[ISN] Risk of internet collapse rising

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Nov 27 2002 - 00:38:00 PST

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    Tuesday, 26 November, 2002
    Simulated attacks on key internet hubs have shown how vulnerable the
    worldwide network is to disruption by disaster or terrorist action.  
    If an attack or disaster destroyed the major nodes of the internet,
    the network itself could begin to unravel, warn the scientists who
    carried out the simulations.
    The virtual attacks showed that the net would keep going in major
    cities, but outlying areas and smaller towns would gradually be cut
    The researchers warn that the net has become more vulnerable as it has
    become more commercialised and key net cables are concentrated in the
    hands of fewer organisations.
    Cutting the ties
    The simulations were carried out by a trio of scientists from Ohio
    State University led by Tony Grubesic, Assistant Professor of
    Geography at the University of Cincinnati.
    Dr Grubesic compared the net to US air traffic system.
    "If weather stops or delays traffic in a major airport hub, like
    Chicago's O'Hare, air passengers throughout the country may feel the
    effects," said Dr Grubesic, "even if they are not travelling to
    In its early days the net was as decentralised, as possible with
    multiple links between many of the nodes forming it. If one node
    disappeared, traffic could easily flow to other links and route
    traffic to all parts.
    However, said the researchers, the increasing commercialisation of the
    net has seen the emergence of large hubs that act as key distribution
    points for some parts of the web.
    As a result, the net has become much more vulnerable to attack.
    "If you destroyed a major internet hub, you would also destroy all the
    links that are connected to it," said Morton O'Kelly, Professor of
    Geography at Ohio State University.
    "It would have ripple effects throughout the internet"
    Small worlds
    US cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and
    Washington DC are large net hubs and have several connections to the
    As a result any attack would bump up traffic levels on these links,
    but the larger cities would probably maintain net services.
    By contrast, warn the researchers, smaller cities that rely on the
    large hubs to keep them connected cut see their links severed by an
    attack on their routing centre.
    The researchers said the attack on the World Trade Centre revealed how
    disruption could spread.
    A major net hub was destroyed during the attack and severed links
    between New York City and three New York counties.
    "The ability for networks to re-route, re-connect and have redundancy
    is clearly important for the survival of the internet in the face of
    disasters," said Dr Grubesic.
    The researchers' work will appear in the February 2003 edition of
    Telematics and Informatics.
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