The cyberweapon that could take down the internet

A new cyberweapon could take down the entire internet – and there's not much that current defences can do to stop it. So say Max Schuchard at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and his colleagues, the masterminds who have created the digital ordnance. But thankfully they have no intention of destroying the net just yet. Instead, they are suggesting improvements to its defences.

Schuchard's new attack pits the structure of the internet against itself. Hundreds of connection points in the net fall offline every minute, but we don't notice because the net routes around them. It can do this because the smaller networks that make up the internet, known as autonomous systems, communicate with each other through routers. When a communication path changes, nearby routers inform their neighbours through a system known as the border gateway protocol (BGP). These routers inform other neighbours in turn, eventually spreading knowledge of the new path throughout the internet.

A previously discovered method of attack, dubbed ZMW – after its three creators Zhang, Mao and Wang, researchers in the US who came up with their version four years ago – disrupts the connection between two routers by interfering with BGP to make it appear that the link is offline. Schuchard and colleagues worked out how to spread this disruption to the entire internet and simulated its effects.

Surgical strike

The attack requires a large botnet – a network of computers infected with software that allows them to be externally controlled: Schuchard reckons 250,000 such machines would be enough to take down the internet. Botnets are often used to perform distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which bring web servers down by overloading them with traffic, but this new line of attack is different.

"Normal DDoS is a hammer; this is more of a scalpel," says Schuchard. "If you cut in the wrong places then the attack won't work."

An attacker deploying the Schuchard cyberweapon would send traffic between computers in their botnet to build a map of the paths between them. Then they would identify a link common to many different paths and launch a ZMW attack to bring it down. Neighbouring routers would respond by sending out BGP updates to reroute traffic elsewhere. A short time later, the two sundered routers would reconnect and send out their own BGP updates, upon which attack traffic would start flowing in again, causing them to disconnect once more. This cycle would repeat, with the single breaking and reforming link sending out waves of BGP updates to every router on the internet. Eventually each router in the world would be receiving more updates than it could handle – after 20 minutes of attacking, a queue requiring 100 minutes of processing would have built up.

Clearly, that's a problem. "Routers under extreme computational load tend to do funny things," says Schuchard. With every router in the world preoccupied, natural routing outages wouldn't be fixed, and eventually the internet would be so full of holes that communication would become impossible. Shuchard thinks it would take days to recover.

"Once this attack got launched, it wouldn't be solved by technical means, but by network operators actually talking to each other," he says. Each autonomous system would have to be taken down and rebooted to clear the BGP backlog.

Meltdown not expected

So is internet meltdown now inevitable? Perhaps not. The attack is unlikely to be launched by malicious hackers, because mapping the network to find a target link is a highly technical task, and anyone with a large enough botnet is more likely to be renting it out for a profit.

An alternative scenario would be the nuclear option in a full-blown cyberwar – the last resort in retaliation to other forms of cyberattack. A nation state could pull up the digital drawbridge by adjusting its BGP to disconnect from the internet, just as Egypt did two weeks ago. An agent in another country could then launch the attack, bringing down the internet while preserving the attacking nation's internal network.

Sitting duck

Whoever launched the attack, there's little we could do about it. Schuchard's simulation shows that existing fail-safes built into BGP do little to protect against his attack – they weren't designed to. One solution is to send BGP updates via a separate network from other data, but this is impractical as it would essentially involve building a shadow internet.

Another is to alter the BGP system to assume that links never go down, but this change would have to be made by at least 10 per cent of all autonomous systems on the internet, according to the researchers' model, and would require network operators to monitor the health of connections in other ways. Schuchard says that convincing enough independent operators to make the change could be difficult.

"Nobody knows if it's possible to bring down the global internet routing system," says Mark Handley, an expert in networked systems at University College London. He suggests that the attack could cause "significant disruption" to the internet, with an effect greater than the Slammer worm of 2003, but it is unlikely to bring the whole thing down.

