Leslie Daigle is a person of many hats… and many cats 🐱.
She is GCA’s Chief Technical Officer and the Director of its Internet Integrity Program, but also a recently appointed member of NANOG’s Board of Directors and the Co-founder and Co-host of ‘TechSequences,’ a podcast where expert guests participate in lively discussions about current issues in technology… and its consequences.
But, above all, she is a passionate about the Internet, and a firm defender of the use of collaboration to safeguard its integrity.
In this interview, conducted at the very beginning of 2023 and in a very snowy environment, she presents some of the achievements of the first full calendar year of work for the Internet Integrity Program and she offers some insights on the future direction of its two existing projects, AIDE and Domain Trust, and their respective communities in-the-making.
Happy New Year, Leslie! Thanks a lot for this opportunity to give a fresh (ice-cold) start for the 2023 season of Bits & Bytes, our blog section on the integrity of the Internet. A new year is a new cycle, and a good occasion to reflect upon the immediate past and the future ahead. So let’s kick it off.
2022 has been a really active year for the Internet Integrity Program. What are your key takeaways?
It has been an important year of building clear messaging and momentum around the areas of work we are engaged in. But it has also been important to reach out and work with industry, government and research partners.
Now that 2022 is over, I feel like we have developed a real community discussion around the Domain Trust topic (dealing with domains registered for criminally malicious purposes), and we are getting there with the IoT/unwanted traffic work, too.
The community aspect seems central to all that work. Why are communities so important for the Internet Integrity Program?
Our role is not to develop solutions and then tell industry (or government, or others) what to do. A better plan is to start solutions by talking with the organizations that need to recognize and make changes, and work towards solutions together.
GCA’s data and tools can help illustrate the scope and scale of cybersecurity threats, but, for the Internet Integrity Program’s activities, the real action has to come from Internet infrastructure operators and other industry players. They have to be bought in, so we aim to build communities of discussion around the challenges and opportunities.
I say ‘community’ because it is not just a group of people. It is people who are learning from each other about shared problems and identifying possible solutions. There has to be respect, understanding, and some level of give and take.
Beyond the Internet Integrity work, you are also GCA’s Chief Technical Officer. How sound is our technical conversation at this moment?
If we want to build communities —and, as noted above, we do!—, we need to be both visible and credible in the technical industry. The ‘Bits and Bytes’ blog was started to ensure we had some space to talk about more crunchy technical details when appropriate, and giving technical people somewhere specific to ‘tune in’ to GCA messages.
Additionally, we are developing and refining a strategy for getting to conferences and other industry events to talk about our work and our findings.
We have a really smart team here, with really cool information to share (like the information in the presentation I did on networks spewing unwanted traffic, at RIPE in May 2022). This helps us build our voice in the technical community, and increases our visibility— so that more people will know what we are about, and will come find us to talk about new and interesting Internet cybersecurity challenges we might be able to help with.
Still, you have been appointed to the Board of NANOG, you have earned quite a number of miles traveling across the oceans (note the plural) this year, and you have even had time to work on your podcast! How do you manage?
Well, it may sound like a bunch of different things, but they are all tied together by a focus on helping ensure that the Internet, and its supporting institutions, continue to function well.
So, the travel is a means to meet up with the people —in person, at last!— to talk about issues and possible solutions; the podcast is a great way to talk through issues and analyze challenges facing the Internet as the consequences of this marvelous technology become more evident in our everyday lives.
I was pleased to be appointed to the NANOG board as an interim replacement member, and then elected to a full term on it, because I think it is an institution that is vital to the continued health of the Internet. Network operator groups are places where engineers from all over can meet and learn from each other— learn solutions to challenges they have, or even discover that they are not alone in facing particular issues. The more we identify and address problems at the engineering level, the less need there will be for regulation and imposition of —probably ill-fitting— solutions to challenges like routing security.
Any wishes for the future of the integrity of the Internet ahead of 2023?
I think the integrity of the Internet is directly related to the level of collaboration used to ensure its health. That is— the more there is a collaborative technical community, the more there is willingness to lean in and understand implications of challenges from technical, business and policy perspectives, and the more people are willing to engage to find and implement solutions together, the better the integrity of the Internet will be.
Thanks a lot, Leslie, for this conversation. It was good to take a little break from routine and put our hard work in a larger context. To a brilliant year ahead!
The author, Alejandro Fernández-Cernuda Díaz, is the Director of Engagement of the Internet Integrity Program. You can connect with Alejandro on LinkedIn.