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The Internet

The Root of All E-Mail 324

wiredog writes "A Washington Post story about the DNS, the VeriSign NOC, and some of the security therein." Especially interesting in light of the recent security lockdowns throughout much of the Western world. The havoc of losing the A root server would be bad, like Staypuft Marshmallow Man bad.
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The Root of All E-Mail

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  • What the---- (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daeley ( 126313 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @01:52PM (#3248908) Homepage
    Obscurity is the first line of defense. The building is unmarked, its address unspecified in company literature and its managers tight-lipped about disclosing driving directions or identifying markings to strangers.

    They are apparently okay with featuring the place in an article in the Washington Post, though. Sheesh.
    • Well, if you didn't read the article...

      They never mention the Herndon, VA address of the facility.

      oops! did I say Herndon, VA?
    • Re:What the---- (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TechnoGrl ( 322690 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:11PM (#3249044)
      Obscurity is the first line of defense. The building is unmarked, its address unspecified in company literature and its managers tight-lipped about disclosing driving directions or identifying markings to strangers.

      Gosh....then maybe they should take this ( http://www.verisign-grs.com/partner.html ) cocktail party invitation down from their web site?


      VeriSign Registrar Partner Reception: A cocktail party to showcase VeriSign's Network Operations Center (NOC). VeriSign will provide tours of our NOC, complimentary beverages and heavy appetizers will be served.

      Date: Friday, February 15th
      Time: 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. ET
      Location:
      VeriSign Network Operations Center
      21345 Ridgetop Circle
      Sterling, VA 20166
      Dress: Business Casual

      Complimentary transportation will be provided by VeriSign. A bus will pick up guests in front of the Dulles Marriott at 7:00 pm ET. Return transportation will leave VeriSign facilities at 9:30pm ET.

      R.S.V.P. to cbinko@verisign.com or Tel. +1-703-948-3877.

      • Re:What the---- (Score:2, Insightful)

        by derch ( 184205 )
        According to Yahoo Maps, the NOC you found is to the north of Sterling. According to sites listing the locations of the root nameservers (http://netmon.grnet.gr/stathost/rootns/), A ROOT is in Herndon. Herndon is south of Sterling.

        There are other posts here which claim pretty much the same thing, including an AC poster saying he's in the know.

        With the number of brick buildings in the northern Virginia area, the root's building is as obscure as a blonde woman in California.
    • by iphayd ( 170761 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:21PM (#3249091) Homepage Journal
      Actually, obscurity is the best policy in this instance...

      You see, the _actual_ A list server is sitting in the basement of somebody's house, humming away like it has for the last 20 years (it hasn't been upgraded at all). What was described in the article is the server they show government officials and journalists, so that we, the masses, can sleep better at night. They then hire geeky looking actors to stare at quicktime movies of "net traffic" while the big wig is there.

      15 minutes after the person is gone, the building is shut off, and everyone goes home.
    • so..
      tracert Aroot
      state.of.la 10 ms
      1 state.of.va 34 ms
      2 sterling.va 15 ms
      3 beltway.sterling.va 33 ms
      4 fewmiles.beltway.sterling.va 12 ms
      5 building.sterling.va 10 ms
      6 mantrap.building.sterling.va 3 ms
      7 room.building.sterling.va 8 ms
      8 Aroot.building.sterling.va 7 ms

      Trace Complete
      • Not quite...

        Tracing route to A.ROOT-SERVERS.NET [198.41.0.4]
        over a maximum of 30 hops:
        Stuff deleted for good reason

        sl-gw11-sj-1-0.sprintlink.net [144.228.44.13]
        sl-bb20-sj-8-1.sprintlink.net [144.232.3.137]
        sl-bb22-rly-14-0.sprintlink.net [144.232.9.217]
        sl-gw13-rly-0-0.sprintlink.net [144.232.25.226]
        Request timed out.
        198.41.1.201
        198.41.1.245
        a.root-servers.n et [198.41.0.4]

        Trace complete.
    • Since keeping a low profile and getting a relatively calm surrounding for this 'A' box is evidentially vital, I propose that the server is moved outside of the U.S.A..

      Since terrorist attacks (hackers == terrorists, right?) are the largest threat to this system, it is obvious that such vital machines should not be put inside the backyard of Uncle Sam.

      This might also be helpfull if the system actually turns out to be helping in circumventing any US patents, and thus violating the DMCA or whatever strange stuff you do over there. ;-)

      • You are absolutely right. It's aboot freedom. It's aboot security. It's aboot obscurity. It's aboot time we move this thing to Canada!

