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Thread: Theoretical Question: Attacking the Backbone

  1. #1

    Question Theoretical Question: Attacking the Backbone

    Forgive me if it's a dumb question, as I'm trying to come up with better stuff to throw out there with my threads. So, hope I can spawn a somewhat fun conversation with this one. That said --

    During my MIS courses in college, a class or two I took briefly hit upon the Internet concept of the "backbone". Despite prodding one of my professors on the matter, I don't think I ever fully got it. From what I understand, the backbone basically consists of the servers that make up the very foundation of the Internet as a whole. I have trouble swallowing that though as it seems most unfeasible today. Back in the days of ARPANet, sure, you could trace everything back to a handful of servers, but what about today?

    The question resurfaced in my head as I was reading one of Tony Bradley's tutorials a few minutes ago, where he briefly mentions the modern day backbone of the Internet:

    The largest ISP's own the major conduits of the Internet referred to as the "backbone".
    So, in other words, there are still a group of servers spread across the planet that, more or less, are the core of the Internet? I'm sure that even still those servers are in massive numbers and widely spread out, but at the same time there are few enough that, if an entire ISP went down, the entire Internet would potentially feel the blow, so it seems to have been suggested here:

    If something happens to one of the companies...that make up the backbone...it can affect huge portions of the Internet because a great many smaller ISP's that utilize that portion of the backbone will be affected.
    Ok, so let's talk hypothetical situation then. Let's say we've got a terrorist hacker who wants cause some widespread havoc. If, however unlikely to be successful, he were to bring down one or more major ISP's (especially the latter), what ramifications would that have for the Internet as a whole? Something only to be found in a Tom Clancy novel, or something perhaps remotely possible?

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    from IP network view, no. You cant bring Internet down attacking, i.e., US backbone (old arpa). For example, if U.S. backdone is down, i (from Brazil) can still access servers on Europe (cause South america has a path direct to Europe) and so on. However, It will severe impact user at USA, since most ISP rely on core. ATT, for instance, route their customers thru a "private" core until near the target and "there" packet re-enter on "internet network".
    From dns view, you can attack . servers, but they are well replicated all over the world, so if you bring some down, you can only cause some slowness on network.
    You can do a big mess however attacking inter continental conections. That you cause a lot of trouble. However, i cant imagine a flood attack against that channels. Maybe a physical attak to installations, but....
    Ahn, you cant bring U.S. military down that way. they have their own links . they are smart enough to dont rely on comercial links..
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    The U.S. Military is a joke, I won't even talk about how stupid they do somethings.

    Now as a note, you need to know other things first. You need to know about the routers, that control most of the trafic on the net. You also need to know about DNS servers.

    If someone was stupid enough to try to drop the net, it could probably be done by hitting a main router.

    I would go into a little more detail, but I don't really feel like explaining a lot of things. That and I am in a bit of a rush.

  4. #4
    The Recidivist
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Here is a link with some physical map of some of the major players.


    Here is one as well w/some more detailed and several different ways of explaing. Most European.


    Internet backbone
    This superfast network spanning the world from one major metropolitan area to another is provided by a handful of national Internet service providers (ISPs). These organizations (including Net 99 and Alternet) use connections running at approximately 45 mbps (T3 lines) linked up at specified interconnection points called national access points (which are located in major metropolitan areas). Local ISPs connect to this backbone through routers so that data can be carried though the backbone to its destination.
    This is from CNET.

    Still looking for more. I know somewhere in a book of mine I have an explanation that broke it down very well.

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  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    nice links hjack.
    Angelic, as you can see, due to a lot of redundancy and providers, you need to have a lot of power to brind down enough links to shut internet down (USA thinking only).
    Take a look at some Europe countries backbone structure and you will see that some of them have "star" structure that can be attacked.
    But the problem is allways:
    You need more power (throughput) than the core to bring it down. However "legs" of network arent large enough to achieve it.
    I think that nowadays the only attack that can be done (and its being done) is to "flood" entire network with a kind of trojan or something that replicate itself.
    Like Netsky virus for example.
    I believe this year someone will create a plague that will spread (thru e-mail or other media like dns functions) that will cause a crash on internet.
    Meu sítio

    FORMAT C: Yes ...Yes??? ...Nooooo!!! ^C ^C ^C ^C ^C
    If I die before I sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to encrypt.
    If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to brake.

  6. #6
    Very interesting stuff, thanks guys.

    Yeah, it just left me a bit curious, especially with cyberterrorism being a serious concern now. So theoretically, it's somewhat possible, but practically unprobable. Should be interesting to see if that "internet plague" actually comes to pass...wouldn't be surprising at this point.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    to the best of my knowledge (im at work now so cant verify) there are 13 root name servers around the world. there exact locations are not given and they reside in fortified structures. so yes the core of the internet does consist of a small number of servers
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  8. #8
    13? If you find your source on that when you get a chance, that'd be worth sharing.

  9. #9
    AO übergeek phishphreek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    The 13 main root DNS servers


    Attacking the backbone could be done a number of different ways...

    DNS was mentioned and has already been done. It took out several of the root dns servers IIRC.


    Also, the backbone routers could be attacked.

    The pipes are so large that I'd probably be very difficult to flood the pipes...
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  10. #10
    This is interesting:

    Julian: There are two sides to that issue. On the one hand, there are limitations to attacks on DNS servers, as they are very distributed. It would take an eight- or nine-hour attack [Monday's lasted only an hour] for Internet users to see noticeable impacts.

    But on the other hand, attacks on DNS servers aren't a pretty scenario. If a more sophisticated attack [than Monday's] were run for a day, then we'd have a big problem on our hands.
    Of course, that was a 2002 article. I wonder how much has changed since then?

    So does that mean every IP address on the Internet is traced back, eventually, to one of the 13?

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