U.S. Would Consider Bombing Cyber-Attackers

U.S. Would Consider Bombing Cyber-Attackers

By Andrew L. Jaffee, netwmd.com

During the week of February 5, the Internet’s root-servers were targeted by cyber-criminals using a denial-of-service (DoS) attack. The Internet survived because of its resilient, distributed (redundant) nature. The threat posed by cyber-terrorists is not so much to the entire Internet, but to individual companies, organizations, and nations (Israel), as “no one corporation has the kind of replication and bandwidth that the [Internet] infrastructure has at this point.” Think of the economic repercussions a DoS attack would have if it shut down the Air Force, on-line brokerages, energy/utility companies, or ebay. The U.S. government is prepared to retaliate:

In the event of a massive cyberattack against the country that was perceived as originating from a foreign source, the United States would consider launching a counterattack or bombing the source of the cyberattack, Hall said. But he noted the preferred route would be warning the source to shut down the attack before a military response.

All the military services are preparing for military cyber-response…

All geek-speak aside, it is not difficult to understand a cyber-attack. If you type “http://ebay.com” into your browser’s address bar, a request is sent by your PC over the Internet to load ebay’s home page. This is like sending a letter to ebay to request its product catalog. You need to know the street address of ebay’s offices, and write that address on the envelope, so that the postal service can deliver your letter properly. The Internet functions the same way, except when you hit the “Enter” key, ebay’s address if found for you automatically. The company’s Internet (IP) address,, is associated with the text “ebay.com” on the Internet’s root servers. The “root server system” is:

A system of 13 file servers that are distributed around the globe and contain authoritative databases that form a master list of all top-level domain names (TLDs). There is one central, or “A”, server that replicates changes to the other servers on a daily basis.

You’re all familiar with TLDs, e.g., the “.com” in ebay.com. Others are .gov, .edu, .org, .mil, etc. This is just a way of grouping and organizing (and optimizing) Internet addresses by category. The denial-of-service attacks of the week of February 5 were aimed at overwhelming the Internet’s root servers with fake requests for address information. An analogy for a DoS attack would be everyone in China flushing their toilets at the same time, thus exhausting all the water stored at public utilities. If a networked computer receives too many requests at the same time, it gets overwhelmed, runs out of resources, and cannot service the requests. A DoS can be directed at an individual company, not just a root server. For example, a cyber-attacker could create millions of fake requests to load ebay’s home page, thus slowing the website to a crawl, making bidding and selling impossible.

Despite the fact that the “Islamist phenomenon is a result of global trends toward modernization,” Islamists have nonetheless turned to modern technology — the Internet — to wage jihad:

They neither carry weapons nor lay ambushes for soldiers in Iraq or in Afghanistan. But thousands of radical Islamists are waging a different kind of war from behind their computers, called “electronic jihad.”

These radical Islamic sites have sprung up over the past few years, specializing in the organization and the coordination of concerted cyber-attacks against Israeli, American, Catholic, and Danish Web sites.

All you need to join this anonymous cyberworld is an address registered in Iraq or in tribal zones in Pakistan, and basic computer savvy to carry out concerted attacks in which internauts from the four corners of the world take part.

Among their most high-profile attacks to date was that on the Danish Internet site of daily Jyllands-Posten, which outraged Muslims – and sparked violence worldwide – by publishing controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in September 2005.

Cyber-jihad is not some vague technical curiosity. It is a real threat the economic well-being of Western nations. Let us hope that the U.S. government’s claims of preparedness and willingness to retaliate are not just hot air.

Cross-posted at netwmd.com and IsraPundit

Posted by Andrew Jaffee @ 12:13 pm |

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