steve crocker, darpa, x500 and DNS and trust

Steve croker was head of IETF internet security activities at the time when I was involved in standards work. He was also a founder and thought leader of the internet movement itself – that civilian form of the military internet he helped foment. As a DARPA program manger, he fit the bill perfectly: strong willed, academic, and able to think 25 years ahead.

We have  learned what DARPA was aiming for (25 years ago), with the internet; and, in particular, what it was aiming for in how the name servers (DNS) were to evolve, so that the civilian world (of 25 years hence) would aid and enable the military posture of the USA (and nominally its allies). Steve was one who despised the ISO/CCITT form of name serving (the X500 system), wanting “anything US and internet” to win (at all costs) in the name serving arena. Stuff from international standards bodies was essentially evil, per se (not being American).

TO BE FAIR, in the technical arena of name serving I think he really believed in thewisdom of using packet technologies to scale services (like DNS) – and its 100% true that the DNS we have to day is very much an  internet-era, packet-switched technology that leverages the internet architecture to deliver its feature set. What we have learned since, however, is that the benefit  of this gunboat approach to design has a sharp kickback when fired – specially when the gunboat is all about American exceptionalism. The gunboat is really  a spying ship.

I’m prompted to write the missive having just overheard a starbucks barista castigate a customer wanting to pay $1.50 for a paper newspaper, rather than use the “free” internet to obtains news. This is the world of 25 years later; the world that Steve wanted to foment and indeed did foment – acting  as that special class of exceptional: the DARPA program manager.

DARPA indoctrinated its folks in deception –  the use of intelligence and foresign to aim “to win” at all costs by leveraging deep, programmatic deception to win hearts and minds through use of technology seeding to spread american ideas themselves. We see now that Steve, as with many of the DARPA paid folks of the era, did their job well – inducing civilian infrastructure to be co-joined with american military infrastructure. Knowing that open communications for the masses would interfere with military spying, it was critical to ensure that internet (vs  milnet) technologies in name serving would aid and abet a military advantage to the USA. Since international standards provided no such advantage, they were to be skewered, denied, and undermined – particularly by spying-related agencies such as NASA.

Its not my place to discuss how (what was known as ) milnet and DNS works – to protect name serving via packet technologies in a way that the DNS service is not protected in the internet form of packet switching. After all, if there is a real war – I will be ON NSAs side doing whatever it takes to exploit an intelligence advantage. As a civilian today, however, with an technical political opinion, I can properly ask questions, and point out the issues.

It comes down to trust. And America is not doing a good job of being seen to be trustworthy. The likes of DARPA are now perceived to be the anti-thesis of trust – being seen to have been verily for the very purpose of executing technology-based deception plans, at a systemic level. The internet, and the thesis of open technology dependency, is the evidence.



Computer Programmer who often does network administration with focus on security servers. Very strong in Microsoft Azure cloud!
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