Is China's Web Hijack Cause for Worry? Probably

It's not clear if anything bad happened, but it highlights Internet weakness
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Suggested by Aarontco
Posted Nov 18, 2010 12:23 PM CST
In this Jan. 25, 2010, file photo, people use computers at an Internet cafe in Taiyuan, in north China's Shanxi province.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – A report to Congress alleges that China briefly hijacked a chunk of the world's web traffic, including some from US military facilities, before sending it on its way. (The actual amount rerouted is in dispute.) China denies it, but tech writers are pretty sure it happened. Cause for alarm? A definite maybe.

  • Bob Sullivan, MSNBC: "If there is a grey area between honest mistakes and outright cyber attack, these incidents probably fall right in the middle—if not a pre-planned testing of the waters, then certainly a happy accident with valuable results to be studied by would-be cyber-attackers."
  • Nate Anderson, Ars Technica: "The culprit here was 'IP hijacking,' a well-known routing problem in a worldwide system based largely on trust." But as is usually the case with these things, "it's hard to know if anything bad happened here. The entire thing could have been a simple mistake. Besides, Internet traffic isn't secure and already passes through many servers outside of one's control."

  • Jesus Diaz, Gizmodo: "Perhaps it wasn't a malicious move, but it certainly seems like a test to its network power. In any case, it seems like it can happen again at any time. I don't know about you, but I don't feel comfortable with the idea of China hijacking such a massive amount of information without explanation."
  • Dmitri Alperovitch, McAfee: “This is one of the biggest—if not the biggest hijacks—we have ever seen," the security expert tells National Defense Magazine. "And it could happen again, anywhere and anytime. What happened to the traffic while it was in China? No one knows.”

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