  • Blindfolded (Score:2, Funny)

    by 0xB ( 568582 )
    Verisign offer Tours of their Virginia NOC [verisign-grs.com]. Do they take you there blindfolded?
    • Verisign offer Tours of their Virginia NOC. Do they take you there blindfolded?
      No, but occasionally they move the building (a really big tractor trailer) and a couple of times a year they move Virginia. You probably wouldn't notice if you didn't live there, but I live right next door in Maryland and have noticed that sometimes Virginia seems to be in a different place.

      Weirded me out the first time; now I'm pretty much used to it. It's really weird when you're hiking the Appalachian trail. But that's an entirely different story.

  • Great Article (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jhaberman ( 246905 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @01:59PM (#3248948)
    Reading about the physical security is interesting. I'm wondering why they wouldn't just contract out with the Government and move the operation to a secure military installation somewhere in the DC area. There are plenty of them around there. Granted, it seems that they have taken care of their current security needs, but it might be cheaper/easier to locate it in a protected area that is already guarded. I get the feeling that "Security through Obfuscation" (the actual building) might not be the best policy.

    Still fascinating though.

    Jason
    • I'm wondering why they wouldn't just contract out with the Government and move the operation to a secure military installation somewhere in the DC area.

      Because that won't actually make it any more secure than it is right now. The building access is just as restrictive as "high level security" facilities in the area.

      Also, contrary to popular belief, every soldier is not walking around post packing heat. The weapons are locked up in an arms room, ammunition locked up in a different location, and the rank-in-file soldiers get to see them when getting ready to go to a firing range. Except for the MPs of course.

      "Hiding" the building in plain sight keeps the random vandals away, other security keps them in one place until Fairfax County or Herndon Police (oops, did I say that? ;-) arrive for them. Other means are available in the area to repel larger attacks, unless someone flies an airplane from Dulles into the building (check a map).

      Besides, the 12 other servers in the country pickup the tasks if A goes down. And you need to take out a total of 8 to make a real impact on the net.

  • by Sims Youth ( 568114 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:00PM (#3248954)
    Obscurity is the first line of defense. The building is unmarked, its address unspecified in company literature and its managers tight-lipped about disclosing driving directions or identifying markings to strangers.

    Security through obscurity will never solve anything when used as the first line of defense.

    If you're going to build a place like this, someone unauthorized will eventually find out about it. Hell, just look at the security of the government's nuclear research labs and the whole Wen Ho Lee fiasco a few years back. And nuclear secrets are far more dangerous than a temporary internet slowdown.

    If I was them, I'd quit worrying about how plain looking and unmarked the building is and start worrying about how hardended it was made. Ideally, they would place it inside a mountain so it would be immune to various airliners falling out of the sky. Also, it would have a myriad of redundant network links.

    Secrets have never worked in security before, and they won't work now. If they want to protect the root servers, they'll have to base it on sound engineering, not the assumption that no one will ever find which building it's located in (any network engineer with a sense of adventure and a flashlight can prowl the sewers tracing data lines, anyway.).

    • Security through obscurity will never solve anything when used as the first line of defense.

      Dude, it's the first line of defense, not the ONLY line of defense. Read the article.

      There is nothing wrong with security through obscurity as one facet of security. It's when it's the only security that it's a problem.

    • I know with code, protocols, and other "virtual" items, security through obscurity is a poor solution. But with a physical campus, is obscurity a bad idea? Granted, it shouldnt be the only defence. Its not like you can open source the building and have a million developers check for flaws in the security method ? :)

      anyways, just food for thought.

    • Secrets have never worked in security before, and they won't work now.

      So, can I please have the recipe for making Coke? I'm tired of buying those silly bottles.

    • Security through obscurity will never solve anything when used as the first line of defense.

      Oh, I don't know about that. Sure, it's bad when it's the only line of defence, but as a mere "first" line I think it's perfectly reasonable. (Just as it's a reasonable defence to, say, have your web server misidentify itself, or to have an unlisted phone number, or what have you.) As long as the layers of security behind this first one are robust, obscurity is perfectly reasonable as a front line defense.

      If I was them...

      No offence, but thank god you're not, buddy... :)

      Secrets have never worked in security before

      Oh baloney, they work all the time. Maybe you should consider putting down the standard /. party line and try putting some of this hyperbole into perspective. If secrets have never worked then why is the story of the Trojan Horse so famous? If secrets have never mattered then why is the element of surprise considered to be so tactically valuable? If secrets didn't matter to security then why did Nixon have those 18 minutes of blank tape, and why did Cheney turn in thousands of blank documents, and why do all governments bother classifying things as top secret?

