action will cause significant harm to unconnected things and also not work, let's not waste time trying it. Let's spend our time finding an alternative which corrects the latter and ideally the former.

      2. Ben Tasker

        Re: They won't and can't get everything they ask for.

        > Update all those DNS records to stop sending traffic to/from Russia until/unless Russia stops the electronic warfare via the global network. Over their own infrastructure without using global resources, sure, but absolutely not over the general global internet.

        That's not how DNS works, at all.

        It's basically a distributed phonebook, it doesn't control the flow of traffic.

        If your suggesting everyone should reconfigure their recursors not to respond to Russian IPs then - slow clap - at best you've just slowed the flow of truth into Russia. Russian ISPs run their own recursors, so the majority of users won't notice.

        If you're suggesting everyone should update their authoritatives to not respond to russian recursors, good luck with getting that in place.

        The internet is part of how we get the truth into Russia - showing what's really happening, and undermining the states lies. Fucking with connectivity harms that goal, whilst doing very, very little in terms of positive impact

      3. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: They won't and can't get everything they ask for.

        "The only thing Evil needs to succeed is for people on the internet to quote things out of context and with no regard for the specifics of the situation." - FIFY.

        1. P. Lee

          Re: They won't and can't get everything they ask for.

          Or indeed, with no thought for the future.

          El Reg's note linking the response "that won't satisfy" to the existential threat being endured by those involved, is sentimental claptrap. Ask those being shelled what would really satisfy them, I don't think, "blocking Russia's use of Twitter and Ebay and blocking America's access to RT" would be high on their list.

          Will the stupid virtue-signalling never end?

          We haven't even mentioned what happens to DNS when everyone sees that anyone America doesn't like get's booted off. We have a phrase for it... Balkanisation. Almost ironic.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They won't and can't get everything they ask for.

      Might have, ffs

      1. ICL1900-G3

        Re: They won't and can't get everything they ask for.

        Absolutely. Tell people there is no verb 'to of' is, sadly, a waste of time.

    3. Daniel von Asmuth

      Re: They won't and can't get everything they ask for.

      Perhaps the orgainisation should be renamed to ICANT.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DNS damage not necessary

    A nation-by-nation prohibition on peering with ASs in or controlled by Russia would cause pain. And some really strange flows.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DNS damage not necessary

      Maybe EU and US ISPs could pull the plug on .ru.

      I mean, who's going to be inconvenienced apart from malware writers?

    2. rcxb1

      Re: DNS damage not necessary

      China won't abandon Russia, and the world isn't going to disconnect China from the Internet. Routes between Moscow and Europe will get slower and higher latency, but that's about all.

    3. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: DNS damage not necessary

      Yes. There is really no value in uprooting the DNS. If you want to attack Russia's Internet, BGP4 is the weapon of choice.

      But... but... that would remove the only method that Russian citizens, such as soldiers' families, have of reaching factual news sources. It would prevent what Ukraine is doing: exposing the ID and photos etc of captured, injured or dead Russian soldiers so that their families in Russia can know what's going on. It would prevent any news getting out of Russia except via Putin's propaganda channels.

      So sabotaging the Internet in Russia would probably be the wrong thing.

      Sabotaging the Russian economy seems much more useful.

      Go home, Ivan.

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    In the event ICANN did delete all the Russian domains, couldn't the Russian gov just instruct their ISP to update their DNS to look up the Russian domains on root servers under Russian control anyway? Effectively making the Russian domains just accessible within Russia only so still able to spread the propaganda to the Russian citizens

    1. dafe

      All root servers are under US control. It used to be more diversified.

      But yes, everyone can set up their own root servers. You only need to get the ISPs to refer to them, or otherwise convince users to configure their DNS settings to include them.

      1. Yes Me Silver badge

        "All root servers are under US control"

        Absolute utter rubbish.

