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Web More Vulnerable Than Expected? 155

latro writes: "A BBC story talks about a recent study that claims that knocking out the top 4% of busy nodes would break the Internet into "disconnected islands." Here's the Nature article, which is really more about the error tolerance of complex systems in general, with the Web as an example."
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Web More Vulnerable than Expected?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    CmdrBurrito, why don't you _not_ enforce the idea that the Internet == Web and retitle that article?
  • Wired (yes wired! they were cool back then...) had a cool article where bruce sterling checked out the physical cable that wired asia. (or something like that, it was a few years ago) anyway, they were laying two cables, one underwater, and one across land. Underwater is apparently a hassle to lay, but once laid, it has one very important advantage over land cable -- no backhoes.

    The article explained that the cross-thai cable got dug up on a near monthly basis. You're supposed to check for that when getting your building permits, but ... get real.

  • Good point. Indeed, if you read the original paper (jeesh, how did we ever live without the web?) you find a very dry tract titled "Error and attack tolerance of complex networks", which uses some involved mathematical reasoning to say, "Some systems achieve adaptability at the cost of creating specialized, vulnerable subsystems." (I can survive despite all kinds of bodily insults, but if you stab me in the heart, I'm toast.) jazzes it up by headlining it "Achilles' heel of the Internet" and then the BBC takes it a little further... I guess there are Jerry Springers everywhere!

    Oh well. The historical nit-picker in me rejoices that the old chestnut about the Internet being designed to survive a nuclear war has finally been put to rest.

  • And if one of these towers were accidentally destroyed by some geek weilding a backhoe, we'd definitely have a cass for mass-geek-backhoe-training (MGBT).
  • The reason the web appears so much more vulnerable in this study than in previous studies and general opinion is that they focus on something different from the usual. They're looking at the web, not the internet.
    Guh. They're looking at both the web and the internet. Their conclusion was that the web and th internet react in qualitatively the same manner. If you take out a few top nodes, things start to get nasty. If you take out random nodes, most people don't care much (unless you're looking for those specific node).

    For the web, it's kinda like the difference between taking out google and my home page [] For the 'net, it's like the difference between taking a backhoe to (one of) Seattle's bacbone links vs. your phone company dropping your ADSL link.

    Pretty much the same kinda response in both cases.

  • You make a few good points... the stats I supplied were firearm homicides, in reply to your fourth paragraph... If 17,500 people are killed by firearms in the states a year, that would mean 20,000+ gun suicides... Both are rather tragic figures (and in this regard, I'm by no means suggesting America is alone)...
  • Aint bad? PAL alot better than NTSC since the different framerates aren't very noticeble, I can assure you that the number of horizontal lines is very noticeble. But of course I wouldn't mind even higher resolution. :)
  • Agreed that it's very tragic. OTOH, we're free to kill ourselves, so I cannot get very excited about suicides due to guns. At least they can be fairly painless. Of course, a lot of people end up botching the job--fellow I went to college with had a high school classmate shoot his lower jaw off and bleed to death rather slowly.

    I don't know about that 17,500 figure being solely homicides. Gun-control advocates have a habit of playing fast and loose with facts--the recent 'child killed every day' statistic counted everyone from 0 to 19(!) as a child. Turns out that when 15-19 are dropped from that, the number is nearly nil.

    What I would really like is to know what proportion of those killed are `innocent.' Obviously guns are a favourite tool of criminals, and obviously they spend a lot of time killing each other. It's hard for me to get excited over one mafioso killing another or a drug deal going sour; I get very disturbed when some kid gets his head blown out for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • Neal Stephenson's HREF=" ass.html?pg=11&topic=&topic_set=">Mother Earth, Mother Board

    has a decent deconstruction of precisely this question.

    In the late 1980s, as KMI looked at the cables then in existence and the systems that were slated for the next few years, they noticed an almost monstrous imbalance.

    The United States would, by the late 1990s, be massively connected to Europe by some 200,000 circuits across the Atlantic, and just as massively connected to Asia by a roughly equal number of circuits across the Pacific. But between Europe and Asia there would be fewer than 20,000 circuits.

    The article is precisely about the building of that OC192 in the late 90's in response to the KMI study (well, it's about a lot of other things too, but that's what's at the core of the article.
  • When they break down your door in the middle of the night (it has happened, sadly enough, sometimes even in the US), what kind of law do you want to be able to point to: Written? Or unwritten?

    The laws are written(see other posts in this article about case/common law precedent), its just the constitution that isn't.

    Although actually, now that we have the EU declaration of human rights, we do have a written constitution anyway.

    And another thing, where does this 80% tax theory come from ? I pay 25% on the first thirty-five thousand pounds, give or take a bit, and 40% on the rest. Doesn't seem that burdensome to me.

  • People have been making fun of the perennual "The Internet Will Crumble" predictions since the early days of usenet, (when some backbone sites could get away with a 9600 baud link and many universities still weren't on the ARPANET)
  • Not being American, I'm not sure... but the 17,500 was reported by the CDC...
  • We're about due for one this year, aren't we?

