DIDP Request #3: Cyber-attacks on ICANN

Posted by Geetha Hariharan at Mar 05, 2015 08:16 AM |
CIS sent ICANN a request under its Documentary Information Disclosure Policy, seeking details of cyber-attacks on ICANN, and ICANN's internal and external responses to the same. CIS' request and ICANN's response are detailed below.


CIS Request

24 December 2014


Mr. Steve Crocker, Chairman of the Board

Mr. Fadi Chehade, CEO and President

Mr. Geoff Bickers, Team Lead, ICANN Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) & Director of Security Operations

Mr. John Crain, Chief Security, Stability and Resiliency Officer

Members of the ICANN-CIRT & ICANN Security Team

Sub: Details of cyber-attacks on ICANN

We understand that ICANN recently suffered a spear-phishing attack that compromised contact details of several ICANN staff, including their email addresses; these credentials were used to gain access to ICANN’s Centralized Zone Data System (CZDS).[1] We are glad to note that ICANN’s critical functions and IANA-related systems were not affected.[2]

The incident has, however, raised concerns of the security of ICANN’s systems. In order to understand when, in the past, ICANN has suffered similar security breaches, we request details of all cyber-attacks suffered or thought/suspected to have been suffered by ICANN (and for which, therefore, investigation was carried out within and outside ICANN), from 1999 till date. This includes, naturally, the recent spear-phishing attack.

We request information regarding, inter alia,

(1)  the date and nature of all attacks, as well as which ICANN systems were compromised,

(2)   actions taken internally by ICANN upon being notified of the attacks,

(3)  what departments or members of staff are responsible for security and their role in the event of cyber-attacks,

(4)  the role and responsibility of the ICANN-CIRT in responding to cyber-attacks (and when policies or manuals exist for the same; if so, please share them),

(5)   what entities external to ICANN are involved in the identification and investigation of cyber-attacks on ICANN (for instance, are the police in the jurisdiction notified and do they investigate? If so, we request copies of complaints or information reports),

(6)  whether and when culprits behind the ICANN cyber-attacks were identified, and

(7)  what actions were subsequently taken by ICANN (ex: liability of ICANN staff for security breaches should such a finding be made, lawsuits or complaints against perpetrators of attacks, etc.).

Finally, we also request information on the role of the ICANN Board and/or community in the event of such cyber-attacks on ICANN. Also, when was the ICANN-CIRT set up and how many incidents has it handled since its existence? Do there exist contingency procedures in the event of compromise of IANA systems (and if so, what)?

We hope that our request will be processed within the stipulated time period of 30 days. Do let us know if you require any clarifications on our queries.

Thank you very much.

Warm regards,

Geetha Hariharan

Centre for Internet & Society

W: http://cis-india.org


ICANN Response

ICANN responded to our request by noting that it is vague and broad in both time and scope. In response, ICANN has provided information regarding certain cyber-incidents already in the public domain, while noting that the term "cyber-attack" is both wide and vague. While the information provided is undoubtedly useful, it is anecdotal at best, and does not provide a complete picture of ICANN's history of vulnerability to cyber-attacks or cyber-incidents, or the manner of its internal response to such incidents, or of the involvement of external law enforcement agencies or CIRTs in combating cyber-incidents on ICANN.

ICANN's response may be found here. A short summary our request and ICANN's response may be found in this table (Request S. no. 3).

[1] See ICANN targeted in spear-phishing attack, https://www.icann.org/news/announcement-2-2014-12-16-en.

[2] See IANA Systems not compromised, https://www.icann.org/news/announcement-2014-12-19-en.