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Wasn't there something on The Register about President Putin at some recent time ordering that the internet in Russia is to be prepared for disconnection from the rest of the world, to operate independently? And... Russia is quite good at this computer stuff. So I think it would not bother them.

      3. TheWeetabix Bronze badge

        pass that blunt…

        “… With anycast, most of the physical root servers are now outside the United States, allowing for high performance worldwide.”

        Courtesy Wikipedia

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The assumption seems to be that connection to the internet is regarded as a right. But rights are really a matter of mutual respect - the old argument of my right to extend my fist stops at the end of your nose. Where is Russia's respect in this?

    1. eldakka

      > the old argument of my right to extend my fist stops at the end of your nose. Where is Russia's respect in this?

      I think Russia believes it has the right to extend it's fist to your nose, down your throat, past you stomach to your intestines, grasp tight, then reverse course pulling your intestines out your mouth.

    2. SundogUK Silver badge

      I don't think this is true.

      I think the assumption is that this is technically extremely difficult and will have second order consequences we really want to avoid.

      When two peoples are fighting, making it difficult/impossible for them to talk to each other is not really a great idea, especially when both sides have nuclear weapons.

  5. Jeffrey Nonken

  6. Trigun

    As much as I hate what Putin is doing, keeping the internet neutral as much as one can is important.

    Also: The whole "If they nuke us then we've got bigger problems" statement is quite correct, especially as my computer probably wont work due to EMP and *I* wont work due to being a crispy skeleton still slowly spinning in my computer chair. Icon for the theme.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Very Vichy of you

      Very cowardly.

      You Paraphrased: "we cannot delete .RU or Putin might nuke us"

      Putin: "delete .UK .DE and.FR or I'll nuke you"

      You prediction: "Sure Mr Putin Sir, please don't nuke me".

      Putin's bombing nuclear power stations in Ukraine. Do you imagine that he feels the same way about the "importance of keeping the internet neutral???" Do you imagine he'd respect your wishes? Do you imagine he wouldn't kill *your* kids or invade *your* country? Why are you so special? Maybe if you cower enough? He'll appreciate the cowardice and reward it somehow?

      All he has to do is threaten to nuke you and you would delete .UK .FR .DE in a heartbeat. Your conviction is thinly disguised fear, fear constructed by your own imagination. Nothing more scary than the stuff you invent in your own head.

      Listen to yourself, afraid to block a Russian website in case you get nuked.

      What's clear is we have a Vichy NATO. A tiny bit of air support is all Ukraine needs and the Russian attack collapses, and with it Putin's regime and we get decades of safety and peace. The tiniest little help, for the greatest reward, and still NATO do not act!

      Fail and we get decades of living in fear over what Putin and his puppets will do next, knowing NATO is worthless, it will not defend anything, anytime. Not a single Russian supply line will be destroyed, not a single bomber down by NATO, ever, out of fear.

      Their treaties are worthless because the men enforcing them are spineless.

      Even if Putin nuked Germany, they would not fight back. At no point would they fight back, there would always be the Vichy element among them afraid to fight back. No matter how weak Putin's forces are, or how easy it is to flip this situation and ensure decades of safety around the world, there will be no action.

      But they don't need to nuke anything, do they, they simply say "give us Germany or we nuke you" and coward like you will do the rest.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Very Vichy of you

        You clearly didn't understand what they said. I'll summarize it. If nuclear weapons are involved, the internet situation isn't the problem you need to work on.

        And by the way, we wouldn't do things for Putin if he threatened to nuke us. If he threatened that, we would threaten to nuke him in return. It gets kind of scary, but that's what has happened each time and would happen this time as well. People are cowardly when it's someone else suffering but can turn strong when it's themselves at risk. Those who don't switch get replaced when public concern gets high enough.