      If you're in a position of just stupendously overwhelming strength -- like say if the US were to invade Bermuda tomorrow -- then no I don't suppose you need to be all that secretive about things. For everyone else, in every other situation, secrets can have an important role to play. Even if trolls would suggest otherwise.

    • You saw the word "obscurity" and a red flag went off. That's good. However, you took it out of context and hurried up to post before you really thought about what they're saying.

      They're not saying, "Our building doesn't have a lock on the door, but nobody knows where it is, so we're okay."

      They're saying, "Not only is our site secure, but we're also very low-key, since in our business it's not good to attract attention."

      Another example: Everyone knows where the NSA building is, but they still don't exactly put a big neon sign on the roof and run ads daring people to break in.

      As i said in my reply to your other post, you need to read RFC 2870 [ietf.org] ASAP.
      • by GMontag ( 42283 ) <gmontag&guymontag,com> on Friday March 29, 2002 @03:00PM (#3249296) Homepage Journal
        Ummm... on the highway in front of the NSA HQ the exit sign says NSA. After you make the exit, there is a big giant NSA sign with the seal and everything. Just past the Shell station.

        Also, before every enterence to the CIA there is a sign that says "CIA Next Left" or "CIA Next Right (just pas the Shell station)." Dolly Madison Parkway I think, or is that Chain bridge Rd? Forgot since I don't drive by there any more.

        NRO enterance is on a small road off Rt. 28 in Chantilly, VA (I can see it from my office cube). There are not any signs on 28 announcing it, but on the entrence side there is a big giant NRO sign and another NRO sign that marks the Contractor's entrence.

        The Mapping and Imaging HQ has a big giant sign in front of it, on Sunrise Valley Rd. in Reston, VA, corner at Fairfax County Parkway with Dulles Tollroad on the other side. No signs on the tollroad for it though. Sprint runs AOL's backbone from right down Sunrise Valley with no sign (other than the address) out front. Right next to the INRI building. No Shell station nearby.

        At "Station C" in Remington, VA (see "numbers stations") there is a big historical marker inside the fence, right by zads of antennas. Just a couple of miles past the Shell station.

        Yes, all of the Shell station refrences are real and an odd "coincidence", since there is not a Shell station right by the NRO, nor is there one right by the Herndon NOC for VeriSign.

        Hummm... watch out for the Shell stations of you want to find something kinda secret I gues
    • "(any network engineer with a sense of adventure and a flashlight can prowl the sewers tracing data lines, anyway.)."

      This being the true threat anyways.

      ....

      That and whitetrash with backhoes. They ALWAYS manage to take out some part of the internet on at least a somewhat annual basis. . . .

      Seriously though, 8 dudes in scuba gear and / or who don't mind getting stinky, could take out the required 8 root servers needed to slow things down. Bit whoop. So I would be stuck using a cached copy from someplace ::yawns:: no more NEW .coms or dynamic IP linked to a Domain warez sites. Oh no the horror!
    • This fellow frankly doesn't know his head from his /dev/null.

      Anyone following the Wen Ho Lee scandal would know that the whole thing was enormously overblown. In the end, he was let go with a misdimeanor dealing with improper storage of data, and the judge sincerely apologized for the government.

      Bob
    • The whole "Wen Ho Lee fiasco" was a lot of FUD by the FBI to coverup the fact that they knew nothing about how nuclear secrets were stolen.

      Yes, he broke a lot of regulations by allowing his daughter to login, copying data onto floppies to keep safe, etc. I know his daughter and we used to play the same MUD [mume.org] and she used to login to his account in order to get a better network connection yet they made it out as if he was letting Chinese secret agents into his account instead.
  • by kin_korn_karn ( 466864 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:01PM (#3248958) Homepage
    is Dogbert the CIO at Verisign or something?

    "He who controls the information controls you. I CONTROL THE INFORMATION!!"
  • Secret? (Score:3, Informative)

    by geogeek6_7 ( 566395 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:01PM (#3248965) Homepage
    "Obscurity is the first line of defense. The building is unmarked, its address unspecified in company literature and its managers tight-lipped about disclosing driving directions or identifying markings to strangers."

    Hmmm....

