Anonymous is Threatening to Shut Down the Entire Internet,
But Can They?
Online hacktivist collective Anonymous has had its hands full lately. Between the SOPA and ACTA protests, the U.S. Justice Department’s takedown of popular filesharing haven Megaupload, and the outrage over multinational agri-corp Monsanto, the digital hive seems to be stirring with activity nonstop. Now, according to their latest text file press release on Pastebin, the group is about to unleash its most daring offensive yet: Shutting down the entire internet.
Not long ago, in chilling proximity to when the Pentagon declared cyber attacks to be acts of war, we were mulling over the possibility of a single decisive strike capable of knocking out the net in one fell swoop. Using an updated tool that they’re distributing through IRCSOPA, Wallstreet, our irresponsible leaders and the beloved bankers who are starving the world for their own selfish needs out of sheer sadistic fun.” networks, Anonymous now seems to be planning to do exactly that. The goal is to cause a global internet outage in protest of “
But would it actually “shut down” the internet?
It depends on how you look at it. By taking aim at 13 root DNSDNS servers. servers, part of the proverbial “backbone” of the internet, Anonymous aims to cause a widespread, indiscriminate disruption of service. In their text post, they detail how the updated tool exploits a flaw using spoofed packet data to generate an unmanageable flurry of requests that are then amplified and reflected to target those specific DNS, if you remember, is the internet’s addressing system — what allows a request typed into a browser’s address bar or gotten from a hyperlink to redirect to the appropriate place on the network. When too many requests come in at once, the nodes are unable to resolve the correct addresses. This has been the method for other Directed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on specific websites in the past. But this newer, “reflected amplification” method packs enough punch to successfully target root DNS servers, which affects all requests, not just those going to someplace specific.
The only problem for Anonymous: The internet has more than just 13 root DNS servers. Even if they did manage to hit all of them, the measured effect would really only appear to be an internet blackout. The end result would likely be that it would seem like the internet wasn’t working for enough people to evoke a sort of simulated, temporary cyberpocalypse. Requests would either take seemingly forever to resolve or simply not resolve at all, effectively crippling HTTP, the part of the internet we tend to use the most.
However it’s likely that this is precisely their goal — not to destroy anything permanently, but make clear that they can, much like the Obama administration has talked about doing, disrupt everyone’s internet usage with the flick of a switch. It’s unclear as to whether the U.S. government is prepared to defend against such a strike, or whether it will even last long enough to be worth defending. “It may only lasts one hour, maybe more, maybe even a few days,” the hacker group writes. “No matter what, it will be global. It will be known.”