Internet Backbone May Be Vulnerable To Attack

Saturday, December 18, 2010



In 2003, George Mason University PhD candidate Sean Gorman mapped critical fiber optic networks across the U.S. and illustrated that vulnerabilities in the  communications infrastructure could easily be identified using data and records available to the general public.

The study also concluded that there are multiple "choke points" that could be targeted which would cripple Internet functionality, and revealed the lack of redundant systems that would ensure continued operability.

Now Swiss researchers suggest that Internet backbones are unduly susceptible to attack, which potentially cripple critical communications and infrastructure operations.

Ling Zhou of the Laboratory for Safety Analysis, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, stated:

"All this brings critical communication backbones into a potentially unsafe condition... Effective functioning of today's societies is based on critical infrastructures, i.e., large scale infrastructures whose degradation, disruption or destruction would have a serious impact on health, safety, security or well-being of citizens or the effective functioning of governments and/or economy."

Internet backbone infrastructure is privately owned in the U.S., and therefore subject to management that is dominated by profitability and return on investment concerns first, and not necessarily security.

Zou recommends:

  • First Common connection points, where several cables or network hubs meet, should be regarded as key protected infrastructure.
  • Secondly, backbone and service providers should be persuaded and supported in protecting their network backbone and to diversify the physical routing of fibre optic cables.
  • Thirdly, national governments need to cooperate with service providers and define a series of basic safety standards for what is currently an entirely unregulated sector of information and communication technologies.
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