    - A.P.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • Well, the CDC numbers are suspect (unfortunately) due to its political leanings. It has declared such things as alcohol `diseases' as well as guns. As one AC stated, 19 yr. old gang members killed due to the risks of that particular vocation are listed as `killed by friend or family member' in the CDC statistics. The CDC has done a lot of good work, but it can get out of hand.

    As an example, it produced numbers showing that gonorrhea cases went down when liquor taxes went up, and up when taxes went down. It has thus decided to push for higher liquor taxes, enver mind the fact that a) people should be free to hurt themselves however they choose and b) statistical correlation is not proof of causation. Twits, IMHO. Just another example of their antics, not that it necessarily discredits this particular set of statistics. But one always tries to consider the source...

  • The top 1% of all nodes... What number does that exactly replresents ? Millions, probably., Now, 4%, that's a faily large number, isn't it ?

    Not counting that no error correction was taking into account nor was the propagation time of the attack.

    No, it really looks like another case of journatist going for the sensational line instead of doing a factual anylysis of the subject.
  • Well, they were talking about both the web ( URLs, documents, etc ) and the internet ( routers, interfaces )
  • That's what happened here on wensday. Our connection to the node connecting networks here in finland broke, and all traffic got routed via stockholm. Which was essentially too slow for any reasonable use.
  • Better put some of that money into solar and other alternative energy sources while you're at it. Wireless has to get power from somewhere, too. Right now it's often from underground power lines, which means backhoes.
  • Well, we did, if someone had quantified, methodically analyzed the Slashdot data and had it peer-reviewed (getting the report's website Slashdotted doesn't count...). Did someone mention 4% in the discussion?
  • by mattkime ( 8466 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @05:55PM (#898902)
    ...if one of their first target was AOL.
  • Of course he could affect it in a negative way, but I don't think he could paralyze it that easy. Finding and knocking out the top 4% of the nodes is not an easy task...
  • The correct 4% are surrounded by glowing blue plasma fields, with perfect mirror pipes heading off in every direction.
  • Well, I'm sorry if I came off as patronizing, I love reading /. and would be part of that angry mob. No offense intended anywhere.


  • If you knocked out two of them, you'd essentially make it into several islands because of amount of traffic that would have to be piped through the remaining links. Just because those links are there doesn't mean they can handle all of the packets that people are trying to push through it.

  • LOL! You are by far my favorite troll. Constant alarmist posts aren't the most effective way to whore for karma, but they sure provoke some flame posts. They are hilarious too:-).
  • What in the world made you put Australia and Canada before Russia? Should the US be on guard against APBs (Armored Polar Bears) or anti-aircraft kangaroos? []

    They might have financial woes, but do few entities ready to file Chapter 11 can lob a nuke into your backyard.

    Andrew Borntreger
  • Is there a new copy of the moderator guidelines that contains the phrase "don't think, just moderate"?

    The only thing that makes a member of the 4% special is that their site is a bridge between large sections of the Web. Nothing else. It needn't even be highly connected itself. For instance, let's say all sites were partitioned into two groups: A) Those you could get to via Yahoo and B) Those you could get to via InfoSeek. Further assume that none of those sites linked to sites in the other group. Now I start a site that has just two link: 1) To Yahoo, 2) To InfoSeek. MY site is the only one linking "the whole internet" together. What power do I have? None.

    Furthermore, let's say that I DID have power by virtue of my accidental placement. That power is easily wrenched from me by anyone who sets up their own site that links Yahoo and InfoSeek.

    Yes, the Web has "link bottlenecks". But they web is three-dimensional, you don't have to travel linearly. Just hop right to the location you want and bypass the bottleneck altogether. Better yet, create your own site and make the bottle neck disappear.
    Give us our karma back! Punish Karma Whores through meta-mod!
  • It would be nice if the link worked.
  • Unsure as to wether or not I'm taking bait, but let's see what happens...

    The people who run that 4% of the nodes are expanding their power and concentrating it into fewer and fewer hands.
    First off, I would laugh at any person or organization who isn't trying to expand their power. That's how business works. You don't become the No. 4 telco and then say, "Well, I guess it's a sweet ride, let's sit back and let others catch up."

    As far as the concentration of this power, you're entirely bass-ackwards. First off, telcos everywhere around the world are being privatized. This brings new competition into the mix, and actually increases the amount of diverse ownership. More routes are created, more connections, less bottlenecks.

    They will be able to monitor our communications

    That can already be done, and it IS being done. I'll agree with other Slashdotters woh have at times mentioned the fact that, more than likely, we're being egoistic when we think governments are spying on us. The government could care less what 99% of its population's communication is.

    This is a real problem, and it is only getting worse every day.

    This looks to be a combination of oversimplification and lack of evidence to support your view. Interesting, but for practical purposes, worthless.

  • What are you smoking? Maple syrup flavored crack?
  • Unknown Error

    A problem with the requested page prevents us
    from delivering it.

    If this problem persists, please contact customer

    Nature © Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2000 Registered No. 785998

    who would have expected?
  • In that case, I hope any ivading army DOES destroy these nodes, as it would be instantly destroyed by mobs of angry Slashdotters who are pissed they can't access their news, and America would be free (such as it is, anyway) again!


