Nearly a decade after it introduced a program to internationalize domain names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is expected to take another step on Friday. ICANN, during its annual meeting in Seoul, Korea, will vote on the internationalized domain names (IDN) initiative, better known as the Fast Track.
The IDN initiative, if approved, will provide nations with their own country-code domain names and make the Internet more accessible to millions of people in Asia and the Middle East who speak and read in Arabic, Chinese and Korean, according to ICANN.
"In Seoul, we plan to move forward to the next step in the internationalization of the Internet, which means that eventually people from every corner of the globe will be able to navigate much of the online world using their native language scripts," said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's CEO.
ICANN has been researching IDN since 2000. After years of discussion and working-group studies, ICANN has determined that nations and territories have a pressing need for their own IDNs.
The initial discussions focused on putting IDNs under existing top-level domains (such as .com, .gov, .net), which has been the standard since 2003. But the focus has shifted to broadening the list of characters available for use.
The process will allow countries and territories that use language-based scripts other than Latin the opportunity to offer their users domain names in non-Latin characters. The IDNs will be made available only to government and administrations of nations listed in the ISO 3166-1 standards. Currently, 246 countries are listed in the standards and have their own code.
While working groups have researched the use of IDNs for some time, saying good will come out of the change, security experts say ICANN needs to iron out a major kink before considering the plan.
"In one sense I am sure few would argue against internationalizing the Internet," said Jart Armin, a security expert with Host Exploit. "However, for ICANN to simply push on with internationalized domain names in languages such as Arabic, Russian and Chinese without resolving some of the Internet denial-of-service security issues that exist with the existing system is quite frankly dangerous at best or irresponsible at its worst."
Unauthorized or malicious redirects and remote file inclusion (RFI) are at epidemic proportions. Intrusion detection systems are struggling to keep up with the existing methods, Armin added.
"To expect such a system to be intelligently multilingual overnight is absurd," Armin said. "As in the normal pattern for ICANN, it appears to carry on regardless of the average Internet user's safety."
The Seoul meeting will provide security experts the opportunity to share updates on DNS security, according to ICANN.
If approved, the launch of the Fast Track process would be Nov. 16.