Someone shut off the Internet!

Someone shut off the Internet! No I’m not kidding.

Yesterday, November 7th, 2011, the internet briefly ‘died’ for about 30 seconds. This event was witnessed by users and servers all around the U.S. in places ranging from highly populated areas such as Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Raleigh, N.C., Dallas, NYC, and some lesser known locations in the Midwest.

Obviously this affected individuals world wide. Servers and services hosted in the U.S. could no longer be reached by any client, regardless of their location.

Time Warner took responsibility for the massive outage with only a brief statement on their Twitter account.

@TWCableHelp: We appear to be recovering from a large but brief internet outage affecting most of our service areas. Please attempt to connect again.

This raises the question of how easy would it be to actually ‘turn off’ the internet in the event access could be gained to the systems Time Warner controls? Either that, or, how easy would it be to disable the systems preventing Time Warner’s customers from going offline?

Security is a huge issue here, because, if Time Warner has the power to disable the internet and adjacent services, at least the portion they control (which is massive! they had over 36 million subscribers as of 2009), then, potentially, other ISPs might have the same amount of incredible power. Could we be facing a state where a complete shutdown of the internet, ala Egypt or China, is feasible and a real threat to our freedoms as citizens?

What if an unscrupulous individual manages to take control of these systems and have an entire country’s internet at their fingertips? If a merchant like Amazon goes offline for even a few seconds, they potentially lose millions of dollars. Thirty seconds of downtime is a massive outage in any network administrator’s eyes. It is certainly unacceptable for such a large service provider conglomerate.

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3 thoughts on “Someone shut off the Internet!

  1. Good thing it only went down for 30 seconds! That gives me hope that if someone were to “hit the off button” on the internet, TWC would work quickly to fix it. The internet is so important that even this small event had an effect.. luckily the only immediate danger to me is that I won’t be able to play video games online for a bit! But we could seriously be hurt economically by a bigger attack; It’s scary how realistic that actually is.

  2. What is suprising to me is that there were no contingencies in place for this scenario, or that if there were, they failed to prevent downtime. This makes me wonder what other companies have implemented to ensure uptime, if they have anything at all. Then again, the us government is actively passing legislation to enable it to shut off the internet one node at a time:

    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:S.968:

    There isn’t much that terrifies me as much as the power that the protect ip act will grant to all the wrong people.

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