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Renesys: Indonesia had hijacked global Internet

A routing error on April 2 made it briefly appear that Indosat controlled a large part (some 320,000 of 500,000 networks) of the Internet for about two hours, said Renesys. The problem was promptly addressed but still caused trouble for companies such as Akamai and Chevron. It also caused a flood of traffic to hit Indosat’s network, according to Renesys.

Once someone makes such an assertion, typically via an honest mistake in their routing policy, the only question remaining is how much of the world ends up believing them and hence, what will be the scale of the damage they inflict? Events of this nature, while relatively rare, are certainly not unheard of and can have geopolitical implications, such as when China was involved in a similar incident in 2010.

Keep in mind that this is how the Internet is designed to work, namely, on the honor system. Like Twitter and Facebook, where you can claim to be anyone you want, Internet routing allows you to lay claim to any network you want. There is no authentication or validation. None. But unlike Twitter and Facebook, such false claims propagate through the world in a matter of seconds and decisions, good or bad, are made algorithmically by routers, not humans.

This means that innocent errors can have immediate global impacts. In this incident, the impacts were most pronounced on Akamai, one of the world’s largest content delivery networks, which was a very bad thing. Akamai hosts thousands of networks for their customers, including turbotax.com, healthcare.gov, paypal.com and many other high-profile sites.

Earl Zmijewski, the VP and general manager in Renesys, explains the chilling scenario.

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