Building a Community of Network Engineers (And Also, a More Secure Internet)
A spotlight on Mozilla Fellow Md. Abdul Awal
Md. Abdul Awal has spent a lot of time around networks: Most recently, he managed the government data center in Bangladesh, maintaining the infrastructure and overseeing network security. Prior, he helped build the national R&E network (NREN), a backbone network connecting all tertiary institutions, as well as scalable campus network infrastructure for universities in Bangladesh. He also worked extensively to improve the routing infrastructure of ISPs and enterprise networks. In all, Awal has more than a decade of experience in the space.
One thing he’s learned in that time: The networks we use everyday to access the internet can be very insecure.
“The current routing infrastructure is vulnerable,” Awal explains. “There are routing incidents almost everyday.” Routes can be hijacked, leaked, and spoofed, resulting in DDoS attacks, surveillance, defamation, and lost revenue.
Awal is seeking to make networks across South Asia more secure, but knows that a single engineer — no matter how committed — can’t accomplish this alone. That’s where his work as a Mozilla Fellow focusing on Open Internet Engineering comes in.
This October, Awal will embed with the Network Resource Startup Center (NSRC) and conduct hands-on technical workshops for network engineers across South Asia. “My project will teach network engineers how to make the internet routing more secure,” he explains.
“We’re not just building an internet — we’re building a human network of engineers,” Awal adds.
In these hands-on workshops, Awal will draw on the Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS), a set of best-practices supported by the Internet Society. MANRS encourages engineers to use techniques like filtering, anti-spoofing, coordination, and global validation.
Awal’s workshops will cater to a range of network engineers, from those in industry to those in government, research communities, and civil society. And with more network engineers heeding MANRS, Awal says that’s good news in terms of network security for the network operators and content providers — as well as for the billions of end users who rely on the internet for banking, socializing, and other daily activities.
“We’re not just building an internet — we’re building a human network of engineers.”
Md. Abdul Awal
Awal’s project is inspired by his many years contributing to Network Operators’ Groups, or NOGs. NOGs are informal regional and national communities of network engineers who support one another, often using mailing lists and in-person events. “These NOGs are my passion,” Awal explains. “I can share my knowledge and gain more from others.” He’s a regular at events like APRICOT, SANOG, and bdNOG.
When Awal was beginning his work as a network engineer, the NOG ecosystem in his region wasn’t so evolved, and mentors were scarce. “When I started my career, there were a lot of technical issues I needed help with — but help was hard to find,” he recalls. His first experience with NOGs was SANOG15 in Dhaka in 2010, and since then, the NOGs around him have expanded significantly: “I’ve seen the community grow — now there are engineers not only talking about the technology of today, but also the technology of the next five or 10 years. Now there is someone with the solution to your problem.”
Awal sees it as his duty to continue building this community — and, along the way, do nothing short of making the internet’s routing infrastructure more secure.