Massive Denial of Service Attack Strikes China, Takes Chunk of the Internet with It

By Steve Anderson August 26, 2013

The Chinese government is calling it the largest denial of service (DoS) attack that its Internet systems have ever taken on, and with this attack came the shutdown of a fairly substantial portion of the Internet. When other recent events are considered along with this, it makes a disturbing picture, but how far down does this particular rabbit-hole go?

The attack on the Chinese Internet, meanwhile, kicked off at 2:00 AM Sunday morning, though this wasn't the only attack that would strike. A second attack, said to be even stronger in intensity, slammed into systems at 4:00 AM. The attacks focused on a specific target: the registry that allows users access to sites with the extension “.cn,” which denotes a site available in China. The DoS attack likely took the registry down for between two and four hours, according to reports from CloudFlare, a company that offers security options and Web performance measuring tools for over a million websites.

The China Internet Network Information Center, meanwhile, came out with apologies to all affected users, and also asserted that it was working to improve “service capabilities,” ostensibly to protect against this kind of thing happening in the future. Thankfully, the attack was not as bad as it might have been; many service providers commonly store a record of portions of the registry for a little while, which meant that, for many users, only some sites would have been impacted at any given time.

But it's the timing of this attack that's of particular note here, for several reasons. One, there are significant issues taking place in China itself right now, particularly the trial of Bo Xilai. That's having an impact on social media, and thanks to China's particularly aggressive stance in terms of online censorship, this may have been a point toward just how hard it is to defend against such attacks. CloudFlare, for its part, notes that the attack in question could have been done by one lone attacker, and despite China's incredible filtering systems—not for nothing is it called the Great Firewall of China—and ability to launch attacks, China's ability to defend against same is much lower.

What's more, this particular attack comes on the heels of several other major service outages, including Google, the NASDAQ exchange, and fully two outages for Amazon, one for the main site and one for the Amazon Web Services portion that also took out both Instagram and Vine for a while. It's not exactly a leap to look at the two separate facts and wonder if, just maybe, there's a larger conflict either brewing here or perhaps even going on right now, under the surface.

As yet, there's no way to tell just what exactly is going on here, but combine a large number of outages for major businesses and institutions in the United States followed by a major strike on the Chinese Internet, and it's easy to wonder. Only time will tell what it is we're really looking at, but it may be much more than just a few outages that can be explained away by five-nines.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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