Saturday, September 22, 2012

20:09:2012 - Could someone really destroy the whole Internet?

Could someone really destroy the whole Internet?

In just 40 years, our whole civilization has become dependent on the Internet, in more ways than we could count. So when you hear activist groups threatening to crash the whole thing, or doomsday preppers warning of a global Internet failure, it's pretty scary.

But could someone actually bring the entire Internet down? We asked an expert. 

Taking down the Internet is a lot easier said than done, according to IT expert Dewayne Hendricks, and the Internet is very much here to stay. Known as the "Broadband Cowboy," Hendricks has worked with AT&T, Cisco, WorldCom, and Lucent, and is currently CEO of Tetherless Access Inc.
"The first thing you need to know about the Internet," Hendricks tells io9, "is that there is no such thing as ‘the' Internet."

Simple, independent, and distributed

The Internet, says Hendricks, is "merely a series of highly distributed packet switchers." Most people get this wrong, he argues. "People tend to think it's this one thing — and it's not — it's important to get this idea across that it's thousands of independently owned and operated networks — networks that are tied together by physical connections that use a common protocol."

Could someone really destroy the whole Internet? 

 It's this very quality that has endowed the Internet with the capacity to not just remain live and active under extreme circumstances, but to repair itself and adapt when necessary. Taking the Internet down, therefore, is very much like trying to herd cats. It's essentially a network of networks.

And indeed, there has been some speculation about what it would take to bring down the entire Internet. Earlier this year, Gizmodo's Sam Biddle made a heroic effort at trying to figure out how to destroy the Internet, suggesting that it could be done (however unlikely) by cutting all the cables that bind the Internet together, ruining the root servers, and destroying all the data centers. Assuming this could be done, all the world's digital data would be left frozen on local machines. "Nothing can get anywhere, because all the roads, bridges, and traffic lights are in ruin," Biddle writes, "All that's left of the Internet is your office intranet, or the file-swapping in your dorm. The tiny shreds. There are nets, but none of them are inter."

Unfortunately — or fortunately depending on your persuasion — Biddle is not exactly correct. What he failed to realize is that, where there's people, there's an Internet.

Countermeasures and adaptations

Taking a step back from Biddle's quasi-apocalyptic scenario, and assuming the onset of more modest attacks against the Internet, there's no question that disruptions can and will happen. Parts of the net do go down from time-to-time, making it inaccessible for some — albeit temporarily. "Eventually the information will route around the dead spots and bring you back in," says Hendricks.

And indeed, people are constantly trying to develop new technologies that can take out increasingly larger swaths of the Internet — but their efforts are as futile as they are naive. "There are attacks all the time, [but] all that needs to happen are mutually agreed upon countermeasures," noted Hendricks.
For example, he explains how there are currently two Internet protocols in play, IPv4 and IPv6. Should someone be successful at taking down all the addresses of IPv6, there's still IPv4 as a backup. Moreover, anyone can run a DNS server and establish a root DNS to create a database of URLs and corresponding IPs.

Hendricks also describes how adjustments like configuration changes to routers, the use of alternative root servers, and other on-the-fly adaptations make things like Denial of Service (DOS) and other cyber attacks merely temporary inconveniences. They're like mosquito bites on an elephant.

Hendricks points to another very real example: The Darknet. This private, distributed peer-to-peer filesharing network has eluded law enforcement officials who are trying to develop new technologies to take it down. But by using non-standard protocols and ports, and by using anonymous routing techniques, the Darknet remains unhindered.
There's also the issue of China — a country that has tried to block-out large swaths of the Internet — and not very successfully. "There are a good number of people who have the technical skills to get around their blocking measures," noted Hendricks. Quoting computer scientist John Gilmore, he noted that "The net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

Like fighting the Borg

"The Internet works like the Borg Collective of Star Trek — it's basically a kind of hive mind," he adds. Essentially, because it's in everybody's best interest to keep the Internet up and running, there's a constant effort to patch and repair any problems. "It's like trying to defeat the Borg — a system that's massively distributed, decentralized, and redundant."