    VeriSign Network Operations Center
    21345 Ridgetop Circle
    Sterling, VA 20166


    I don't think security is *quite* as tight as they say. Course, if A root where to go down, I wouldn't know the difference betweent that and the crappy windows DNS servers here....
    • yea, but i think the one they speak of in the article is in herndon. i run into people that work there in reston all the time.
      • Re:Secret? (Score:3, Informative)

        by bwulf ( 325 )
        % host -t soa . | head -1
        . start of authority A.ROOT-SERVERS.NET nstld.verisign-grs.com(
        % whois verisign-grs.com
        (...)
        Registrant:
        Network Solutions, Inc. (VERISIGN-GRS2-DOM)
        505 Huntmar Park Drive
        Herndon, VA 20170
        US
    • they're right on the corner of Ellis and Middlefield, Mountain View California. They bought netscape buildings 1,3,4, and 5.
      and yes, they now own the netscape statue... :(
      .. the fuckers..
    • As I understand DNS, a request would have to be pretty obscure to be escalated all the way up to the A root. It would have to fail lookup at several levels before that happened.

      So losing the A root server wouldn't much immediate effect, giving time for a failover to one of the other root servers. This, of course, is the theory. :^)

  • Bad? (Score:5, Funny)

    by justin_w_hall ( 188568 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:02PM (#3248970) Homepage
    Venkman - "I'm a little fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, bad?"

    Egon - "Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light."

    Ray - "Total protonic reversal..."

    Venkman - "Alright, important safety tip. Thanks, Egon."

    Ah, one of the great comedies of the 80's...
  • Sheesh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101&gmail,com> on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:02PM (#3248973) Homepage Journal

    Hemos said...

    Especially interesting in light of the recent security lockdowns throughout much of the Western world. The havoc of losing the A root server would be bad, like Staypuft Marshmallow Man bad.

    Absolute proof that the Slashdot editors don't even bother to read the articles, and just depend on their wrong understanding of things.

    From the article...

    "The DNS is built so that eight or more of the world's 13 master root servers would have to fail before ordinary Internet users started to see slowdowns, according to John Crain, manager of technical operations for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

    ICANN manages the DNS and sets policies for registry operators and domain name retailers.

    "Theoretically, if 'A' were to disappear, we could pick it up from one of the other servers," Crain said. "Moving the place where the zone is picked up is very simple."

    In other words, don't panic. The A server is just the highest profile target.

    • In other words, don't panic. The A server is just the highest profile target.

      Someone should thank the post for pointing this out to us. Now this place is just a little higher in profile. I like the part about it being on the top floor. Seems to me that if you wanted to HERF gun the place you know where to point it now.

      • I like the part about it being on the top floor. Seems to me that if you wanted to HERF gun the place you know where to point it now.

        So how easy is it to get a window washing job in Herndon, VA? :-)

    • And if it did break, how hard would it be to load a backup of the zone files onto another PC and continue as if nothing had happened.
  • by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:02PM (#3248975) Journal

    The article seemed to be a little scare-mongery, considering how they go on to describe that the other root servers can easily take over.

    A bigger question is: how well protected are the public peering points, like MAE East and MAE West? Since even international traffic is often routed through them, we would see an instant slowdown if one of those two nerve centers were destroyed. Big businesses might have private peering arrangements that would survive, but you can bet that a ton of smaller sites would be affected by a loss of a MAE.

    • Mae-East is protected by about 4 feet of concrete, and you pretty much can't get in to see the machine unless you have a lot of heavy explosives and guns, or or known by site to the guards AND have your passkey. It's not just for Mae, there's a shitload of other machines in the same parking deck, but Mae is there. And yeah, you heard me right, Mae is housed in a bigass parking deck. It would be quit a project to take her out.

      Kintanon
    • Once upon a time, the MAE NAPs were certainly a big choke point. A few years ago, you could have blown up two nondescript buildings across the street from each other in Tyson's Corner, VA (MAE-East 1 and 2) and a tall building on Market Street in San Jose (MAE West) and pretty much taken down the Internet.

      However, that's not so much the case today. The fact is that most traffic (in the US at least) goes between the Big Three (UUNET/WorldCom, Sprint and Cable & Wireless), or at least it could go because most networks have an upstream multihomed connection to one or more of the big three. And those guys have plenty of private interconnections, some of which are outside of the NAPs.

