Operation Global Blackout

Operation Global Blackout, planned for March 31, is apparently a protest against “SOPA, Wallstreet, our irresponsible leaders and the beloved bankers who are starving the world for their own selfish needs”.

So how serious are these threats?

Well, for a start, it’s worth pointing out that the date of the take-down could be an indication of an April Fools joke – albeit one day early. And then there are the suggestions that whoever published the announcement does not really represent Anonymous. Instead, they appear just to be using Anonymous' name and reputation to give their anti-SOPA campaign some publicity.

But even if the plans of “Anonymous” don’t come to fruition, would their take-down methods actually work? Is it possible to shut down the internet?

At the top of the hierarchy are the 13 root servers that Anonymous is apparently going to target. The idea is that if you take down all 13 root DNS servers, domain name resolution for the internet would eventually fail.Of course, we shouldn’t discount Anonymous' ability to marshall many botnets to an attack, but for this particular attack to succeed, an enormous number of bots would be needed.

Finally, even if the root servers could be brought down, most ISPs cache queries from these root servers for substantial amounts of time. For Anonymous to “take down” the internet, they would need to maintain a sustained attack. Only after the cached entries have timed out would the attack start to be noticed by users. This would likely take several hours; much longer than the minutes claimed by Anonymous.

So, all things considered, it’s very unlikely a DDoS attack on the internet’s root DNS servers would succeed. But that’s not to say there aren’t other weaknesses that could be exploited to shut the internet down.

Regardless, if the internet is ever brought down, I suspect it will be through something more sophisticated and more arcane than a DDoS of the net’s DNS root servers.