I slept last March 30th wondering if Internet will would there when I woke up. Good thing, it is unharmed.
The recent threat to the internet and national infrastructure seemingly failed as “Operation Blackout” did not materialize. It was reported that Anonymous will try to take down the web last March 31st as a sign of protest against SOPA and allegedly irresponsible political agenda, but nothing happened. It was initially reported last month that Anonymous is set to attack again, this time it is going to cause massive damage. Some felt that this was a prank, but persistent memes on the web triggered the alarms including the FBI—which has a kill switch to disrupt the entire wave of Internet in just once click. Furthermore, pundits immediately shot down the possibility of success of this ploy, at least for now.
What Are The Chances and Possibilities?
The cyber assault did not happen today or last March 31st, but this does not mean that it will not ever. So, what if it did? What are the chances? Will Internet survive? How about DNS? These many questions may be scaremongering, but there is no harm in looking at the what-ifs.
The threat circles around DNS and how DDoS attacks have been widespread nowadays. According to Wikipedia, the domain name system or DNS makes it possible to assign domain names to groups on Internet resources and users in a meaningful way. What we see as www.siliconangle.com is just a human-friendly hostname, IP addresses like 22.214.171.124 are what the computer reads. In essence, DNS is responsible for assigning domain names and mapping these to specific IP addresses. It is also a storage of other types of data such as mail servers that accept email for a designated domain. The distributed keyword-based redirection that DNS provides makes it a crucial component of the Internet. In other words, a strike at DNS is a fatal blow to the internet. And, this is what fuels the engine of hacktivism—devastation of the one thing that binds the world today, the internet.
Naked Security explains the technicalities and fleshes out the odds of the possibilities of a gigantic cyber aggression and the damage it will cost.
“Denial Of Service Attacks (DDoS) are known by a number of names: smurf attacks, pings of death, teardrop attacks are just some of them. These are all just variants of the same fundamental attack, which the CERT Coordination Centre at Carnegie Mellon University characterizes as an explicit attempt by attackers to prevent legitimate users of a service from using that service.”
“Malicious attackers most often create the avalanche of data required by using many computers spread across the internet, all flooding a single victim in a coordinated attack.”
“Hence, it becomes a Distributed Denial Of Service attack. Sometimes this coordination is voluntary, with hacking groups all using similar tools to fire data at a victim.”
“Groups such as Anonymous have developed their own tools to help their supporters do this.”
CERT enumerates ways on how DDoS may progress: flooding a network to bar legitimate network traffic, interrupt connections between two machines to prevent access to service, straightforwardly prevent a user from accessing a service and disrupt the system itself. The domino effect can start with hackers remotely controlling services through a malware and sending it to identified targets. The hurtful part of this is that some may involuntary participate in the hacking spree, but could be jailed for being an unaware accessory. The mechanism of MyDoom worm is a perfect example and there is likelihood that Anonymous might have used this. Professor Alan Woodward of University of Surrey wrote in a BBC News article some other ways that hackers could decapitate the internet.
Hacktivism has turned out to be a powerful virtual weapon. We have seen how these cyber bullies menaced even the US intelligence. Wikileaks and Anonymous’ alliance, has exposed several confidential documents that revealed wrongdoings of the government and politicians. This implies that even authorities have incompetency issues versus hacking. Last Christmas was not merry for Stratfor as credit card frauds by AntiSec caused around $700,000. This scam triggered the resignation of the company’s CEO. Sony reported billion-dollar loss following PlayStation Network colossal break-in suffering from hackers.
Whether Anonymous was unsuccessful in shutting down the Internet or has aborted the plan and will attack at an unexpected time is still undetermined. But one thing is left and will always remain true, hacktivists are looming the gates of perhaps the most important technological tool of humanity, the Internet. One opportunity and these cyber criminals will surely attack, notwithstanding authorities.