      Networks have also shifted away from the old MAE model (FDDI connections into these huge mother-f***er DEC gigaswitches housed in the MAE buildings) and towards ATM-based NAPs, where you just get a virtual circuit in a "cloud" in the area. The weakness of the FDDI-gigaswitches model that caused people to move away from them was not the security aspect, but rather that they were a huge pain to upgrade and became a huge sinkhole for packet loss when they were overburdened (e.g., MAE-East in late 1997).

      Of course, the MAEs still are important - there's a hell of a lot of fiber running through there, and taking it out would require everyone to route around it, causing a HUGE temporary disruption - but they're not the tremendous choke point/security risk that they once were.
  • by Fastolfe ( 1470 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:04PM (#3248991)
    Out of curiosity, I've seen pictures of lots of NOCs that have similar setups as what's described in the article. What kind of software is usually used for putting real-time "war room" statistics up on NOC displays? Is it usually custom-written for each setup?
    • NOCOL : http://www.netplex-tech.com/software/nocol/ usually.
      it takes data from router SNMP and displays it graphically.
      i would imagine some custom work goes on for converting it into a wall mounted display.
      some companies must be doing minor custom work on it as consultants.
  • From here, technicians watch for unusual activity that could signal some sort of electronic attack.

    "We see a lot of spikes or peaks or things that might indicate [denial of service] attacks," Rippe said. Rippe pointed out a huge spike beginning to appear at that very moment, "Oops, slashdot just posted a link to a new Star Wars trailer! I've got to head down to the shelter."

    .
  • by Dephex Twin ( 416238 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:05PM (#3249008) Homepage
    If an unauthorized visitor places his hand in the scanner it triggers a lockdown, sealing the intruder in one of the narrow, wood-paneled closets until security forces arrive to remove them.

    "Copper bones, westward foams... triple stones."

    They should just go all the way and have elaborate One-Eyed Willy/Rube Goldbergian traps.

    mark
  • Security in the NOCs (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:07PM (#3249013)
    Yeah, I'm posting as an AC, I don't want to mess with NDA violations, troll me if you want.

    The NOC in VA that someone referred to isn't the one that the article describes. Its actually 'site B'. VeriSign has a backup center thats identical to the real one. The storage units are on a SAN and replicate daily before the zone is generated. Even if the building blows up, the other one automatically kicks in.

    Even if both are destroyed (sp?), the next tier will transparently take over. Like the article says, 8 have to go down before you'd even notice, and even then, theres backups that can be up within an hour to take over. The DNS system is as impervious to physical attack as any system on the planet.
  • Marshmallow Man?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HamNRye ( 20218 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:09PM (#3249026) Homepage
    Hmmm, the article seems to make a BIG point out of the fact that losing the A root would be non-catastrophic. Indeed, they mention that 8 of 13 roots would have to be down before the average user would notice the slowdown. It's nice to know the users here aren't the only ones who like to post without reading the article.

    But the article further goes to mention how important the Internet is to our economy. Is this true?? I don't really think of the internet as critical infrastructure.

    If the Net went down tomorrow, and was down for a week, would this really affect the economy in a signifigant way?? (Well, aside from the panic of investors...)

    I understand that more and more comapnies are using the Net in a part of their workflows, but I don't think the internet provides and unique service that couldn't be done without.

    E-mail: Use the phones.
    Web: Read a book

    Any data that is transferred could just as easily go by modem.

    The internet serves as a convenience in many ways, but I dont think this almost 10 year old (less in the corporate mind) bit of infrastructure has become crucial to us yet. It has really been just the last few years that anybody started doing anything with the net at all, and mostly that has been VPN and changing communication methods. (i.e. Use the net instead of UUCP and a modem.)

    So, my question is, what kind of critical services would be missing if the net suddenly went away. Sorry, I do not consider e-mail a critical service.

    ~Hammy
    nothing4sale.org
    • Losing the A root is about as dangerous as the Staypuft Marshmellow Man. Now that we know to cross the beams.
    • by hab136 ( 30884 )
      >But the article further goes to mention how important the Internet is to our economy. Is this true?? I don't really think of the internet as critical infrastructure.

      Many, many companies have replaced dedicated T1's with VPNs (or just SSL sessions) over the internet. My employer (unnnamed, large [several billion in assets] bank) is one of them. Yes, important financial stuff.

      To put it briefly, we'd be really hurting if the internet was down more than a day, and *really* screwed if it was down for any extended amount of time. It takes a long time to get Ma Bell to provision new circuits.. 2 weeks for a "rush" job.

    • You make the fatal mistake of assuming that every company's business is like yours.

