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The Cyberweapon That Could Take Down the Internet

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monitoring connectivity

Credit: Miguel Gutierrez, AFP / Getty Images

University of Minnesota researchers have developed a cyberweapon that turns the structure of the Internet against itself, but ultimately could be used to make the Internet more secure.

Minnesota's Max Schuchard and colleagues built on the ZMW attack, which disrupts the connection between two routers by interfering with the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to make it seem as if links are offline, spreading the disruption through the entire Internet. The method uses a large botnet to develop a map of the connections between computers, identify a common link, and launch a ZMW attack that can bring down the entire system. As the system routes traffic around the disrupted link, the attack would launch again, disrupting a different connection. Eventually, every router in the world would be receiving more updates than it could handle. "Once this attack got launched, it wouldn't be solved by technical means, but by network operators actually talking to each other," Schuchard says.

However, the researchers predict that this type of attack would never be launched by malicious hackers because mapping the network is such a technically complex job, and the botnet needed would be so large that it is more likely to be rented out for a profit. Although simulations show that current BGP defenses cannot protect against this attack, a solution could be to send BGP updates via a different network.

From New Scientist
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