  • 3) Does Australia have any organization equivalent to the NRA? Or for that matter, anything in legalese that's equivalent to the US Second Amendment "right to bear arms"?

    As mentioned, no NRA. The right to bear arms such as it is in the US [] has no equivalent in the Australian constitution (a formal document []) nor the constitutions of the states of Australia (usually not formal documents).

  • Unknown Error
    A problem with the requested page prevents us from delivering it.

    If this problem persists, please contact customer support.

    I see they're talking about more than broken routers here when they mention the 'Web' being broken... :)

  • IIRC, the only legal responsibility of the Queen is to open sessions of pariliment [sic].
    Actually, no legislation is passed until it receives Royal Assent. Basically, the monarch has to sign it. In practice, this is rubber-stamping (not, I think, literally), but in principle, one Mrs (HM) Q., of London, could disrupt any laws that she likes. This could, for example, cause problems with abolishing the monarchy; the monarch would have to sign voluntarily.
  • Sorry for responding to this message, which is pretty much a troll, but regardless of the marginal effect of the recent tightening of Australias gun laws, the gun ownership in Oz has always been vastly lower than in the US.

    The point being made, and no matter how one cuts the figures, the point remains the _VAST_ difference between firearm mortallity in the US and Oz is due to the availability (legal, righteous, de facto or otherwise) of firearms.


    If the Australian Statistics do not entertain then look at, gee I don't know, the UK where I predict (without having looked at the data) that the figures will be more like the Australian ones than the US ones.

    Oh, BTW, I ain't no antigin campaigner, I just think if you like to have 'em around you gotta take the statistical medicine that is so bleedingly obviously there.

  • post it on /. so every single script kiddie sees this article...
  • Sorry, I meant 2%. Even so, you'd still wouldn't have to knock out very many to have a dramatic effect on the internet.
  • 'K. IA(most certainly)NAL. I'm not well versed in all of this to discuss it in great depth, but I think that the firearms thing does depend greatly on culture (which, of course, is becoming more and more influenced by US culture across the globe).

    As far as rights, the Monarch signed the Magna Carta, giving certain rights to the people of Britain. The rest of the law and the sitting of parliament is, however a pleasure of the Queen.

    It seems to work, though.
  • A physical attack on a link would probably be easier, and harder to repair, however, taking out 1 router does more damage than taking out 1 link. Consider that killing a router with 12 interfaces drops 12 links.
  • by ( 142825 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @06:05PM (#898923) Homepage
    One guy with a AK47 could distrupt air traffic on the east coast.

    Someone could write a windows email virus that will shut down 50% of the machines on the net..never mind, already happened.

    A person can shut down half the city of Boston with a fertilizer truck in the right place.

    There is no real security. Someone can always find a way around it.

    People don't realize that they lose their rights in the name of security, but are defrauded because they don't get security.

  • The web was developed at CERN, and I think we all know what that means

    Evidently you don't - the article refers to attacking core internet routers. This has essentially zilch to do with HTML/HTTP trials at CERN.

    It's time to privatize the architecture of the Web. It's time to start over with something done on time and under budget, the way private enterprise can and must do things because of its very nature.

    Thankfully you had the common sense to post this trash as an AC - your comments are completely uninformed. The internet was the creation of big government planning and spending.

  • by Claudius ( 32768 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @06:11PM (#898925)
    It's probably only a matter of time before the NSA and the FBI (Carnivore, anyone?) decides to knock out these backbones to stop those awful, awful criminals from trafficking in "pirated music" and "child pornography". And then what will happen to our web?

    Nah. You see, this Internet thing, aside from its intended purpose of trafficking all sorts of salaciousness, has the curious side effect of making a large number of people in the U.S. a great deal of money. Heaps and gobs of the stuff, in fact. And if there's one thing the U.S. government is addicted to it's mad cash flowing into the coffers. To suggest that they would pinch off the stream of greenbacks heading their way is like thinking a guy can stop peeing midstream. It just ain't gonna happen.
  • That is only true if a network *HAS* a most important 4%. The whole point of the article is that networks (in the general term) resilient against random failure are weak against malicious attacks, and vice versa. Since random failure is always a problem (routers fry, brain cells die, people get in car accidents), natural networks have usually optimized themselves for that case.
  • Fact: Time and again, real-world experience has shown that gun ownership varies inversely to crime.

    Fact: the US has more citizens incarcerated for violent crimes per capita than any other industrialized nation. Oops, correct, about five times.

    As it stands, most of the European nations have crime rates far lower than even the safest US states.

    This is why the KKK has always been in favor of gun control (along with public education).

    This is tantamount to invoking Hitler/Nazis as a straw-man couter-argument. Under Godwin's law, you lose.

    Fact: That's a pretentious way of talking around the fact that you have no rights as men or as citizens. The truth is that British citizens are subjects of the Queen,

    The Queen has the same symbolic role as Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Don't kid yourself into thinking the US doesn't have royalty that is worshipped in the same pathetic way as the Windsors.

    Fact: European tax rates vary between 70% and 90%

    Next year when you're in grade eleven, you'll learn all about serious research, and all of this will be a distant memory.

