China did not hijack 15% of the Net, counters researcher

Routes versus traffic confuses media, says expert

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Last April, China Telecom's servers started advertising themselves as the best routes for approximately 15% of the Internet's total routes. China Telecom has denied hijacking the routes, and experts today said that the incident was probably an accident, not a deliberate attack.

ATLAS provides carriers, providers and others with what Labovitz called "a 20,000-foot view" of how much of the Internet's traffic goes through any of the 110 to 120 carriers that the system monitors.

"[ATLAS] is the largest data set in the world of traffic impact," claimed Labovitz. "It gives a really good coarse-grained picture of the Internet."

While the confusion over routes versus traffic created what Labovitz dubbed "hyperbole" in the media, he refused to downplay the significance of the incident.

"Any corruption of the Internet's infrastructure is significant," he said. "What this shows is that routing has a number of critical security problems, and that the industry is on borrowed time."

In a blog post earlier Friday, Labovitz called BGP "incredibly insecure," and bemoaned the lack of progress in the last 15 years, even in the face of numerous demonstrations of the routing system's fragility.

"The Internet routing system still relies primarily on trust, or 'routing by rumor' if you are more cynical," he wrote.

But he was still optimistic that change might come.

"We talked DNS security even longer than BGP, [and although] it took something that was so scary, we're now seeing a community will to make the changes in DNS happen," Labovitz said.

The "scary" DNS event Labovitz referred to occurred in 2008, when researcher Dan Kaminsky uncovered a critical design flaw in the DNS (domain name system) routing protocol, and then led a months-long effort to coordinate a large-scale, multivendor patching effort in July 2008.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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