      I work at a hosting facility. I'd say the Internet is indeed pretty crucial to our business. Sure, we're just one business, but there's enough companies in the same situation that if the Internet goes tits-up and all our companies tank, the economy will be severely dented.

      Look at the effect of the economy of the dot-com bust of the past couple years. Completely caused by the Internet.
      • Re:Marshmallow Man?? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Asprin ( 545477 )
        Look at the effect of the economy of the dot-com bust of the past couple years. Completely caused by the Internet.

        Ummm.... Well.... I don't know... no, wait.... yeah, you're right.

        If the Internet hadn't sucked up all of that investor venture capital, it wouldn't have been tied up in Aeron chairs in San Francisco, and we probably wouldn't have had a recession at all because it would have been invested in more reasonable ways.

        Don't get me wrong - the internet's a great thing - but let's be realistic here. The Internet bubble was caused by a large number of investors willing to take big risks in an unproven market. "Foolish"? I prefer "risky". I just wish it hadn't been so painful for so many.

        Here's the point: For the overwhelming majority of the world population, it is possible to lead a completely fulfilling, active, healthy life without ever logging on. The only way the Internet will become a necessity is if it can prove to provide things cheaper, not just better, but cheaper than the old non-Internet way of doing things. Except for email, it hasn't yet provided proof that this is the case.

    • E-mail: Use the phones.

      What if you only have an email address for someone you need to contact?

      Web: Read a book

      What if there is no book on the topic, only a web page?

      Any data that is transferred could just as easily go by modem.

      Oh yeah, a hundred telecommuters are going to hit each companies two or three remaining modems. Now maybe thousands of telecommuters out of work for a week is not quite an economic shock comparable to September 11 but it sure wouldn't be good for the economy.

    • There are many companies that would have severe problems if they lost their Internet connections. Many business processes have been automated in recent years. The forms, procedures, people and knowledge associated with the old processes may not exist anymore. The computers and software that supported the old processes may now be sitting in a landfill. In some cases, the core operations of the company may depend on a functioning Internet.
    • The internet serves as a convenience in many ways, but I dont think this almost 10 year old (less in the corporate mind) bit of infrastructure has become crucial to us yet.

      Think about any business that uses a PBX phone system. You may have 2,000 internal phone numbers, but only 500 outside lines. Suddenly the PBX goes down. Most likely your entire company loses communications. Within a couple of days you could have those 500 lines distributed to your workers, giving 1/4 of them direct lines. Then you have to worry about getting those hundreds of phone numbers out to every client and potential client.

      Business use this scheme because it is much cheaper than having as many outside lines as employees. And it's more convenient to administer. Could businesses go on without it? Sure. But the short-term dislocation would be horrendous. It's the same with the internet. Those businesses that rely on it use it for cost and convenience. They could do without it, but the transition would be painful.
  • I was surprised that the equipment is on the top floor.

    It would seem that you would be better off going w/the basement. In fact the deeper the better, I would think.

    Airplane strikes come to mind as one reason.

    Or the fact that if someone took out the ground floor- the floors above it go too, but if you are deep enough that could be avoided.

    Apparently physical security isn't of the utmost importance, as they say.

    The raised floor is always good- or the night guy's beer wouldn't stay cold.

    .
    • If an airplane crashed into the building, I don't think it would be any safer on the bottom floor. Even if it miraculously escaped unharmed, it would still not have power or 'net connection.
      • That's why I'm thinking sub-ground level as opposed to ground floor.

        And I would think that power, connectivity, etc. would be generated down there as well.

        Like NORAD but not quite so extreme.

        Apparently it is not that big a deal if this thing gets taken out anyways.

        Though, the more I think about it- if 8 public locations need to be destroyed to cause a problem, well how hard would it be to coordinate that?

        .
  • by Meowharishi ( 550240 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:13PM (#3249053) Homepage
    IN AD 2002 WAR WAS BEGINNING

    (Scene: Verisign Data Center inside Washington DC. Huge explosion on top floor of red brick office building, sending flaming servers flying through the night sky)

    (Cut to home of Verisign CEO, he is in bed with his fat wife, snoring loudly. The phone rings, and he wakes up, wiping the slobber from his chin while answering)

    Verisign CEO: "What you want!"

    Voice on the phone: "Somebody set us up the bomb!"

    CEO: "What you say!"

    Phone voice: "We get signal!"

    (static on phone, all of a sudden a voice breaks in)

    Arabian voice: "How are you gentlemen? By the Grace of Allah, All your A Root Servers are belonging to us! You have no chance to survive, make your time!"

