African ISPs get digital verification


The African Network Information Centre's (AfriNIC's) resource certification service is now readily available, according to the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Africa.
It explains that this is a number resource organisation initiative to improve long-term Internet routing stability.

“From 1 January 2011, members requesting IP [Internet Protocol] addresses or AS [Autonomous System] numbers will have the option of being issued a 'resource certificate',” says AfriNIC.

It adds that the resource certificate is digital verification that the resource has been officially assigned by AfriNIC.

The RIR also says the resource certification will automate the process of Internet routing in a reliable, transparent way. Certification allows network operators to verify that IP addresses don't belong to another network, since routing problems occur when two networks claim the same set of addresses.

“This will help prevent the type of mis-announcement that resulted in the global YouTube outage in 2008, following a routing error by Pakistan Telecom. The vast majority of 'mis-announcements' are accidental, known as route leaking, but can still have a significant impact on global Internet traffic.”

Pakistan Telecom made an error with BGP (Border Gateway Protocol), which is used to configure routers for Internet traffic, according to media reports.The Pakistan government had ordered ISPs to block YouTube, but Pakistan Telecom misconfigured the block, making YouTube inaccessible to users worldwide.

The mistake would have been avoidable if the operator had a digital certificate. This would have alerted it that it did not control IP addresses belonging to Google. ISPs would then not have followed the routing instructions, explains AfriNIC.

As Internet penetration increases in the African region, routing errors could have a much greater impact on the network, according to AfriNIC chief executive Adiel Akplogan. “Resource certification will reduce these risks and help ensure a safe and secure Internet for all.”

In an interview with ITWeb, Akplogan said Africa's Internet penetration is at around 5-6%, but – compared to where it was in 2000 – there has been huge progress, with as much as 1,000% growth in some places.

“We are still lagging behind, but catching up very fast. Internet is becoming an important tool in the life of everyone – whether in a developing country or not, so it's becoming vital for social and economical development.”

AfriNIC says resource certification is a system based on globally accepted and well-known Public Key Infrastructure principles and all of the RIRs have committed to deploying certification in their region.