Daily Outrage: Still no fix for dangerous online flaw known since 1998 

WHAT: In 1998, a hacker told Congress that he could bring down the Internet in 30 minutes by exploiting a certain flaw that sometimes caused online outages by misdirecting data. In 2003, the Bush administration concluded that fixing this flaw was in the nation’s “vital interest.” Now it’s 2010 and very little has been done to plug the hole, even though the Web’s explosive growth makes potential damage more dangerous.

HOW: The outages known as “hijackings” are usually — but not always — accidental. The cause is the haphazard way traffic passes between Internet data carriers. Each carrier decides how to route the data based only on what surrounding carriers in the chain say, rather than by looking at the whole path. It’s as if a driver had to go from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh without a map, navigating only by unverified traffic signs seen along the way.

WHY THE HOLDUP: Workable engineering solutions are well known. But the big Internet carriers seem willing to accept the status quo. The entire worldwide system would need to install any changes, and the federal government doesn’t have authority to force them to change. Experts fear nothing will be done until a major Internet meltdown happens.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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