  • Does anyone else get annoyed with people user the terms 'Web' and 'Internet' interchangably? I'm reading that summary trying to figure out how removing the top 4% of the busiest web sites will take down the Internet, and it's not until I substitute 'Internet' for 'Web' that it starts to make sense...
  • There is quite a bit of flaming going on over the distinction between the Web and the Internet. I was rather pleased to see that both the Nature and BBC articles explicitly mentioned that both can be modelled as scale-free networks.

    I think that there is an important point to be made concerning the Web. The nodes and pages and the edges and links. But our lists of bookmarks consist of nodes with lots of outgoing links. Also, there are links that are connected logically, but not physically. URLs in magazines, on TV and radio, on T-shirts and billboards are logically part of the Web. There are nodes that can't be taken down via the Internet. That is the crux of the argument that many searches begin with URLs that are typed by the user.
  • This was discussed on NANOG recently. The resources to take out even a few NAPs would be enormous. Assuming this criminal element tried to do its damage with explosives or light arms, just the act of assembling such a large arsenal would stand a good chance of being detected by the FBI. Include into that the dozens or hundreds of personnel needed to cary out simultaneous attacks, and you have a very formidable force.

    Then there is the problem of what happens after taking out a location such as MAE-East. Within hours the network engineers would be figuring out ways to reconnect to each other, and how to route around the damage.

    Yes, a large scale attack would hurt the internet for a short period of time. But the internet is resilient and would bounce back in dozens of alternate routes, and all the network admins would be on alert for any more outages. Law enforcement would also be on a hightened state of alert, making it much more difficult for criminals or terrorists to continue attacting the internet.

    This report has already been dissed as just so much FUD by someone selling something. And clueless media are now picking up on the report and spreading the FUD around. But to take out 4% of the routing nodes on the internet would require a large sized military force with excellent communications and coordination, who would immediately be the target of both law enforcement and the military.

    the AC
  • HEY... I can stop peeing midstream, and probably many other guys can as well :) It's the male equivalent of Kegel exercises, if I'm correct.

    I wouldn't know. I could guess what Kegel exercises are, but I'm probably better off not knowing... Probably.

    I just have to ask why you'd expect most people to just know? Scratch that, I think I'm better off not knowing that either.

    In any case, I don't know about most people, but I do that I (and probably a bunch of other guys as well) learned how to do it because of too many "General Quarters" called at the most inconvenient times...

    Hmm, incentive.

    T. M. Pederson
    "...and so the moral of the story is: Always Make Backups."
  • Not only e-commerce, but many corporations use VPNs to communicate between locations. It's cheaper than running a dedicated line across the country.


  • You are right, tax money makes things happen, but remember today's money is made indirectly.

    There are no federal taxes and few local taxes on Internet sales. The federal government, I am sure though, is quite delighted with the high-income tax returns from the amazon, ebay and other DCM (Dot Com Millionaires) out there.

    However, place an Internet Sales Tax of 1% on all online sales and have those revenues go to the federal government and the Internet will have more safety and contigency plans than the stock market or the postal service.

    Don't you wish people would quit refering to the Internet as "The Web"?

  • Wow. This isn't even a good troll post.. who the hell fell for that?
  • This is not really bad.

    Ok, you disrupt 4% of the most important nodes, then the internet is a bunch of islands.

    You still have all those little islands. Each one of these are a small Internet on their own. You can still do a lot of things. You will just get a little be more local.

    I have yet to see research on how fast these little island could interconnect back to each other with zillion of small bandwidth links.

    Also how hard would it be to disrupt the 4% top node at the same time. Nobody did a study on that.

  • I don't see why there couldn't be another internet altogether. Domains for it could be arbitrarily assigned and Ipv6 could be rolled out since no one wants to upgrade until everyone else does and well its the chicken and egg shit. blah blah im finished
  • We've got it all down in black and white

    I agree, the first thing the US did as a nation was to separate the blacks and the whites.

  • Wrong. This is USthink (I am from the US too). The UK has a democracy based on an unwritten constitution (not just the Magna Carta)... It is based on "common law", historical precident, and a series of disparate documents. The UK evolved to a democracy from a monarchy over a period of several hundred years, beginning (mostly) with the Magna Carta, as opposed to the US which instituted democracy through revolution and has a group of historical documents (Decl. of Independance, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights) all writen about the same time mostly by the same people. While it is natural to us, it is actually quite unusual.

    IIRC, the only legal responsibility of the Queen is to open sessions of pariliment.
  • The net, as originally designed by the government, was supposed to be extremely fault tolerant. Packets going from point A to point B would travel by any number of paths, and were reassembled at the other end. That was the dream, and for a while, that's exactly how it was.

    Too bad we woke up.

    Nowadays, as I'm certain every person reading this has experienced, if a single router goes down somewhere in the path, you are completely cut off from that machine. It doesn't matter that your ISP has a dozen peering arrangements, because the routing tables on the machines are static. They say "The shortest path to machine x.x.x.x is by gateway y.y.y.y, and I don't care if no packets are getting through on that path, that's the path you take."

    It may be that you could get through if you used your ricochet or (worse yet) telnetted to another machine to force a new path around the problem, but until someone manually updated the routing table of an upstream machine, or the router is fixed, you're screwed.

    This problem is doubled by the fact that the 'chosen' path from machine x to machine y can easily be very different than the path back from y to x, doubling the single points of failure.

    When darpa-net was designed, it was with the intention of providing a system that would still be effective even if 80% of the nodes were knocked out or otherwise severed in a nuclear attack.

    Now a doink with a backhoe can knock out a million users.

    Kevin Fox
  • damn i heat repeat posts from previous stories. Sure OOG is cool and so are natalie portman poured hot grits down my pants posts, but this is pure karma whoring. I hate karma whores.
  • If the US and Japan were destroyed...we'd have to watch movies in PAL format. yuk :(
  • mmmm, hdtv....

    Does anyone know when they're turning off VHS broadcasts?


  • Of course he could affect it in a negative way, but I don't think he could paralyze it that easy. Finding and knocking out the top 4% of the nodes is not an easy task...

    If anyone could do it, my money'd be on the l0pht.

    Hmm, I bet my employer'd be pissed if I ran l0phtcrack on their SAM file.....


  • It was also in a BBC documentary called Digital Planet, which was aired some time ago.

    Good to see the beeb are up to date :)

  • OK, I just want to add that yes, BGP and other things let you set up your routers so that everything works like it's supposed to. The problem is, many ISPs don't bother. Their admins are overworked, and it's just not a priority, because when they have the time to think about it, everything works, so they figure they don't really need to.

    Sure, the backbones aren't going down. The larger ISPs might not go down. The smaller local ISPs (say 20,000 users and smaller) are the ones who have problems with this sort of thing.


  • Knocking out the "important" 4% of the Internet would require hitting several dozen sites simultaneously, widely scattered around the world (but mostly the US).

    And then private peering nobody knows about would take up most of the slack very quickly.

    4% sounds small because it's a single-digit number, but it would be easier to assassinate every member of Congress simultaneously than it would be to take down the Internet this way.

    Admittedly, we spend more money defending against the former, but a lot of that money is ALSO spent defending against the latter.

    To coordinate such a strike, you'd have to risk butting heads with an FBI that has ALWAYS found out about anything attempted on a similar scale.

    I'm not worried about it.

    DDoS attacks are orders of magnitude less costly, and nearly as effective.

  • werd. there are no guarantee's. I did read this guy's ramble about the Mattel shit. DAMN, if this man has serious and painful injuries from his computer work, you'd think he'd explain his dilemma in under 1000 pages. An 'abstract' is presented at the beginning of an article to give a quick explanation of what the article is about. Now that we've learned something new...lets try it. Mattel dicked him over, he fucks with them, they fuck back, infintum.
  • Yes...blessing o'plenty.
  • by ajdavis ( 11891 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @06:41PM (#898952) Homepage
    The reason the web appears so much more vulnerable in this study than in previous studies and general opinion is that they focus on something different from the usual. They're looking at the web, not the internet.

    They're looking at the web topologically, as usual, but rather than measuring distance from site A to site B by the minimal number of router hops required, they're measuring the number of clickable links from A to B. In other words, if you started at and had no keyboard, could you click your way to

    The results were that topological diameter was 19 links. Anyone know the diameter of the internet (average traceroute hops from any site to any other)? Furthermore, the overall connectedness is low, so if you took out (e.g.) Yahoo and MSN, you might not be able to click from someone's panda hentai page at Geocities to my Jar-Jar hate site. I can't seem to find in the articles whether this only deals with static linking, or if search engines are accounted for somehow.

    This is sort of an odd way to look at the web. Most people don't start from their home page and start clicking until they find something interesting. You start at some place you type in, do a search, make a huge leap into a topologically distant area, then start moving around connected nodes, then make another huge leap. If MSN died and their routers stayed up, would the web be geometrically less useful, as they claim, or just linearly less useful?

    I'd say that this focus on the topology of links is really vieaux chapeau now that most people use interactive services to grab information. The web isn't a static, well, "web", anymore.

  • Yeah, the Nature article is cool. There's also a Nature Science Update [] that explians the article in plain(er) english. The key thing is that the net is an example of a scale-free complex system, which means that there is no way to put an average number on the number of connections each node has. Being scale-free, it is vulnerable to a coordinated attack, if that attack gets one of the major nodes.

    The scary thing is that the environment and ecosystems operate on the same principle (scale-free). And we are just plucking away, destroying bits and pieces without much logic or foresight. That's good because we are not likely to kill the critical nodes right away. But eventually we will, and various ecological systems will start to collapse. This is already happening in Borneo, where the rainforest is rapidly collapsing and dying off [] due to the combination of human and natural stress.

    The really really scary thing is that we will never know what the critical nodes are in the various ecosystems until it is too late. Yet we keep on destroying and polluting. We are doomed unless we wake up soon.

  • Four percent of the "nodes" on the 'net is a lot of nodes, depending on what they call nodes. If they mean hosts, then they're talking about, what, a half a million? Even if thyey're only referring to routers, 4% of the world's routers is a lot of routers in a lot of different locations.

