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ICANN names new CEO

Rod Beckstrom, a former U.S. cybersecurity official, will lead the organization that manages Internet domain names and addresses.

Former U.S. cybersecurity official Rod Beckstrom has been named the new CEO and president of ICANN.

His appointment was announced at the annual meeting Friday in Australia of ICANN, which stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

A global nonprofit, ICANN is responsible for assigning and managing Internet domain names and IP addresses, among other tasks.

New ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom
Rod Beckstrom, ICANN CEO ICANN

"Rod Beckstrom has exactly the sort of strong personal and technical background that ICANN needs," ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush said in announcing the decision.

Beckstrom, who received his MBA from Stanford University, has served on the boards of several nonprofit groups and written four books. But it was his role as director of the U.S. National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC) where he made an impression. As head of the federal center, he oversaw a large, disparate agency spanning civilian, military and intelligence communities.

However, Beckstrom resigned his government role in March after complaining of interference from the National Security Agency.

In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, he said the NSA dominated most of his agency's efforts and that he was "unwilling to subjugate the NCSC underneath the NSA." Beckstrom defended the achievements of the NCSC and said he favored a decentralized approach so that security is not handled by any single organization.

Beckstrom's ICANN appointment triggered favorable statements from many sides.

"Rod Beckstrom is strikingly well-prepared to undertake a new role as CEO of ICANN," Vint Cert, who is considered to be the "father" of the Internet, said in a statement. "His experience in industry and government equip him for this global and very challenging job."

Beckstrom is an "outstanding choice to head ICANN. He understands people, institutions, and technology," Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), said in a statement. "He recognizes both the potential and the challenges for ICANN. And has stood up for the civil liberties of Internet users with courage and foresight."

ICANN has been criticized over the years for a host of reasons, including internal squabbles, the fees it levies, and the perceived shroud of secrecy under which it operates.

Last year, ICANN proposed new rules for Internet names that would expand suffixes beyond the familiar .com, .net, and .org domains. The proposal worried many who thought it would lead to confusion on the Internet.

But Beckstrom's comments upon his appointment reflect faith in the organization.

"The Internet has changed the way the world communicates and conducts commerce," Beckstrom said at a press conference. "And in no small way, this multi-stakeholder, bottom-up organization has been and will continue to be at the core of the Internet's ongoing evolution. Quite simply, the proof that ICANN works, is that the Internet works."