Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #310 - Breaking Internet and Countering China

A disruption in a CDN brought down some of the biggest sites. Could it be engineered by the anarchists or terrorists? Such actions often are. World is countering China, as it increases the aggression.

Image by Vladislav83 from Pixabay

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” ― George Orwell, 1984


The most advanced don’t always win. The most ruthless and relentless do. If they want they can bring the greatest edifices to dust if they have no respect for the work that has gone behind the efforts. When their base ways cannot comprehend the ingenuity of other human beings.

The Indian civilization faced this twice. Once by the Islamist invaders and second time by the British. Both were group of savages who has no respect for ingenuity or achievement of human mind.

The stopping of the internet for one hour has raised the specter of how such a shutdown could be engineered as well. To devastating effect.


Bringing down the internet

Yesterday, many news sites including some large sites like Amazon, Reddit, Pinterest, Twitch went offline for about an hour. Twitter was working but the server hosting its emojis was off.

The reason was a service called Fastly.

What is Fastly? It is a content delivery network (CDN), or content distribution network. A CDN network of proxy servers and data centers which are geographically distributed network. The objective of this network is to enhance availability and performance by distributing the service spatially relative to end users. The Asian users of the sites are serviced by servers in Asia and the US ones on East coast from servers, say in New York state.

Because the CDN service from Fastly failed, all the sites that use the CDN also failed. They started giving out 503 errors. At 2:58 a.m. PT (Pacific Time), Fastly shared the status.

Can the internet be killed or switched off? There are some ways to disable a large portion of it, but not necessarily completely shut it down because it has so much of redundancy. Among other things shared by some of the top scholars, Dale Rowe, Associate Professor of Information Technology & Cybersecurity and Director of the Cybersecurity Research Laboratory at Brigham Young University, shares these three ways.

Before you read the three ways suggested, check this very informative map of the internet out.

Here are three ways.

DNS (Domain Name System): The address book of the internet. A DNS outage results an inability to translate hosts to IP addresses. Technically the internet wouldn’t be shutdown, but would be inaccessible to most users. DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks on this have already occurred and caused significant outages in the last few years. One of the most notable was the Mirai botnet targeting DYNDNS servers. Since Mirai, significant research has been performed into countermeasures for similar attacks and it’s unlikely that this would result in a total shutdown today. As DNS is implemented across various platforms, a universal 0-day is unlikely to completely disable this globally.

Routing/addressing: Finding a 0-day in something like BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) across multiple vendors, or massive route-poisoning attacks could potentially fragment the internet to a state where it was unusable. There are some very old protocols here that could be vulnerable to a well researched attack although they have stood the test of time. With IPv6 on the rise, there are potentially new attacks in addressing/routing to be discovered in the next few years.

Physical: Cutting undersea cables combined with satellite jamming could cause continents to lose connectivity to each other and even fragment communications internally. This would be extremely complex to achieve but may be possible for state actors such as China, Russia, the USA, and potentially the UK and France. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) can also disable electronics at range quite effectively. While unlikely outside of wartime, this is probably the most effective way to shutdown the internet within a large, but specific region. The best known examples of this are from a nuclear weapon blast, but there are also non-radioactive means to cause localized EMP’s. TLDR: targeted physical attacks at key locations and choke-points could potentially disable the internet at a large scale. (Source: Gizmodo)

Obviously, the whole internet cannot be destroyed. But those - state and non-state actors - who want to attack the global network can find a way to break it down.

That is how great civilizations are brought down always. Not by making better technologies, but finding weaknesses in the greatest inventions or knowledge and destroying its base. India was not destroyed by civilizations that were “better equipped” or advanced than India’s. But those that were ready to destroy the most glorious achievements of the Indian civilization without mercy. For example, 5 of the top Indian universities were destroyed by the Islamist invaders. They weren’t better or advanced. They were from the deserts without any advanced sense of knowledge or civilization. This was their way to bring down a more formidable foe.

  1. Takshashila, Punjab (Pakistan)

  2. Nalanda Mahavihara, Bihar

  3. Vikramshila Mahavira, Bihar

  4. Vallabhi Vidhyapith, Saurashtra

  5. Kanthalloor Shala, Thiruvananthpuram

 Bringing down a foe requires a sense of ruthlessness without necessarily having better tools or development.

Chinese strikes and counter strikes

In the current situation of negative sentiment against China, the Biden administration is now planning to set up a strike force to fight the “unfair trade practices” from China. The strike force will specifically target China.

The United States will target China with a new "strike force" to combat unfair trade practices, the Biden administration said on Tuesday, as it rolled out findings of a review of access to critical products, from semiconductors to electric-vehicle batteries. (Source: Reuters)

China, in its recent “Wolf Warrior” avatar (read - Issue #301 - Wolf Warriors - Hacking and Propaganda), is now not ready to take this “aggression” lying down.

The sentiment against China has grown strong recently. In Japan for example, 14 private universities including Waseda University and Ritsumeikan University have Confucius Institutes (CIs) on campus - all started in the past few years. Japan has decided to conduct a review of Beijing-funded institutes. Although these institutes have been set up as cultural set-ups, they are really propaganda tools that have a direct affiliation to the Chinese government. Hanban is the parent organization for CIs.

Hanban is in fact controlled by high officials of the Chinese party-state implementing the policies of the PRC propaganda apparatus. The governing council of Hanban, which annually sets its agenda, has long been headed by a member of the Politburo. A number of its ranking officials, beside their high status in such ministries as foreign affairs, finance and national development, are members of so-called small leading groups of the Party’s propaganda and ideology sections — which thus function as conduits for the realization of Politburo policies in the operations of Confucius Institutes. (Source)

They are set as JVs between Host University in a country, a Chinese University, and Hanban.

The CIs are joint ventures between the host university or school, a partner university in China, and Hanban, a controversial agency under China’s education ministry. It oversees CI operations and provides partial funding, staff, and other support. Source –BBC

In India 54 MoUs had been signed up by CIs with Universities like the IITs, BHU, JNU, and NITs. All of these MoUs were to be reviewed last year.

market corner: 10 quick bytes

  1. 58% of organizations say hiring numbers expected to increase in 2021 - more

  2. PM Modi’s 59-min MSME loan approval: Banks disburse 2.15 lakh applications; amount tops Rs 60k crore - more

  3. Covid-19 shot before cover: Max Life, Tata AIA make vaccination must for term life - more

  4. Life insurers see a 5.5% drop in new premiums in May 2021 - more

  5. Amazon, Reddit, dozens of other popular news websites go offline in a global outage - Fastly CDN error. - more

  6. Tea output decreases in Assam and West Bengal in first five months of 2021: Industry - more

  7. Eco-friendly transport! Govt plans more Ro-Pax services across India’s vast coastline & inland waterways - more

  8. World Bank approves $500 million MSME financing program; targets support to 5.55 lakh firms - more

  9. Flipkart JV to bring Toys“R” Us to online customers in India - more

  10. 800 arrested worldwide in huge crime sting: Europol - more

video corner: Fighting Flooding

What does one do when disaster hits? Be creative and be shamelessly adroit at doing what is needed to be done. Here are some excellent examples of how people saved themselves and their groups from flooding. My favorite: the “Lift Houses” in Bangladesh. That should be the norm in flood hot areas of India.

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