    And while that might be within the capabilities of some hacker, hack attacks are pretty temporary at worst; it's hard to imagine anybody being able to hold "own" 4% of the world's routers for any length of time without getting caught. To do any serious damage, it would take explosives, lot of them. And well-aimed ones at that, so we can rule out Russian-built missiles. Ryder vans, of course, are another story.

    It's certainly an interesting study, but it's also a case of researchers using a scary headline to puff their research. If there were enough explosions to blow up 4% of all the routers, I think the 'net would be the least of our worries.
  • What you say may very well be true, but has absolutely nothing to do with the actual content of the article in question.

    The article is saying that the web (or scale-free networks as they call it) is resistant to random failures i.e. fault tolerant, due to the fact that very high connectivity is given to some nodes in the network - the probability that the relatively small number of high connectivity nodes are knocked out by random failure is low, as a simple statistical fact. But the web is vulnerable to systematic attacks, for the same reason.
  • The interconnexion might actually be pretty cool. Just imagine your ISP's routers connected to 12 dial-ups to other of these `islands.' Slow as hell, granted, but neat as hell as well. Actually, you only need 21 56Kbps connexions to match one T1 (1.1Mps, right?), so if it were set up correctly and luck held it might actually be doable.
  •, what happens to domain registrations if somebody drops a nuke on NSI? Presumably someone else would take over running the master root and gTLD nameservers, the hoardes of other registrars would still have all their databases, and everything would still continue to function (because the information was mirrored on the other root/gTLD nameservers).

    However, for those of us who have domains that were registered through NSI, how would we update our domain information? If NSI's billing info and whois database were lost, what happens then?


  • But since Oz banned most firearms the murder rate has gone up. The point is that in the same cultural area gun ownership translates to reduced crime. But different cultural areas have different amounts of crime, which is why Japan--with almost no legal guns--has a very low crime rate, but England--with almost no legal guns--has a highish crime rate, while the US--with many legal guns--has a high crime rate but Switzerland--with many legal guns--has a low crime rate.

    It has been shown in the US that cities which implement gun control see rising crime rates, while those that relax gun restrictions see falling crime rates. Concealed carry laws drop crime quite spectacularly, while gun bans tend to raise it just as spectacularly.

    I know of no instance where gun bans have resulted in a drop in crime, although I will not deny the possibility outright.

    Bear in mind that something like 40-60% of US gun deaths are suicides, not assaults. Also bear in mind that studies have shown that resisting an attacker with a gun is more effective at reducing or eliminating injury than complying with the attacker's demands, but resisting in any other fashion is less effective than complying.

    That, and the right to bear weapons has been historically (in Europe, at least) one of the primary distinctions between the slave and the freeman. Not that gun control advocates want to enslave people. I think that most of them are genuinely concerned about crime and that sort of thing; they are simply mistaken about the means to address these problems. But the fact remains that a man who cannot defend himself has no freedom; he is in the position of the child who must rely on his parents for protection. I think most of us outgrew that phase of our lives a long time ago.

  • Yea you just might be right. Someone with a huge internet node could deny access to certian sites but...

    It would take an ungodly amount of processing power to check each packet to see where it is going and reject/drop it. Then you can come back and say well processing power is always increasing but I come back and say so is bandwith and the use of bandwith.

    It just ain't possible to block those certian sites without bringing everything down to a crawl, i.e. killing your routers. It would be like DDoSing your self.

  • dude, read the article. they're not talking about the net, they're talking about the web. Hyperlinks are the type of routing that they're talking about.
  • Unfortunely you dick about routing. So do obviously the moderators.
    The whole purpose of BGP is to be stable yet allow you to route around things. True, BGP does not take into consideration pipe size, saturation, etc like some IGP's do. Of course most network operators have a vested intrest is making such this doesn't happen. This why we have nice knobs and switches in BGP like AS padding, localpref, compare MED, etc.
    If a router is returning no packets it can't very well maintain a BGP session which is TCP based. Session goes down, routes drop. Convergence is on the order of less than 60 secs unless you set something like no bgp-fast-exteral-failover.
    Of course your ISP could be doing something monumentally stupid like running RIPv2 across their core. In which case, yes what you summarized might happen, if the operators were retarded or something.
    Read "Where the Wizards Stay up Late". The Internet was NOT created to survive a snuclear war.

    Kashani -router guy
  • Time and again, real-world experience has shown that gun ownership varies inversely to crime.

    Fact: In America you are allowed to own guns. In Australia, for the most part, you aren't. Why, if this is the case, is Australia's homicide rate only *8%* of America's?

  • I wonder how many computer science folks (professors, professionals, script kiddies, etc.) know how to operate a backhoe.

    Nothing would be funnier, however, than seeing some 6'2", 90 pound guy with long, greasy black hair, dressed in black and wearing a Magic robe trying to work a backhoe. :-)

  • You missed this [] /. article about the Internet's dependancy on the US as a back-bone.

    If you look at UUNET's map [] of thier pipes, you'll see that there are a pair of OC192's (10Gbps each) from London directly to Hong Kong, and many, many, many times that bandwidth between London and Hong Kong via the US->Japan or US->Austrailia. So, if the US got baked, UUNET would have a VERY busy pair of wires running through the Indian Ocean...

    Of course, this is just UUNET, but it gives you an idea of the what the networks probably look like.

  • The article is about how networks naturally become scale-free. Take out the "top" 4% of nodes in an exponential network and you've accomplished nothing... the network still operates at 96% efficiency.

    The article, IMHO, was about the tendency for networks in nature to become scale-free. Imagine if your brain cells were arranged in an exponential network... each time you bumped your head or chugged a beer you might loose a percentage of your total intellectual capacity! That would suck. Since your brain is a scale-free network, such activities lead to a much less dramatic loss... the brain is neat, too, because the network can rewire itself in case of damage or even practice. For example, cab drivers have, on average, more connections in the part of their brain responsible for navigation and spatial abilities than do non-cab drivers.

  • by NotQuiteSonic ( 23451 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @05:35PM (#898982) Homepage
  • by B-Rad ( 66696 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @05:38PM (#898985) Homepage
    The BBC article talks about how hackers [sic] are starting to target routers and switches in order to bring things down. Just a small point to make, though: wouldn't it cause more damage to physically take out some of these links? Instead of trying to crack a box, take a backhoe and sever the cables outside the building. This has happened before, when some unwitting backhoe operator severed some cables and caused network routes to go all over hell's half-acre. Wouldn't a physical attack be easier and just as effective? I guess it's not nearly 1337 enough, though.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What do you expect?
    Do you want all the computers to act as backbones?
    4% is about the size of all the backbones anyway. Unless you have planet-sized wireless comunications, this is to be expected.

    Besides, do you know how many computers 4% nodes are???

    Taking them down would take work, and it is not just 4%. You have to take down the correct 4% (which would be hard as you start making islands)
  • by vertical-limit ( 207715 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @05:40PM (#898990)
    ...before the NSA and the FBI (Carnivore, anyone?) decides to knock out these backbones to stop those awful, awful criminals from trafficking in "pirated music" and "child pornography". And then what will happen to our web?

    An emergency plan needs to be developed in case the USians ever try to take down the Internet. Who will become the primary nameservers? Who will register domain names? What will the central backbones be? I don't see any of this discussion, and I'm getting worried that there simply aren't any contigency plans -- the Web (and, consequently, the Internet) really could be taken out with a few simple attacks. Why isn't someone doing something about this? I think this is a great chance for the 'net community to ban together and forge a grassroots, international solution.

    Don't just sit back and complain. Take action. Now.

  • Here we go then:

    US Center for Disease Control.

    Population18,173,600 254,250,000
    Annual Gun Deaths 596 38,317
    Gun Homicides85 17,971
    Or is that not solid enough a "fact" for you?

  • We discussed the implications this would have on a distibuted network such as FreeNet [].

    The conclusion we drew (or at least I did) was that as long as the there ditributed net was sufficiently large enough and old enough so that enough replication had occured, a distributed system could survive temporary outages of this sort....

  • There's how many millions of nodes on the net?

    What percent of them are considered busy? Maybe 1%?

    And taking out 4% of those (either through physical damage or (less likely since they're more or less equipped for high throughput) would take down the net.

    Let's say there's a million nodes.

    1% of 1,000,000=10,000 'busy' nodes.

    4% of 10,000=400.

    So you'd have to take out roughly 400 nodes. All of whom are probably quite widely distributed (in the geographic sense).

    Yeah. Looks feasible to me!

    Let's just say it's going to take a LOT of damage to take out that many connections.

    Chas - The one, the only.
    THANK GOD!!!

  • Cite evidence. For a start, it's not some areas, it's all areas. Which "one case" is this you refer to? I can *guarantee* it's not a result of people not having guns to defend themselves. There were 85 gun homicides in Australia the other year. There were 17 and a half thousand in the US that same year. Your population is only 12 times that of ours. (Source: US CDC and Aus Beaureau of Statistics).

    And it's not recent. It was four years ago. I actually live in Austraila. I know when the gun laws were enacted.

  • by BeBoxer ( 14448 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @07:28PM (#899003)
    Where did you get the idea that the Internet is run off of static routes? Sure, a lot of ISP's on the edge use statics. Primarily because they only need one default route to their upstream provider. But the backbone?

    Have you heard of BGP? Border Gateway Protocol? That's what runs routing on the backbone, and it is the dynamic routing protocol. It's the duct tape that holds this thing together, and it's quite dynamic. It would probably take any backbone ISP (C&W, UUNet, Qwest, etc.) a week to statically configure that routes that work for one day. Never mind that the only way you would figure out how to configure the routes would be to use a dynamic routing protocol. The Internet is far too big and complex to ever manually configure it.

    While it's true that BGP will still sometimes black-hole traffic by sending it down a broken link, that doesn't change the fact that it's dynamic. The problem stems from the fact that BGP can't always tell that a given route doesn't work. Usually it can, but not in all circumstances.
  • Yep, we do have fewer gun laws:

    Specifically, fully automatic weapons are banned. Completely.

    Semi-automatic weapons were also nearly totally banned.

    Pistols require strict licencing.

    Even rifles are very tightly controlled.

