Powerful attack cripples majority of key
Tue Oct 22, 7:30 PM ET
By TED BRIDIS, Associated
WASHINGTON - An unusually powerful
electronic attack briefly crippled nine of the 13 computer servers
that manage global Internet traffic this week, officials disclosed
Tuesday. But most Internet users didn't notice because the attack
only lasted one hour.
The FBI (news
sites) and White House were investigating. One official
described the attack Monday as the most sophisticated and
large-scale assault against these crucial computers in the history
of the Internet. The origin of the attack was not known.
Seven of the 13 servers failed to
respond to legitimate network traffic and two others failed
intermittently during the attack, officials confirmed.
The FBI's National Infrastructure
Protection Center was "aware of the denial of service attack and is
addressing this matter," spokesman Steven Berry said.
Service was restored after experts
enacted defensive measures and the attack suddenly stopped.
The 13 computers are spread
geographically across the globe as precaution against physical
disasters and operated by U.S. government agencies, universities,
corporations and private organizations.
"As best we can tell, no user noticed
and the attack was dealt with and life goes on," said Louis Touton,
vice president for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers, the Internet's key governing body.
Brian O'Shaughnessy, a spokesman for
VeriSign Inc., which operates two of the 13 computers in northern
Virginia, said "these sorts of attacks will happen."
"We were prepared, we responded
quickly," O'Shaughnessy said. "We proactively cooperated with our
fellow root server operators and the appropriate authorities."
Computer experts who manage some of the
affected computers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they
were cooperating with the White House through its Office of Homeland
Security and the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection
Richard Clarke, President George W. Bush
sites)'s top cyber-security adviser and head of the protection
board, has warned for months that an attack against the Internet's
13 so-called root server computers could be dramatically disruptive.
These experts said the attack, which started about 2045 GMT
Monday, transmitted data to each targeted root server 30 to 40 times
normal amounts. One said that just one additional failure would have
disrupted e-mails and Web browsing across parts of the Internet.
Monday's attack wasn't more disruptive because many Internet
providers and large corporations and organizations routinely store,
or "cache," popular Web directory information for better
"The Internet was designed to be able to take outages, but when
you take the root servers out, you don't know how long you can work
without them," said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS
Institute, a security organization based in Bethesda, Maryland.
Although the Internet theoretically can operate with only a
single root server, its performance would slow if more than four
root servers failed for any appreciable length of time.
In August 2000, four of the 13 root servers failed for a brief
period because of a technical glitch.
A more serious problem involving root servers occurred in July
1997 after experts transferred a garbled directory list to seven
root servers and failed to correct the problem for four hours.
Traffic on much of the Internet ground to a halt.
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