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From: InfoSec News (isn_at_c4i.org)
Date: Wed Nov 27 2002 - 02:38:00 CST
Tuesday, 26 November, 2002
Simulated attacks on key internet hubs have shown how vulnerable the
worldwide network is to disruption by disaster or terrorist action.
If an attack or disaster destroyed the major nodes of the internet,
the network itself could begin to unravel, warn the scientists who
carried out the simulations.
The virtual attacks showed that the net would keep going in major
cities, but outlying areas and smaller towns would gradually be cut
The researchers warn that the net has become more vulnerable as it has
become more commercialised and key net cables are concentrated in the
hands of fewer organisations.
Cutting the ties
The simulations were carried out by a trio of scientists from Ohio
State University led by Tony Grubesic, Assistant Professor of
Geography at the University of Cincinnati.
Dr Grubesic compared the net to US air traffic system.
"If weather stops or delays traffic in a major airport hub, like
Chicago's O'Hare, air passengers throughout the country may feel the
effects," said Dr Grubesic, "even if they are not travelling to
In its early days the net was as decentralised, as possible with
multiple links between many of the nodes forming it. If one node
disappeared, traffic could easily flow to other links and route
traffic to all parts.
However, said the researchers, the increasing commercialisation of the
net has seen the emergence of large hubs that act as key distribution
points for some parts of the web.
As a result, the net has become much more vulnerable to attack.
"If you destroyed a major internet hub, you would also destroy all the
links that are connected to it," said Morton O'Kelly, Professor of
Geography at Ohio State University.
"It would have ripple effects throughout the internet"
US cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and
Washington DC are large net hubs and have several connections to the
As a result any attack would bump up traffic levels on these links,
but the larger cities would probably maintain net services.
By contrast, warn the researchers, smaller cities that rely on the
large hubs to keep them connected cut see their links severed by an
attack on their routing centre.
The researchers said the attack on the World Trade Centre revealed how
disruption could spread.
A major net hub was destroyed during the attack and severed links
between New York City and three New York counties.
"The ability for networks to re-route, re-connect and have redundancy
is clearly important for the survival of the internet in the face of
disasters," said Dr Grubesic.
The researchers' work will appear in the February 2003 edition of
Telematics and Informatics.
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