    Is this what you meant by fewer laws? The kind that mean in America you are almost TWENTY times more likely to die as a result of gun homicide than Australia? Thanks, I think I prefer fewer gun laws.

  • Back in the good old days, we used to route packets BY HAND! And the Internet what so much freer when the only hosts were in Stanford and random Ivy League universities. We had really a sense of community, just like when I go to the Lion's Club.

    Today, this sense of community is gone, and we have to find substitutes for it ... such as Karma, BTW mine is at 64 currently, but I guess Estasinus's must be much higher.

    This is a real problem, and it is only getting worse every day. The "geek"'s image of a "free" Internet is vanishing fast with the massification and profitability of the net.

    The "free" Internet may seem to vanish, but FEAR NTO!!! Profitability is still a distant blip on most startups!! THERE IS STILL HOPE!! Let's all unite and work for a profit-less Internet! Not that there's much to do though.

  • From HNN []:
    U.S. scientists have collaborated to describe why it is that the net is resilient to random failures but highly vulnerable to deliberate attacks. As the net has sprawled in many directions, its growth path has not led to a random or exponential network. Rather, the pattern that has taken shape resembles the ordered hierarchy of a tree whereby a few nodes are highly connected and lead to scores of less connected nodes. While this design allows the net to chug its way through random hiccups, it makes an attack on one of the key nodes particularly damaging.
    The full story is avaiable at MSNBC [], Mercury Center [], or The Telegraph [].
  • The people who run that 4% of the nodes are expanding their power and concentrating it into fewer and fewer hands. Then they will have an unprecendented amount of control over the net. They will be able to monitor our communications, and impose their rules on the rest of the net ("You host non-political-maintream sites? You can't connect to us.")

    This is a real problem, and it is only getting worse every day. The "geek"'s image of a "free" Internet is vanishing fast with the massification and profitability of the net.

  • You haven't been inside an old telephone company building. They are military fortresses. The new NAPs are fairly well protected, even if they don't have 6 foot thick granite walls.

    The problems with any kind of coordinated military style attack is that it can be very easily detected by counterintelligence agencies. And after the attack, the perps have to go somewhere, they don't just disappear into thin air. If there was any kind of coordinated attack on the US, every border crossing and airport would be stitched up tight, and then it would just be a matter of time as the FBI and local LE did their good old fashioned police work and rounded up a majority of the force. They might not get all of them, but even 50% capture rate would make for some good headlines.

    The result of any such attack, even if only against a few main nodes like MAE-east/west, would tighten up the whole system.

    the AC
  • There's actually several reasons why this is unlikely to be the case. One, the 4% of nodes that would be required to be taken out include locations such as Exodus, etc, which is *EXTREMELY* unlikely to happen. Long before the nodes where able to be taken out, the situation would be handled, and backup connections employed that *DO NOT NORMALLY SHOW UP*, becouse they are not always in existence. The second is that what may look like a 'node', could be much, much more on the inside. It's not like these 'nodes' are just one big computer systems. In many cases, there are many, parallel based systems which are load balancing between multiple communications lines..

    So 4% quickly turns into a much bigger number.
  • Sarcasm? Humor? maybe, but not terribly productive.

    The guy has a point. The whole idea of the internet is robustness by redundant links.

    Of course, the us government got sick and tired of paying for everyone, so they made companies take over. Of course, the last thing a company wants to be is redundant. This is a real problem. As more and more of the world's economy is channeled down these pipes, we are also seeing the pipes getting fewer and fewer.

    Of course, the realistic concern isn't whether the companies that own the pipes will start blocking our pr0n, nor is it that malicious crackers will try to take down the net (this wouldn't really serve their purposes now, would it? They rely on the net more than most).
    Rather, a very modest and easy to come by amount of explosives can soon disrupt a large part of the world economy.

    Previously, you (as a hypothetical terrorist, not a sarcarsic hand routing old timer) would have to take out most of downtown new york to do that (or frankfurt, more likely). Logistics nightmare, I'd imagine, and probably requiring a nuke lite.

    Taking out MAE east, tho, is pretty much shooting fish in a barrel in comparison.

    Ok, so satelite links are still in place. There is no way they could take up the slack. That's the point of the article. There is no slack.
    This is what is dangerous about the commercialisation of the internet.
  • by quickquack ( 152245 ) on Thursday July 27, 2000 @05:44PM (#899033) Homepage
    Knock out the most important 4% of anything and something will go wrong. A few examples include countries, people, world leaders, country defenses (planes, tanks, etc.). Now destroying the top 4% of countries will get the top 8 countries destroyed. That's maybe the USA, England, France, Japan, Australia, Canada, China, and India? Well then you lose a good deal of the population, not to mention the services and products they provide, as well as the money they pay to have goods imported.

    Hell, even knocking out the top 1% of anything would mess up a lot. If the US and Japan were wiped off the face of this planet, well there would be quite a bit of trouble.

    Just a thought...

    -- Simple domain, awesome content []

  • You mean if they knock out a few key nodes they could screw up the internet? Where would I get my porno then? What about my mp3's? I might have to **GULP** talk to people in the real world!

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta