The Impact of The Internet

We had a wake up call on Friday, October 21st.. We were shut out from some of the most widely used services on the Internet. This came as Internet-dependant technologies are growing in importance to us everyday.

Admittedly, the failure on the 21st did not affect the entire Internet. But, it was proof to everyone that the Internet was vulnerable. As we now know, it could have been worse (see below). But, it was bad enough to give us a glimpse of what it would be like without the Internet – to not have the ability to communicate or even to fulfill our basic needs. The services that we rely upon more and more were not there, for what seemed like a very long time.

We lost access to some of the world’s most popular websites on that day, like;

  • Twitter,
  • Amazon,
  • Netflix,
  • Paypal,
  • CNBC and others.

The outage was a sampling of every part of our lives, such as

  • payment services,
  • online goods,
  • news
  • entertainment.

The impact could not be ignored. There had been attacks on individual corporations before, like Bank of America and other financial institutions back in 2012. But, this attack was especially broad because it channelled through DNS servers, the servers of domain names. These servers are, in essence, the heart of the Internet.

Could It Have Been Worse?

The attack effected the most highly used Internet sites. To add to the drama, the weaponry used to carry out the attack was the most prolific technology of modern times, the Internet of Things (IoT). Included in the attack arsenal were cameras, DVR’s and routers. These IoT devices are fast becoming a part of everyone’s everyday life – and there will soon be millions of them, everywhere. Yes, it could have been worse.

This attack may have been just a sign of what may come in the future. According to Computerworld in its post DDoS attack on Dyn came from 100,000 infected devices

“Given that Friday’s disruption involved only 100,000 devices, it’s possible the hackers could have launched an even more powerful DDoS attack, said Ofer Gayer, a security researcher with Imperva, a DDoS mitigation provider.

“Maybe this was just a warning shot,” he said. “Maybe [the hackers] knew it was enough and didn’t need their full arsenal.””

The attack was to the Dyn servers, the centralized part of the distributed Internet. DARPA had originally designed the Internet as a distributed network that was immune to total destruction. But the Domain Services have become a centralized function. This function may be acting as a single point of failure. Even the control of security keys of the domain services consist of seven keys in the hands of 14 people. Alright, that is not just one person, but, it still represents a form of centralized control that may be surprising to some. Especially when the Internet is only getting more relied upon everyday.

The delivery system was a platoon of IoT devices. This time, the vulnerability used was the manufacturer’s password, that thing people forget to change when they install the device. However, these devices are inherently simple in their computing capabilities. So, the idea that there are more ways to exploit these devices for malicious purposes in the future seems quite plausible.

Reliance On the Internet Grows

The adoption of services-on-demand is growing everyday. Amazon is delivering everything from entertainment to groceries right to our home. If the product can be delivered in bits and bytes, we get it immediately. If it is a physical item, we may just have to wait for a drone to drop it on our front lawn. Also, if we plan to go to our friends house, we will merely tell the AI attendant in our home to call a Uber self driving car and the nearest free one in the neighborhood will be sent immediately, ready to take us anywhere we want to go. No more paying for a car as it sits in the garage.

I understand that my examples are a little ahead of regulatory approvals and some technology capabilities. However, if we were on the streets of New York in 1899, we would have seen almost nothing but horse driven carriages and carts carrying people and goods. In less than a 20 year span, New York was filled with combustible engine and electric-powered vehicles. When technology advances, it is not a slow evolutionary process. It is a bit more like a cataclysmic event.

Blockchain Is a Game Changer

Then there is that 15 page white paper written by a person named Sitoshi Nakamoto that may have a bigger impact on this planet than the Internet, electricity or the printing press. It is most commonly called Bitcoin. But that is just the currency. And I do mean ‘just’. because the cryptocurrency may have turned out to be just the ‘proof in concept’ product. The truly valuable component of the design was the underlying technology that Sitoshi developed called Blockchain. Blockchain is to Bitcoin like a database is to an enterprise application. But, Blockchain is not a database. It is a journal. A journal with entries that cannot be changed; is not in just one place; and can be viewed by anyone. What a concept!

The technology of Blockchain has spawned incredible technology platforms, such as Ethereum and RSK (Rootstock) to name just a couple. These are frameworks that can be used to develop real-use applications using the Blockchain design such as

  • business transaction processing,
  • public and private governance,
  • identity authorization,
  • property ownership and so much more.

The impact may affect world cultures as people will have access to currency, governing power, and global services that do not have it today. Blockchain may very well change the world as we know it.

Cloud Services Need One Thing – The Internet

So, we have discussed the expanding Internet of Things, Services-on-Demand and Blockchain. These growing technologies are in addition to the online services we have learned to rely upon over the past 2 to 3 decades. As they continue to expand, we must ask ourselves “what do they all depend upon?” They rely on the Internet.

But, the Internet has shown itself to be vulnerable. Its evolved structure has left it vulnerable. I am not saying that we cannot take further steps to protect it. We surely made great strides regarding its security and free access in just recent years. Also, what if there was an alternative to the Internet as we know it? Actually, there are alternatives. Their viability is just starting to be recognized.

We will be covering network and security alternatives in future posts on this Blog. We must keep up the discussion. The impact and risk of a lost Internet are only getting greater everyday.

Denis ONeil CISSP

Denis ONeil CISSP

Founder of OLinks Corp, Creator of EmailToVoice.Net

Denis O’Neil is the Founder of OLinks Corporation and creator of EmailToVoice.Net. Denis has extensive experience in customer engagement and business communications having held leadership positions in several international companies.

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