Could someone really destroy the whole Internet? 

 Like the Borg, the Internet simply mounts resources and finds a way to bring itself back. It also learns and adapts — like ensuring that packets aren't routed to networks that aren't trusted. "The Internet is people," said Hendricks, "and it works like a hive mind."

Ad hoc communications

The ability to retain access to the Internet's resources is essentially about maintaining connections — and as Hendricks notes, there's plenty of ways to do it. Just because physical cables and wires can be cut, and root servers and data centers gutted (even en masse), this doesn't mean there still won't be ways for people to re-establish connections. In the event of a catastrophe and severe damage to the IT infrastructure, it's likely that people hell-bent on getting the Internet back up will successfully do so through informal ad hoc communications.

For example, there would still be the low-Earth communication satellites that allocate a portion of bandwidth to regular IP traffic. These comsats could establish connections between wireless devices or any other terminal that still has access to fiber cables. As an example, this is how the military re-established connections after the 2006 tsunami disaster in Thailand — they set up a satellite connection from one point, sent their signals up into space, and then down to a receiving terminal. Instant network.

But assuming these satellites could somehow be taken down (which would really require military action), there's still the potential for single packet radios — a form of packet-switching technology that's used to transmit digital data via radio or wireless links. If enough people have access to these devices, and each unit is within range of at least one other packet radio, there will still be an Internet. And according to Hendricks, devices like these are the real deal, with over 4,000 wireless IPs in the United States alone. Such devices could be propped up in weather balloons or UAVs, and tracked using GPS.
Now, this may not be ‘the' Internet that we're familiar with today, but it'll be a network that connects people nonetheless. These "seed" networks might start out small, but they would grow over time — especially when they start to come into contact with other recovering networks.

The Internet is people

Hendricks points to real world examples in which IT infrastructures were severely compromised, including New Orleans after Katrina, and Egypt during the uprisings. Both of these regions had temporary disruptions, but were up in a startlingly short amount of time. These examples bring another aspect of the Internet to mind — the idea that people will quickly scramble to restore damaged infrastructure. Now that we have the Internet we have become like ants who have had their ant hills swept away by a storm; we quickly scramble to work and restore the network.

Thinking more catastrophically, we asked Hendricks what would happen in the event of a massive electromagnetic pulse (EMP) as a result of either a malicious attack or a super solar storm. It's thought that such an event would bring down electrical grids and render all electronic equipment useless. "No global EMP or cascade is going to cover the entire planet," he answered, "the Internet will survive even local EMPs." He believes that the portions of the world who did still have the Internet would send supplies to areas that didn't, and quickly re-establish a communications infrastructure. "The Internet would be up much quicker than we think," he said.
"The Internet is not just technology, it's people — you can trust people, they're resilient," he said, "look at what they do in emergencies — we always answer to a greater calling."

Pausing for a moment to reflect, Hendricks closed our conversation by saying, "The only way to bring down the Internet is to get rid of all the people."

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How to Digitally Record/Video a UFO sighting:

Como registar digitalmente ou gravar um vídeo de um avistamento de um UFO:

Stabilize the camera on a tripod. If there is no tripod, then set it on top of a stable, flat surface. If that is not possible lean against a wall to stabilize your body and prevent the camera from filming in a shaky, unsteady manner.

Estabilize a camera com um tripé. Se não tiver um tripé, então coloque-a em cima de uma superfície estável. Se não for possível, então encoste-se a uma parede para estabilizar o corpo e evitar que a camera registe de maneira tremida e instável.

Provide visual reference points for comparison. This includes the horizon, treetops, lampposts, houses, and geographical landmarks (i.e., Horsetooth Reservoir, Mt. Adams, etc.) Provide this in the video whenever is appropriate and doesn’t detract from what your focus is, the UFO.