    CEO: "It's YOU! Restore backup! Implement Emergency Response Plan A! Move every server! For great justice!"

    Arabian voice: "HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"
  • by mnordstr ( 472213 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:15PM (#3249061) Homepage Journal
    The DNS system is probably one of the least problematic systems. The zone files that are spread out to the root servers are also "publicly" availiable. No, you can't get them (would be a problem because of spam, etc.) but ie. large ISPs can get them to run their own root level hiearchy. This is good for large ISPs as it will cut down on bandwidth usage. This might also be a great solution for the future. If ISPs hosted the root level zones themselves, the DNS system would be virtually unbreakable and the bandwidth usage due to DNS requests would dissapear.
  • by YouAreFatMan ( 470882 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:16PM (#3249063) Homepage
    According to the article, even if the NOC were blown to bits, it wouldn't impact the internet overall that much.

    The last thing I'd want someone to think is that they could put a bomb around their waist and hug the A root and think they're going to significantly impact the Internet," Rippe said.

    Rippe said that while such an attack could kill many employees, the Internet's addressing system is designed to withstand the destruction of much of the physical infrastructure that houses it.

    So the threat of someone cracking the DNS server and screwing it up in such a way that it wouldn't get noticed immediately could be worse. Let's say you start altering the records. Once that starts to replicate from the root server on down, you can cause a lot of trouble. Do that to just eBay's or Amazon's domain (or gasp! Slashdot's), and you could cause quite a stir.

  • by st0rmshad0w ( 412661 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:19PM (#3249080)
    "Obscurity is the first line of defense. The building is unmarked, its address unspecified in company literature and its managers tight-lipped about disclosing driving directions or identifying markings to strangers.
    While the location of the building is not a true secret -- dozens if not hundreds of Internet addressing insiders know where it is -- it would be difficult for a casual vandal or criminal to stumble across it, Rippe said.


    And the casual vandal or criminal would be interested in it because?

    For crying out loud, a 1 second Google search on "Verisign NOC" reveals the COMPLETE ADDRESS in a PARTY INVITATION!?!? in the very first result!

    Yeah, I feel safe.
  • by Gruturo ( 141223 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:21PM (#3249093)
    I have a world map with root-servers pointed on it, looks like the area in which the A server is (Virginia, Maryland) hosts not one but six (A, C, D, G, H and J) servers, some of which (like H, run by US Army) are probably veeery well defended...
    I found a link to the same pic on the net:
    cs.ucla.edu [ucla.edu]

    ...or maybe just nuke the whole area and you take down 6 of them
  • Just snipping the connection between these machines and the rest of the world would suffice. I hope its more complicated than it sounds, but each of those machines has to plug into something, right? Just find where that something (all 10 zillion fiber cables or what not) exits the building in which it is housed and SNIP! All done!

    • Just a simple call to Billy-Bob's Bubba Backhoe Service should be enough to do the trick. Either that or deploy suicide squirrels around their UPS room.
  • 8 out of 13 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by unixwin ( 569813 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:33PM (#3249157) Homepage
    "The DNS is built so that eight or more of the world's 13 master root servers would have to fail before ordinary Internet users started to see slowdowns, according to John Crain, manager of technical operations for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)."

    Where did this magic number 8 out of 13 come from?
  • Overrated (Score:4, Insightful)

    by photon317 ( 208409 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:34PM (#3249170)

    As briefly noted in the Post article, the DNS infrastructure, like most essential net technology, pretty much doesn't have any single points of failure. It's immune to local physical attacks or natural disasters. The article is just a sensationalist trip into a modern high security datacenter full of Ooh-ing and Aah-ing, and doesn't have much relevance at all to the security or stability of the 'net.
  • by Ryu2 ( 89645 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:48PM (#3249239) Homepage Journal
    I was thinking at least round-robin DNS cluster but it seems like A root server is just one box. I'd worry about hardware failure more than terrorism if it was just ONE machine running the zone. What kind of hardware does the A server run on anyways?
  • by cr@ckwhore ( 165454 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:48PM (#3249240) Homepage
    It was stated that if 8 of the 13 root servers were destroyed, the internet would slow down?