        1. ICL1900-G3

          Re: Very Vichy of you

          You are, of course, quite correct. I do, nevertheless feel we're not exactly knocking ourselves out in the West, especially the UK, to do things that might actually help Ukraine.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Very Vichy of you

            We certainly could do more. I am surprised to see that we have done what we have given our tepid responses to the other crimes Russia has committed recently, so I may start off with a different attitude to you, but we both agree that there are things we could be doing that we are not. I still take exception to those who imply that our countries have done nothing or will do nothing when that's obviously false, as well as with people who extend that argument into hypothetical areas that would be clearly different.

      2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: Very Vichy of you


        "What's clear is we have a Vichy NATO. A tiny bit of air support is all Ukraine needs and the Russian attack collapses, and with it Putin's regime and we get decades of safety and peace. The tiniest little help, for the greatest reward, and still NATO do not act!"

        Ukraine is not a member of NATO... therefore NATO wont act unless the UN authorises it.

        However if NATO does act... the first thing the russians will do is take out the airbases in Poland.

        If it means using tactical nukes to do it, they will.

        At which point we get very pissed off and do the same. and then it escalates.. until we end up with the final problem of an all out thermo-nuclear war

        Trying to decide which smoking hole in the ground is the winner

        However hard it is..... we have to stand back, if it was the case that no one had nukes , we'd be in there damned quick. if the Ukraine still had its nukes , Russia's army would be on their side of the border right now.

        But if Russia was so stupid as to send forces into a NATO country......... sheesh see icon

        PS and until last week I never believed putin was THAT stupid....

      3. Trigun

        Re: Very Vichy of you

        Why do I get the feeling, going by yout tirade, that you're more responding to other people? If not, a tad of an over reaction perhaps? Especially as you don't know my full position on the subject.

        Just to explain what I actually put: The skeleton bit was more dark humour, but clearly you took it literally. As for ICANN: People have to trust their neutrality and so one has to make sure that breaking that is worth it. Going by ICANN's response, it wouldn't be.

        As for cowardice: I'm not the one posting as "Anonymous Coward" (hint: the clue is in the name ;) ).

  7. bigtreeman


    Does Ukraine have a right to put up a firewall to block Russian domains ?

    But ideologically I'm on Desmond's side.

    Evil prevails when good men fail to act.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: firewall

      They have the right to do so. There is no international law against censorship, at least anything that's enforced or phrased any more clearly than "censorship is bad, signed by censors". Depending on their local ISPs' control over the networks and internal systems, they could try doing that already. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that they are trying it but finding it harder than they thought to implement at short notice.

      1. dafe

        Re: firewall

        Some countries do censor their internet. Saudi-Arabia for example routes its entire inbound traffic through a firewall that censors out all the porn (and who knows what else).

        Sure, the problem with censorship is the loss of autonomy, but in international law the government has the right to do whatever they want to their own people as long as it's not torture or genocide.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: firewall

          Exactly. There is nothing preventing them apart from the technical problems. I'm not sure whether Ukraine had set up any of the required infrastructure to do it as have some other countries. Being somewhat democratic, it's more likely that they didn't think they'd need it.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: firewall

          > through a firewall that censors out all the porn

          Depends on how you define "all".

          > (and who knows what else).

          Bunch of random stuff. A local Thai newspaper, a French building society's website, stuff like that, plus far right websites.

          At least that's how it was when i was there. It was a run of the mill commercial content filter (not websense but a competitor).

          When you landed on a blocked website (such as your bank!) there was a form to request that they unblock it, which they do within the day or so. Until the new version of their database was installed, every month or so. Then you had to repeat the whole dance again.

          And no, it wasn't true that they block stuff about human rights or criticism of the Saudis. I was even able to read Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post with no issues.

          I always got the impression that the techies managing the filter were much of a geek as any of us.

    2. P. Lee

      Re: firewall

      I think Desmond was quoting from much earlier, 1700's at least.

      The problem here is that its also true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

      The fundamental problems are:

      1. Can we fix the world's problems- is it logistically possible?

      2. Even if we had the resources and we wanted to fix all the problems, what's the likelihood of making a mistake and doing evil?

      It seems to be that the West pushing for Ukrainian membership of the EU and NATO was like giving a drunk party girl with a long walk home, more alcohol, because she asked for it.

      1. Ashto5

        Re: firewall

        My understanding is that Ukraine wanted to move closer to Europe and away from Moscow

        They have not been offered NATO membership BECAUSE of this very issue.

        Putin is a nut job and wants to rebuild the USSR, he is not going to stop and if the "Cancer" story is true I for one feel that the idiot would push the button and take everyone with him.

    3. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: firewall

      They don't want to block Russian traffic. They are using the Internet to expose facts, including the ID and photos of PoWs and dead Russians, to the Russian public. It's actually more likely that the Russians will seek to block Ukrainian traffic - but maybe not, because they want to spew propaganda.

    4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: firewall

      Suppose that Russia demanded that Britain stops lighting up its public buildings blue and yellow, or London is nuked.

      I think the freedom and the message of having famous landmarks thousands of miles away from Ukraine look temporarily as though they're not, while being a freedom that I love, is not the hill to die on. Literally.

      We'd still do Edinburgh Castle of course. I'm in Scotland and we're thrawn.

  8. clyde666


    The old adage about truth being the first casualty of war.

    People screaming about propaganda, and shut down Russia's TLDs and domains.

    For any sake, the internet is about much more than propaganda. It's also about much more than being a vehicle for nasty attacks.

    The internet fuels vast communications between people everywhere. Good and bad. Mostly for the good.

    Well done that Mueller guy for standing firm in the face of what was probably strong pressure.

    1. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Propaganda

      I agree, as others have said, it would be a minor inconvenience to Russia but they would quite easily work around it. That is the very nature of the Internet, it is distributed with only ICANN providing logical oversight for the TLDs.

      The real challenge is that if ICANN were to have agreed to this, then immediately they have become political (or more overtly political than they possibly are). Once a precedent has been set it becomes very difficult to unset.

      Given the number of conflicts that are rumbling on continually it would be very easy for the Internet to gradually become (more?) dysfunctional. Stopping the people in the blocked TLD is next to impossible, just look at how easy it is to hide behind shell companies, all that would happen is that any TLD that was deemed to be "at risk" is the regime behind it would just move to an acceptable TLD through shell companies. It is just virtual "whack a mole".

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Propaganda


        Challenge isn't technical, it's political. Root zone can be found by humans & hostmasters here-

        So just edit the .ru section, and call it good. Potential snag are the RRSIG and encryption parts, but authority flows from the root down.

        Political & legal issues are more complex, ie this would be ICANN's decision, because they sign root. But there are also sanctions. So perhaps the US, EU or national governments decide it's illegal to provide services to Russia. DNS is a service, ICANN is a US corporation, so legally might be forced to comply. Other nations take note, and perhaps decide to create 'independent' alt.roots, and the Internet fragments, or Balkanises.

        But this is an issue ICANN and the Internet has struggled with for years, ie whilst key functions operate under the authority of national entities like the US Department of Commerce, there's potential for national interests to interfere. Alternative could be to transfer authority to a 'neutral' entity, eg the ITU. But that would create challenges of it's own.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If they stopped Russian entities from using non Ru domains that would help.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a two way street

    What does Fedorov not want us to see?

  11. CheesyTheClown

    When the war is over

    The Russian people are not our enemy. In any war, people are convinced by their leaders through multiple routes that they have to fight. When this war is over, for the health of the world and the human race, we have to embrace the Russian people and integrate them back into our civilization. We can’t have a repeat of the end of the Cold War. Putin is in power for one reason and one reason alone. When the Cold War ended, we treated Russia as beggars and losers and we made movies bragging about how families sold their daughters as sex workers in exchange for wood to keep from freezing. The Russian people responded by embracing a leader who they believed would give them back their pride through a show of strength.

    I absolutely want Ukraine to come out of this as a free country who develops into a great nation. But I don’t want Russia coming out of this as a starving and desperate dog.

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