Forneça pontos visuais de referência para comparação. Isso inclui o horizonte, cimo das árvores, postes de iluminação, pontos de referência geográficos (como o Reservatório de Horsetooth, Mone Adams, etc) Forneça esses pontos no vídeo sempre que for apropriado e não se distraia do que é o seu foco, o UFO/a Nave.

Narrate your videotape. Provide details of the date, time, location, and direction (N,S,E,W) you are looking in. Provide your observations on the weather, including approximate temperature, windspeed, any visible cloud cover or noticeable weather anomalies or events. Narrate on the shape, size, color, movements, approximate altitude of the UFO, etc and what it appears to be doing. Also include any unusual physical, psychological or emotional sensations you might have. Narrate any visual reference points on camera so they correlate with what the viewer will see, and thereby will be better able to understand.

Faça a narração do vídeo. Forneça pormenores sobre a data, hora, local e direcção (Norte, Sul, Este, Oeste) que está a observar. Faça observações sobre as condições atmosféricas, incluindo a temperatura aproximada, velocidade do vento, quantidade de nuvens, anomalias ou acontecimentos meteorológicos evidentes. Descreva a forma, o tamanho, a cor, os movimentos, a altitude aproximada onde se encontra o UFO/nave, etc e o que aparenta estar a fazer. Inclua também quaisquer aspectos pouco habituais de sensações físicas, psicológicas ou emocionais que possa ter. Faça a narração de todos os pontos de referência visual que o espectador irá ver e que, deste modo, será capaz de compreender melhor.

Be persistent and consistent. Return to the scene to videotape and record at this same location. If you have been successful once, the UFO sightings may be occurring in this region regularly, perhaps for specific reasons unknown, and you may be successful again. You may also wish to return to the same location at a different time of day (daylight hours) for better orientation and reference. Film just a minute or two under “normal” circumstances for comparison. Write down what you remember immediately after. As soon as you are done recording the experience/event, immediately write down your impressions, memories, thoughts, emotions, etc. so it is on the record in writing. If there were other witnesses, have them independently record their own impressions, thoughts, etc. Include in this exercise any drawings, sketches, or diagrams. Make sure you date and sign your documentation.

Seja persistente e não contraditório. Volte ao local da cena e registe o mesmo local. Se foi bem sucedido uma vez, pode ser que nessa região ocorram avistamentos de UFOs/naves com regularidade, talvez por razões específicas desconhecidas, e talvez possa ser novamente bem sucedido. Pode também desejar voltar ao mesmo lugar a horas diferentes do dia (durante as horas de luz)para ter uma orientação e referência melhor. Filme apenas um ,inuto ou dois em circunstâncias “normais” para ter um termo de comparação. Escreva tudo o que viu imediatamente após o acontecimento. Logo após ter feito o registo da experiência/acontecimento, escreva imediatamente as impressões, memórias, pensamentos, emoções, etc para que fiquem registadas por escrito. Se houver outras testemunhas, peça-lhes para registar independentemente as suas próprias impressões, pensamentos, etc. Inclua quaisquer desenhos, esbolos, diagramas. Certifique-se que data e assina o seu documento/testemunho.

Always be prepared. Have a digital camera or better yet a video camera with you, charged and ready to go, at all times. Make sure you know how to use your camera (and your cell phone video/photo camera) quickly and properly. These events can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, and often quite randomly, so you will need to be prepared.

Esteja sempre preparado, Tenha sempre uma camera digital, melhor ainda, uma camera vídeo consigo, carregada e pronta a usar sempre que necessário. Certifique-se que sabe como lidar com a sua camera (ou com o seu celular/camera fotográfica) rápida e adequadamente. Esses acontecimentos podem acontecer súbita e inesperadamente e, por vezes, acidentalmente, por isso, necessita estar preparado.

Look up. Be prepared. Report. Share.

Olhe para cima, Esteja preparado, Relate, Partilhe.



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