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Hackers’ Threatened Internet Shutdown Unlikely to Work, Experts Say

A threat to target the Internet’s root Domain Name System (DNS) servers and knock the Internet offline may be more difficult than the hackers think.

Hackers reputedly associated with Anonymous made the threat to launch what they dubbed “Operation Global Blackout” March 31 in response to actions by Wall Street, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and “irresponsible leaders and the beloved bankers who are starving the world for their own selfish needs.”

A threat to target the Internet’s root Domain Name System (DNS) servers and knock the Internet offline may be more difficult than the hackers think.

Hackers reputedly associated with Anonymous made the threat to launch what they dubbed “Operation Global Blackout” March 31 in response to actions by Wall Street, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and “irresponsible leaders and the beloved bankers who are starving the world for their own selfish needs.”

Knocking the Internet offline however is not easy.

Internet Servers“The root operators are well aware of the threat, and it’s nothing new – such attacks have been mounted previously with limited affects,” Rod Rasmussen, president and chief technology officer of security firm IID, told SecurityWeek. “There are many indications that the original Pastebin post was a hoax or “troll” by an individual rather than any collective/consensus operation. Regardless of the authenticity of this specific threat, the root operators are continuously working on mitigating issues, most of which being unintentional, that could potentially impact the core DNS, and doing a pretty good job overall.”

According to the Pastebin post, the group claimed to have compiled a “Reflective DNS Amplification DDoS tool” for the attack based on AntiSec’s DHN tool.

“The principle is simple; a flaw that uses forged UDP packets is to be used to trigger a rush of DNS queries all redirected and reflected to those 13 IPs (of the targeted root DNS servers),” the post notes. “The flaw is as follow; since the UDP protocol allows it, we can change the source IP of the sender to our target, thus spoofing the source of the DNS query.”

Still, Robert Graham, CEO of Errata Security, noted it would be difficult for attackers to take down all of the Internet’s servers for any serious length of time.

“To have a serious shot at taking out all 13, a hacker would have to test out attacks on each one,” he blogged. “But, the owners of the systems would notice the effectiveness of the attacks, and start mitigating them before the coordinate attack against all 13 could be launched.”

“The #Anonymous hackers can [certainly] cause local pockets of disruption, but these disruptions are going to be localized to networks where their attack machines are located, or where their “reflectors” are located,” he continued. “They might affect a few of the root DNS servers, but it’s unlikely they could take all of them down, at least for any period of time. On the day of their planned Global Blackout, it’s doubtful many people would notice.”

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