March 11, 2012

Taking Down The Internet--Not A Pipe Dream Anymore

We have been taught that the Internet, developed by the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), was designed to survive as a communications mechanism even in nuclear war--that was its purpose.

Last year, I learned about studies at the University of Minnesota that demonstrated how an attack with just 250,000 botnets could shut down the Internet in only 20 minutes. 

Again last month, New Scientist (11 February 2012) reported: "a new cyberweapon could take down the entire Internet--and there is not much that current defences can do to stop it."

Imagine what your life would be like without Internet connectivity for a day, a week, or how about months to reconstitute!

This attack is called ZMW (after its three creators Zhang, Mao, and Wang) and involves disrupting routers by breaking and reforming links, which would cause them to send out border gateway protocol (BGP) updates to reroute Internet traffic.  After 20 minutes, the extreme load brings the routing capabilities of the Internet down--" the Internet would be so full of holes that communication would become impossible."  

Moreover, an attacking nation could preserve their internal network, by proverbially pulling up their "digital drawbridge" and disconnecting from the Internet, so while everyone else is taken down, they as a nation continue unharmed. 

While The Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which encourages companies and government to share information (i.e. cybersecurity exchanges) and requires that critical infrastructure meet standards set by The Department of Homeland Security and industry are steps in the right direction, I would like to see the new bills go even further with a significant infusion of new resources to securing the Internet.  

An article in Bloomberg Businessweek (12-18 March 2012) states that organizations "would need to increase their cybersecurity almost nine times achieve security that could repel [even] 95% of attacks."

Aside from pure money to invest in new cybersecurity tools and infrastructure, we need to invest in a new cyberwarrior with competitions, scholarships, and schools dedicated to advancing our people capabilities to be the best in the world to fight the cyber fight. We have special schools with highly selective and competitive requirements to become special forces like the Navy SEALS or to work on Wall Street trading securities and doing IPOs--we need the equivalent or better--for the cyberwarrior.

Time is of the essence to get these cyber capabilities to where they should be, must be--and we need to act now. 

(Source Photo of partial Internet in 2005: here, with attribution to Dodek)


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