Jim Armitage: Hacking exposes shoddy internet engineering

Global Outlook

If your access to the internet was on go-slow this week, join the club. Across the globe, hundreds of millions of people suffered as peculiarly disenchanted and, presumably, bored hackers drilled big virtual holes into the foundations of the global world wide web.

Quite why these attackers do such things is a mystery to me. I know it's cold outside, but I fail to see why they can't just read books or (assuming them to be mathematically minded), play chess instead.

It's been reported that the attacks were the result of a tiff between some hackers and an anti-spamming group. I'm sure they feel their grievances warrant inconveniencing millions of people.

However, these latest attacks may actually serve a purpose. They highlight just how sloppily much of the engineering within the internet's global system has been done, and how little care the world's biggest internet companies take in checking who is sending messages through their servers.

The hackers launched their attacks with what's known in the trade as "botnets". Not a type of hosiery purveyed in Soho boutiques, but geekspeak for robot networks – networks of thousands of computers which are effectively infected, taken over and controlled remotely by hackers. The botnets were used to fire billions of messages simultaneously into the web's servers, clogging them up and grinding them to a crawl.

This week, the hackers have been attacking the crossing points that keep data flowing and connecting around the world, namely the internet exchanges of London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Hong Kong. London's Linx exchange came under heavy fire, particularly last Saturday, when yours truly was trying to find a decent furniture removal company online and, it seems, unjustifiably blaming my wi-fi connection.

The attacks appear to have taken a lull for a couple of days, although there are rumours that they will resume next week. However, some experts say the extent of the attacks could finally shake big web firms into getting to grips with the often-shoddy configurations of their equipment that make them vulnerable. And, critically, shock them into telling the difference between the fake data from botnets and bona fide stuff from real customers.

One thing is for sure, attacks like this always create loads more lucrative work for computer engineers – the best of whom often seem to be former hackers. I'm sure I'm not the only layman who smells a rat …

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Night job: Pacha nightclub DJ, Joan Ribas, is the new kingmaker on the island
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada