The United States needs sovereignty over the internet

In this Aug. 16, 2016 file photo, a worker is silhouetted against a computer display showing a live visualization of the online phishing and fraudulent phone calls across China during the 4th China Internet Security Conference (ISC) in Beijing.  A recall of Chinese-made technology in the US has been called due to the cyberattack that shut down Twitter and Netflix. (Ng Han Guan/ AP)

Globalization has led to a level of interconnectedness that must have seemed unfathomable half-a-century ago. With constant advances in technology and artificial intelligence, the world has become an arena in which, quite frankly, anything is possible.

But with progress comes great responsibility. The Internet has forever changed the way nations interact on numerous levels, including tall aspects of diplomacy. Naturally, nations, including the United States, have it within their best interests to keep the Internet secure, as a breach in security could lead to the leak of highly classified information to the detriment of the nation.

On Friday, Oct. 7, the Obama Administration formally accused Russia of politically motivated cyber attacks, leading to a leak of stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee. The administration has held firmly that the cyber attacks were intended to interfere with the ongoing 2016 election cycle.

Although there was some speculation about whether or not the U.S. government would plan a retaliatory cyber attack via the National Security Agency, there was never any information to confirm or deny those rumors. 

On Friday, Oct. 21, three waves of cyber attacks affected areas across the United States and parts of Western Europe. The attacks were said to be linked to unsuspecting devices in average homes that had webcams and Internet access, which together were used to generate the attack on Dyn, a middleman company responsible for directing Internet traffic to particular websites. Hundreds of websites, including Netflix, Reddit, Twitter and more were down for hours of the day on Friday. 

Although the attack didn’t seem to have large-scale implications, the group responsible —New World Hackers—has alerted the world via their Twitter that this is not the end. “Prophet,” a member of New World Hackers, allegedly disclosed, in a Twitter direct-message, that the attack was only a prelude to their next target: the Russian government, in response to cyber attacks on the DNC.

All of these attacks pose a major question to the international community: who has sovereignty over the Internet? With such vital information kept locked up in the vices of the Internet, surely attacks at this level should not be the norm. And while they may not be, highly classified information should not be up in the air with even a small chance that it could be leaked. In a world where there is so much at stake, why hasn’t the society begun to take claims of the Internet?

The Russian and Chinese governments have been outlining policies to help them establish sovereignty over the Internet in their territories. Although it may not seem like a significant feat, I argue that it is imperative that the U.S. finds ways to establish sovereignty over their share of the Internet as well.

As of now, nobody “owns” the Internet. It a shared commodity, so everybody owns it and nobody owns it simultaneously. This should mean that nations could at least claim sovereignty over the Internet-space that is within the boundaries of their territories. Having claims to sovereignty over the Internet could change the nature of cyber attacks forever, allowing them to officially become acts of war, which would make smaller scaled attacks less likely.

The idea that Russia may have sovereignty over its portion of the Internet, while the U.S. has no such sovereignty, is an alarming prospect. This could technically mean that the governments of Russia and China, having claims to sovereignty, might be granted an unlimited license to do what they want, while an attack coming from the U.S. would be seen as a breach in sovereignty, or an act of war.

Claiming sovereignty over an infinitesimal piece of the Internet may seem ludicrous, and may not be a direct solution to our clearly weak networking servers. However, it very well may deter other nations from planning cyber attacks that could breach security and leak critical information.


Gulrukh Haroon is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at gulrukh.haroon@uconn.edu.