    Ummm... no. It wouldn't slow down. DNS resolution would stop. Thats it. Most users might think the entire internet came to a complete halt, but thats not the case.
    • Re:a slowdown? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Slynkie ( 18861 )
      "DNS resolution would stop"

      Uhm...what?!? I don't think so...even if all 13 root servers died, DNS resolution would -not- stop. The world's DNS servers rely on the root servers for updates, not for connectivity...if the root servers died, the hierarchically lower servers would keep on truckin', and simply wouldn't be updated until someone promoted a new server to root status.
  • No one mentioned that this building is one of the approach paths of Dulles Airport, where the plane that hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11th took off from.

    Hows THAT for security?

    -db
  • by matth ( 22742 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @02:59PM (#3249290) Homepage
    So.. let me get this straight. Verisgn realizes that they basically "run" the internet and as a result they don't care if they blow customers off. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had major issues with Verisgn. Even writing to them for a simple answer to a simple question about how often domain names are flushed from their database results in them coming back to me with a request for more information. I ask them

    "> How often do you guys "flush" your database so
    that expired domain names
    > become public again? There are some domain names (even ones I've owned
    > but not renewed that after a year are still in the database)."

    and they say:

    "Please know we genuinely want to help you in this matter.
    In order for us to assist you please send the following to:
    customerservice@networksolutions.com

    a) A detailed description of your concern or question
    b) The domain name
    c) account number (if applicable)
    d) Any NIC tracking numbers you may have received. These
    appear in the subject line of the header of all messages
    sent from VeriSign (example: NIC-010409.3ee1)"

    What Ever! I included more then enough information in my e-mail. Perhaps the fact that Verisng is "god" of internet domains and NSI is the reason they haven't expired domains that have expired since 1 - 1 1/2 years ago!!!?!?
  • Not too important (Score:3, Insightful)

    by halftrack ( 454203 ) <`jonkje' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday March 29, 2002 @03:03PM (#3249307) Homepage
    If someone should be able to knock out all these root servers, zone-files and the major DNS's in the world the net would still excist. In the days to follow such a thing hackers would start running DNS-servers, searching logs and reconstruct the domains. Following weeks governments world wide would have reconstructed the net on more solid bandwidth.
  • Just FYI:

    The root-servers know where to find everything which is below the root (like com, edu, net, nl, au, cn, tw, us).

    The gtld-servers (global top level domain, i.e. the non-country codes) know where to find everything which is like philips.com, freebsd.org and berkely.edu.

    The country-code-servers know where to find xs4all.nl, org.au and co.uk.

    In the past I've made a small tool called dnstracer [mavetju.org] (shameless plug) which shows you what queries your DNS server is doing to get the answer for a hostname.

    If you play a little bit around with it you'll see how easy it is to live without connectivity to the root-servers.net machines, thanks to caching etc. Well, for the first two days that is :-)

  • Forget the NOC (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MeNeXT ( 200840 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @03:09PM (#3249355)
    Go after the local tel-co CO.


    In any security situation all you would need to find is the weakest link. It doesn't matter how well that building is protected it needs to comunicate with the world and therfore this issue is more complex than it sounds.

  • I thought the root of all e-vil^H^H^H mail was outlook?
  • Hugs (Score:3, Funny)

    by omega9 ( 138280 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @04:08PM (#3249714)
    "The last thing I'd want someone to think is that they could put a bomb around their waist and hug the A root and think they're going to significantly impact the Internet,"

    Forget the bomb. What techie wouldn't get a boner for the chance to "hug the A root"?!?
  • "The reason why you're seeing such a focus on VeriSign is that the safety and the integrity of these systems needs to be analyzed and needs to be improved upon regardless of how safe they currently are." -- Commerce Department spokesman Trevor Francis

    No matter how good it is, we need to improve it. That makes a whole lot of sense. 'Hey people, we're doing something to make you safer!'. What a bunch of loons.

  • Slashdot IP (Score:4, Funny)

    by Placido ( 209939 ) on Friday March 29, 2002 @04:56PM (#3249940)
    The havoc of losing the A root server would be bad, like Staypuft Marshmallow Man bad.

    Psh! I don't care if all DNS servers collapsed! I've got 64.28.67.150 tattoed on the back of my hand.
  • Bad Reasoning? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sunryder ( 192810 ) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .naalnahtan.> on Friday March 29, 2002 @05:13PM (#3250034) Homepage
    Why would terrorists want to attempt to destroy or cripple the Internet? It would be naive to think that they do not use it for communication and information. I could be wrong, but to me it would not make sense for them to try and destroy or harm the Internet as a whole.

    Attacking portions of the Internet might make more sense, but I still do not think that terrorists would try to destroy or criple extremely vital portions of the Internet that affect it as a whole.

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