Internet Architecture Board


IAB Statement on Internet Confidentiality

In 1996, the IAB and IESG recognized that the growth of the Internet depended on users having confidence that the network would protect their private information.  RFC 1984 documented this need.  Since that time, we have seen evidence that the capabilities and activities of attackers are greater and more pervasive than previously known.  The IAB now believes it is important for protocol designers, developers, and operators to make encryption the norm for Internet traffic.  Encryption should be authenticated where possible, but even protocols providing confidentiality without authentication are useful in the face of pervasive surveillance as described in RFC 7258.

Newly designed protocols should prefer encryption to cleartext operation. There may be exceptions to this default, but it is important to recognize that protocols do not operate in isolation.  Information leaked by one protocol can be made part of a more substantial body of information by cross-correlation of traffic observation.  There are protocols which may as a result require encryption on the Internet even when it would not be a requirement for that protocol operating in isolation.

We recommend that encryption be deployed throughout the protocol stack since there is not a single place within the stack where all kinds of communication can be protected.

The IAB urges protocol designers to design for confidential operation by default.  We strongly encourage developers to include encryption in their implementations, and to make them encrypted by default.  We similarly encourage network and service operators to deploy encryption where it is not yet deployed, and we urge firewall policy administrators to permit encrypted traffic.

We believe that each of these changes will help restore the trust users must have in the Internet.  We acknowledge that this will take time and trouble, though we believe recent successes in content delivery networks, messaging, and Internet application deployments demonstrate the feasibility of this migration.  We also acknowledge that many network operations activities today, from traffic management and intrusion detection to spam prevention and policy enforcement, assume access to cleartext payload.  For many of these activities there are no solutions yet, but the IAB will work with those affected to foster development of new approaches for these activities which allow us to move to an Internet where traffic is confidential by default.

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