Embracing the Ethical Roots of the Internet: RFC 1087 and Information Security

by Janani

The Internet has become an indispensable part of our lives, shaping the way we communicate, work, and access information. While it may seem like a modern marvel, its roots trace back to January 1989, when the Internet Activities Board (IAB) released a memo titled “Ethics and the Internet” (RFC 1087). In this article, we’ll explore the historical significance and enduring relevance of RFC 1087, how it aligns with the CIA Triad in information security, and why it’s crucial for security professionals to uphold its principles.

A Glimpse into RFC 1087

RFC 1087, released over three decades ago, was a pioneering document that laid down guidelines for ethical internet usage. Its principles may seem ancient in the fast-evolving world of technology, but they remain highly relevant today. As a security professional, understanding and following these principles is essential to create and maintain a secure and ethical digital environment.

Unpacking the Unethical Activities

RFC 1087 classified several activities as unethical and unacceptable in the realm of internet usage. These activities included:

  1. Unauthorized Access: Seeking to gain unauthorized access to internet resources was considered a grave ethical violation. Today, this principle remains at the core of cybersecurity, emphasizing the importance of secure authentication and access controls.
  2. Disruption of Services: Deliberately disrupting the intended use of the Internet was frowned upon. This principle still holds true as cyberattacks continue to pose significant threats to digital infrastructure and services.
  3. Resource Waste: Wasting resources, whether they are human, network capacity, or computing resources, through malicious actions, was considered unethical. In the modern context, this aligns with the importance of resource efficiency and sustainability in the digital world.
  4. Data Integrity: Destroying the integrity of computer-based information was another key concern. Ensuring data integrity remains a cornerstone of data security and privacy efforts.
  5. User Privacy: Compromising the privacy of users was deemed unethical. Protecting user privacy is a fundamental aspect of today’s data protection regulations and standards.

The Alignment with the CIA Triad

What makes RFC 1087 even more intriguing is its inadvertent alignment with the CIA Triad, a foundational concept in information security. The CIA Triad stands for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability, and these principles are essential for safeguarding digital assets.

  1. Confidentiality: RFC 1087’s emphasis on unauthorized access aligns with the confidentiality aspect of the CIA Triad. Protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access remains a critical concern in the field of information security.
  2. Integrity: Preserving the integrity of computer-based information is a key tenet of both RFC 1087 and the CIA Triad. Data must be accurate and reliable, and any attempt to compromise this integrity is considered unethical.
  3. Availability: Disrupting the intended use of the Internet directly contradicts the availability aspect of the CIA Triad. Ensuring that systems and data are available when needed is vital for business continuity and user satisfaction.

The Relevance of RFC 1087 in Modern Times

Ethical decision-making goes beyond mere compliance with codes of conduct. RFC 1087 offers a timeless framework for fostering a culture of ethical behavior, integrity, and privacy protection. Embracing its principles in the 21st century allows us to uphold the highest ethical standards while ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of valuable information.


If you are security professional like me, it is our responsibility to acknowledge the timeless wisdom of RFC 1087 and integrate it into our information security practices. By doing so, we can contribute to a brighter and more ethical future for the digital realm. Let us remember the ethical roots of the Internet and strive to build a secure and ethical digital landscape that benefits us all. Together, we can shape a better, more responsible digital world.

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