Billions of people around the world have come to depend on the internet for everything from basic research to paying bills, watching TV and playing games. Hundreds of millions of users may even be considered to be addicted to the internet, but many could be forced to give up their habit entirely today—at least temporarily. An organization you may never have heard of is warning about a potential internet shutdown affecting the entire globe starting today.
However, we also want to warn you up front that some news reports you may have read about this issue may be sensationalizing it. The end result probably won’t be as bad as some articles would lead you to believe.
ICANN warns about an internet shutdown
The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has announced plans to update the cryptographic key which supports the Domain Name System. The DNS is sort of like an address book for the internet, in that it takes the domain names we type into our browsers and matches them to the correct IP addresses so that internet traffic is delivered to where it needs to go. (If you’re interested in additional details about the history of the internet, you can click here.)
As a result, when ICANN takes the DNS down to update the key, we could see a widespread internet shutdown. The organization updates the key on a somewhat regular basis for security purposes due to the growing number of threats to the infrastructure.
Experts say the internet shutdown could last up to 48 hours while ICANN updates the encryption key. Users affected by the internet crash will see error messages about a “server failure.” Potential problems include slow loading of pages, network access issues, and not being able to access certain online resources. It’s also possible that you won’t experience problems until a couple days from now because many website administrators keep cached versions of their websites available for up to two days.
Not all users will experience an internet shutdown
ICANN emphasized that not everyone will be affected by the internet crash. It has already done some preliminary testing which suggested that problems associated with the switch will be kept to a minimum.
The organization expects only about 1% of the world’s internet users to experience a total crash, but still, that’s approximately 36 million people. Those who will be affected by the internet shutdown are people whose internet service providers or network operators haven’t prepared for the encryption key switch in advance.
If it looks like you’re being affected by the global internet crash, there’s no need to worry. Everything should be back up and running in a few days—as soon as your internet service provider updates their DNS resolvers.
On your end, you can also do a few things if the internet shutdown affects you. Closing and restarting your browser is the obvious first step. It’s also a good idea to delete your cookies and clear your browser cache. It could also help to do a hard reboot of your modem, router and all internet-connected devices. In the event of serious problems lasting a long time, contact your internet service provider for further assistance.