Following his recent trip to Sweden and Finland, Jon Murphy, one of our Non-Executive Directors has written the first in a series of blogs, titled ‘Murphy’s Musings’. In this first entry, Jon delves in to the role of Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder, key master of the internet.

I was in Stockholm recently and after doing 17,500 steps exploring and traipsing the streets of Gamla Stan, I stopped in a bar to treat myself to a good local beer.

I was soon chatting to a man about Stockholm, it’s history (surprisingly very little connection to Vikings) and some local luminaries of the city, including ABBA, Bjorn Borg, and the two Gretas (Garbo & Thunberg). He also mentioned a local woman who is the key-master of the internet. The only key-master I had heard of was the one in Ghostbusters, so I was hooked.

This key master is Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder, she lives on the island of Rindö in the Stockholm Archipelago, and having sailed through it, I can testify that it is a stunningly beautiful place, seemingly perfect for a key master.

Anne-Marie is a representative of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). She has also been a member of the Internet Hall of Fame since 2013, indeed the only female Crypto Officer to have been inducted into the HoF. Tim Berners-Lee is a member of the Hall of Fame, and so is Al Gore!

Twice a year Anne-Marie travels to a place called Culpeper in Virginia, USA with some fellow crypto-folk (if anyone knows the significance of Culpeper please share) and conducts the Key Signing Ceremony, a ritual to help ensure the security of the Internet.

After my new mate left, I did some research and it turns out that the “key” that Anna-Marie is master of, is a physical key. It’s 5cm in length, made of metal and it opens a vault contains smart cards.

The key ceremony is a process in which the cryptographic keys that protect the Domain Name System (DNS) are renewed. As a result, the process makes it extremely hard to manipulate the DNS, maintaining the correct IP addresses being sent back and not dodgy ones which can take us to all sorts of dark places. The DNS would be less secure without the key ceremonies. Good to know!

The security put in place around the process is considerable. It takes two hours and has hundreds of stages to complete, all in the right order and the key must be within specific temperate tolerances, too hot or to hold and it won’t work, if damaged or has been tampered with, it won’t work. The entire process is videoed, requires eye scans and the like; again, good to know the security is tight.

Only 14 people on the planet hold these keys and not surprisingly these other key masters are predominantly male (shock!) and when Anne-Marie hands her key back in November this year (after being the internet’s key master since 2010) it’s likely a male will take over from her rather than a woman (again, shock!!) so rumours that all things internet are run by men are true then… sort yourselves out Internet folks, select a woman.

Thank you, Anne-Marie, for playing your part in keeping us safe for last 12 years.

Jon Murphy, Non-Executive Director, ea Change