Where's the internet gone? (Image: Miguel Gutierrez/AFP/Getty Images)

"The simulations in the paper make a lot of simplifying assumptions, which is necessary to simulate on this scale," he explains. "I doubt the internet would behave as described."

Schuchard and colleagues presented their findings at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium in San Diego, California, on Tuesday.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit App Review For iPhone !!!

Yes this is true, NFS has landed to the world of iPhone, from our friends at iPhoneAlly says that EA added another racer to their collection of Need For Speed games on the app store. The franchise had seen the release of Underground, and then Shift both with decent gameplay and graphics. Now, the newest version, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit has paved its way onto the app store with overall better quality in every area possible! Racing games are a great genre for iDevice developers to look into considering the accelerometer in the iPhone and iPod Touch. With the hundreds that there currently are, only a few really stand out from the crowd and those are usually the ones that achieve more in terms of things consumers like to see. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit has it all and more.The main part of the game lies within the career mode which features something never been seen before on the iDevice. The whole story mode has you playing as a cop in all kinds of wicked rides taking out illegal street racers one by one. Sure, in Underground there were a few missions where you maybe played as the cop, or got chased by a cop.

But this game’s cop mode is completely sick. Each mission has you taking out someone by deceiving them with the combined help of your buddy cops and your car.

The missions involve constantly ramming into your target car to ultimately empty the gauge above it. With each hit your blow to the opponent, each nitrous boost you activate, with each hand-break swerve you perform, and with a whole bunch of other things you’ll do you will get bounty which at the end of the level stacks up with your other bounty from other missions. The more you get, the better as the bounty goes towards your leveling up and receiving new cars with each advance from one title to the next.

What I meant when I said “help from your buddy cops” earlier was that you’ll have the option to call upon a roadblock in the beginning, and then later in the mode be able to lay down spikes and use EMPs to disable your target. Though they get a little repetitive because of the lack of variety, it’s always a thrill to see the car you’re chasing spinoff.

All of the levels take place in different environment which are full with objects you’d find in that place along with some scenery that adds depth.

With a Need for Speed, game you all probably know, comes some awesome cars which even better actually exist. You start off with not so good cars compared to the ones that you’ll be receiving later in the game. Each car looks exactly like its real life version which brings me to my next point: the artwork of the game is just off the charts. I took a look at EA’s MMA earlier this week which had some pretty realistic character sprites, but this, this game is much better. The cars are a bit boxy and jagged every here and then, but they’re overall state is just more than I can describe. The backgrounds and such are crisp, the cars are pretty real looking, and the environments created in each environment seem great for such high-speed chasing.

The career mode has a total of 24 missions across 4 different maps with the difficulty of each increasing as you go along. This franchise is known mostly for the high speed action you get in the console versions and the earlier releases on the iDevice, and this definitely doesn’t fall short in any way.

There is also a multiplayer mode which only enables you to play locally with friends over wifi or bluetooth which was a disappointment. I was really looking forward to putting my skills to the test online with other people, but since there’s not a mode designated for that purpose I wasn’t able to. A racer like this always needs an online multiplayer mode desperately!

I really love this game, I do, but I’m still looking for one feature that has been in one or some of the console games if I’m not mistaken. The game desperately needs some sort of free-roam mode for maybe picking chases to go to. The barrier on the side of the road restricts you from actual free driving, and besides actually playing there’s no mode where you can simple drive where you feel like. It might be too late for this game, but hopefully if EA releases anymore (which I hope they do!) they’ll incorporate this feature to put the finishing touch to the game.

Hot Pursuit as the people over at

has been a true joy to play mainly because of the cop career mode and because of the amazing visuals. You can’t go wrong with this adrenaline fueled, action-packed title from EA. Really, the $4.99 price tag is too little to be asking for this kind of racer! It should be on the list of fans of the series and for fans fans of the genre! The whole review can be found at Here.