Turning Off the Internet

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Turning Off the Internet

Jay Park, Staff Writer

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  Hacking scenes in movies are beyond unrealistic.

  Let’s face it, hacking into the Pentagon’s encrypted data network takes more than hammering away at the keyboard in five suspense-filled minutes while  flashy warning windows pop up. It takes time, planning, and effort to dismantle encoded programs. In fact, some programs are impossible to crack because not even supercomputers have the speed to try a few trillion combinations until it runs into the correct password. Instead, hackers use a direct, brute-force approach.

  Computers may become more advanced as time goes on, but they cannot keep up with the increasing amount of data on this web. Processing data is finite, and takes time. Exploiting this, hackers use Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks which overwhelm the computers with so much gibberish data that the computer either shuts down or ceases to function. It’s like the relationship between a sink and a drain. Normally drains are designed to always take out more water than what could go in, but hackers perform the equivalent of adding other sources of water so that the drain cannot keep up and it eventually overflows.

  Unfortunately, it does not take a genius to launch such an assault. But first, one must understand what IoTs are. The Internet of Things is the term used to describe any object that has internet connectivity, and it does not always have to be the kind of computer you think of. Even a smart thermostat can count as an IoT, as it connects to the Internet to fetch data. Specific devices such as wireless internet routers are targeted by hackers in these Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks. They come with factory designated passwords and are extremely easy to guess. Examples include “12345” or even “password.” Once inside, virus-like programs take over and replace the software with one of its own. It turns into an evil robot that can be commanded to do the bidding of whoever hacked it.

  This process can reach out very far, sometimes even globally, and it targets and fully takes over these vulnerable minicomputers in every corner of the country. From their first virus, it can reach and take over approximately 380,000 IoTs, creating an instantaneous army. At this point, all the hacker has to do is order the bots to a website- or a few hundred- to knock them all offline.

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  Recently, somebody seems to be probing through the major companies who maintain the basic infrastructure of the Internet. These companies are responsible for redirecting users to website addresses. Taking these network nodes down would result in a dead Internet. As of this moment, these companies are searching for better anti-DDoS measures, but none have been outstandingly successful thus far.

  Worst of all, the user on the other side of the attack would be completely oblivious. It is easy to tell if a computer is being controlled, because it would not be behaving normally, but a smart refrigerator? It is highly unlikely that someone will try to crack one open to find out. This makes DDoS attacks very difficult to stop, even if we know what is going on, because once attacks begin, the victims are helpless. Did you ever experience a day without Internet? All our fancy smartphones are reduced to a digital clock, and we would have nothing to do but lay down worry about when the Internet would be back. This could happen to everyone in the country for several days.

  Coordinated attacks would deny anyone of accessing election polls, news, or even websites. In fact, a hospital was shut down because a malware, Mirai Botnet, broke into its system. Its medical records for all patients were compromised. Anyone who needs urgent attention such as transplants or surgeries were put in serious jeopardy.

  On a global scale, the precision of the DDoS attacks makes it a high priority threat. In April this year, a nuclear power plant experienced an emergency when malware entered its systems. The system was on the verge of a nuclear meltdown but thankfully its control panel was separated from the internet.

  Addresses have been traced to China and Russia. It seems that hackers have been the  possibly signaling that maybe the US is next. The scary part is that we do not know what they are after. Social media? Cyberterrorist attacks? Can we even stop a full-scale, national attack? We do not know, but we have to take every measure to stop it, because we are not in the realm of fiction, where a few clicks can stop our Internet from being paralyzed.

 

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