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Icann postpones plan to update security of the net over fears millions could lose access

US net administrator Icann has put plans to update the security of the web’s address books on ice, after it emerged that the move could sever internet access for tens of millions of people.

The organisation had planned to update the cryptographic keys for secured domain names on 11 October. But while it has been distributing the new keys for months, its researchers found that a number of firms and internet service providers are not ready to deploy them.

The revelation has prompted Icann to postpone the rollover until the end of March next year at the latest – although it hasn’t yet set a firm implementation date. In the meantime, it plans to reach out to ISPs and firms that have failed to update their software.

Icann’s secure domain name system DNS SEC has grown in popularity in recent years as businesses seek to prevent hackers from hijacking their sites’ traffic. Around 750 million people now rely on the service to browse the web.

The net administrator said there may be many reasons operators do not have the new key installed in their systems. “Some may not have their resolver software properly configured and a recently discovered issue in one widely used resolver program appears to not be automatically updating the key as it should, for reasons that are still being explored,” the firm said in a statement.

“In the meantime, Icann believes it prudent to follow its process and to delay the changing of the key rather than run the risk of a significant number of Internet users being adversely affected by the changing of the key,” it said.