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RFC 1087

  
Network Working Group                          Internet Activities Board
Request for Comments: 1087                                  January 1989
 
 
                        Ethics and the Internet
 
Status of this Memo
 
   This memo is a statement of policy by the Internet Activities Board
   (IAB) concerning the proper use of the resources of the Internet.
   Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
 
Introduction
 
   At great human and economic cost, resources drawn from the U.S.
   Government, industry and the academic community have been assembled
   into a collection of interconnected networks called the Internet.
   Begun as a vehicle for experimental network research in the mid-
   1970's, the Internet has become an important national infrastructure
   supporting an increasingly widespread, multi-disciplinary community
   of researchers ranging, inter alia, from computer scientists and
   electrical engineers to mathematicians, physicists, medical
   researchers, chemists, astronomers and space scientists.
 
   As is true of other common infrastructures (e.g., roads, water
   reservoirs and delivery systems, and the power generation and
   distribution network), there is widespread dependence on the Internet
   by its users for the support of day-to-day research activities.
 
   The reliable operation of the Internet and the responsible use of its
   resources is of common interest and concern for its users, operators
   and sponsors.  Recent events involving the hosts on the Internet and
   in similar network infrastructures underscore the need to reiterate
   the professional responsibility every Internet user bears to
   colleagues and to the sponsors of the system.  Many of the Internet
   resources are provided by the U.S. Government.  Abuse of the system
   thus becomes a Federal matter above and beyond simple professional
   ethics.
 
IAB Statement of Policy
 
   The Internet is a national facility whose utility is largely a
   consequence of its wide availability and accessibility.
   Irresponsible use of this critical resource poses an enormous threat
   to its continued availability to the technical community.
 
   The U.S. Government sponsors of this system have a fiduciary
   responsibility to the public to allocate government resources wisely
 
 
 
Internet Activities Board                                       [Page 1]
RFC 1087 Ethics and the Internet January 1989 and effectively. Justification for the support of this system suffers when highly disruptive abuses occur. Access to and use of the Internet is a privilege and should be treated as such by all users of this system. The IAB strongly endorses the view of the Division Advisory Panel of the National Science Foundation Division of Network, Communications Research and Infrastructure which, in paraphrase, characterized as unethical and unacceptable any activity which purposely: (a) seeks to gain unauthorized access to the resources of the Internet, (b) disrupts the intended use of the Internet, (c) wastes resources (people, capacity, computer) through such actions, (d) destroys the integrity of computer-based information, and/or (e) compromises the privacy of users. The Internet exists in the general research milieu. Portions of it continue to be used to support research and experimentation on networking. Because experimentation on the Internet has the potential to affect all of its components and users, researchers have the responsibility to exercise great caution in the conduct of their work. Negligence in the conduct of Internet-wide experiments is both irresponsible and unacceptable. The IAB plans to take whatever actions it can, in concert with Federal agencies and other interested parties, to identify and to set up technical and procedural mechanisms to make the Internet more resistant to disruption. Such security, however, may be extremely expensive and may be counterproductive if it inhibits the free flow of information which makes the Internet so valuable. In the final analysis, the health and well-being of the Internet is the responsibility of its users who must, uniformly, guard against abuses which disrupt the system and threaten its long-term viability. Internet Activities Board [Page 2]

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