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Breaking the Internet, One Site at a Time

Computer systems and networks that make up the Internet have become critical to our everyday lives.  From sending simple personal emails and making individual online purchases to sophisticated info structure systems that control a vast array of vital delivery mechanisms such as energy transmission, communication and national defense.  These systems have evolved to become even more indispensable to the orderly function of our society, unfortunately so too have the hacking techniques of our national and international adversaries who are intent on causing economic and social disorder.  On a daily basis, the government and owners and operators of privately owned critical infrastructure are confronted with threats from terrorists, rogue states, and hackers that are growing more targeted, more sophisticated, and more serious.

But perhaps the most serious threat does not come from rouge states or terrorists but from shadowy and obscure hackers, those elite group of computer geeks, who toy with computers systems through the internet for no reason other than to demonstrate to the world their superior technical ability to play havoc with the lives of millions of internet users around the globe in and an overt effort to break the internet.

Early last month, Network Solutions (the original registrar and DNS for the Internet & Domain names during its inception) suffered through a Dedicated Denial of Service (DDoS) attack that had the effect of breaking their infrastructure, including the hijacking of over 5000 companies who lost control of their domain names.  The DDoS attackers overwhelmed servers by flooding a company’s pipeline with unwanted network packets.  Network Solutions, which manages more than 6 million domains, said on Facebook that its network security team was forced to respond to the attack. The outage is one of at least a dozen outages at cloud hosting providers impacting users in 2013.

Network Solutions problems followed the cyber-attack on Spamhaus, a European anti-spam organization, causing trouble for a lot of innocent bystanders.  The DDoS is a crude, artless way to bring down a specific online target simply by harnessing botnets to flood a network with requests for information. Target servers are paralyzed by the fake queries. In this incident the villain is thought to have been a Dutch concern, Cyberbunker, with a reported business vendetta against Spamhaus.  The unprecedented escalation of the commercial cyber conflict with Spamhaus caused costly trouble for countless uninvolved organizations throughout Europe.

The rolling attacks continue with the most recent DDoS move against Endurance International Group’s (EIG) HostGator and BlueHost and the threat remains as multiple hackers create effective, perpetual avalanche of attacks against singular servers, pointing out the fragile nature of the internet.  In the opinion of many, it’s only going to get worse with the growth of more powerful mobile devises and cell phones.  The benefits of a faster more powerful internet will be shared by both good and evil forces making it imperative for companies to continue to focus on security and implementing IT policies that will fend off unwanted and costly intrusions.

The vast majority of the problems originate from outside the United States where users in places like Africa, Asia and India are finding it difficult to upgrade to newer and more secure operating systems.  In an effort to trim operating costs and downscale, these companies increase the likelihood of downtime which results in an increased loss of revenue.

It’s time for uptime-conscious companies to assess their Internet carrier’s capacity to deflect persistent, long-lasting DDoS assaults and to fend-off so-called “multi-vector” attacks.  Carriers who constantly and preemptively scan the horizon, identifying threats, sequester them and protect their customers before trouble actually occurs will prosper and will save millions of internet users around the globe from suffering an internet outage.

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