The 7 people who can shut down the internet

Matt Lillywhite

Switching off the internet isn’t just something right-wing dictators can do during a protest. Nor is there a giant red button in Mark Zuckerberg’s house that can shut down the internet for anyone who calls him a lizard. But for the sake of journalistic integrity, I need to say that Mark officially dismissed that allegation during a Q&A.

Only seven people on the planet can turn off the internet. And in this article, we’re going to discuss who they are, and why they have such enormous power.

Let’s Begin With Some Important Information About How The Internet Works

For anyone unaware, “IP address stands for internet protocol address,” per Investopedia. “It is an identifying number that is associated with a specific computer or computer network. When connected to the internet, the IP address allows the computers to send and receive information.”

Another term we’ll frequently use in this article is DNS (Domain Name System). Instead of having to remember long IP addresses for each website, DNS services translate long numbers into text that’s easy to read. To get to Medium, for instance, you’d have to remember (instead of That would be really annoying — especially since I have a bad habit of forgetting things.

“The Internet’s DNS system works much like a phone book by managing the mapping between names and numbers,” per Amazon Web Services. “DNS servers translate requests for names into IP addresses, controlling which server an end user will reach when they type a domain name into their web browser.”

Now We’ve Got That Out Of The Way, Let’s Discuss The People Who Can Turn Off The Internet

ICAAN, or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers,employs seven people who possess magical keys to the internet. It’s a company that’s in charge of assigning IP addresses and maintaining DNSservers.

Each server uses an encrypted digital signature to confirm the reliability of the DNS server that came before it. There is also a cryptographic signature for ICAAN that is required for everything. These signatures are made up of a private key, which is extremely secret, and a public key that anybody can view.

Every three months, the seven key holders who can turn off the internet meet in the United States. It’s basically a quest to prevent the world from falling into catastrophe faster than you can say Y2K. “Together, their keys create a master key,” per The Guardian. “Which in turn controls one of the central security measures at the core of the web.”

The ceremony takes place in a facility with multiple layers of security. This includes pin codes, smart cards, and biometric scans. There’s even a team of highly trained Guinea Pigs to prevent intruders. They’re called G-Force.Okay… that was a joke. There are (probably) no highly-specialized Guinea Pigs guarding the facility.

Now, you’re probably wondering why all of this is necessary. If the ceremony is not completed every three months, the master key will expire, and error messages will appear across the internet, per The Guardian.

What do you think? Leave a comment with your thoughts. And if you think more people should read this article, share it on social media.

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Matt Lillywhite publishes national news and local stories. He can be reached via email at


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