The root cause of the magnitude of the DDoS attacks targeting DNS servers isn’t about the internet of things, botnets, or ever more clever hackers.
It’s about America’s political economy: the destruction of the internet’s nuclear strike-resistant architecture by its increasing commercialisation, with ownership concentration mirroring a concentration of choke points that should never have been created.
People too young or uninterested to remember ought to read through the Internet Society’s history of the internet.
What’s happened since the 1990s has all been driven by short-term greed rather than the serious planning by dedicated specialists that characterised the early history. Like so much that has happened in the USA since the 1980s, private interests seized public assets and financialised them. In other domains this ideology has seen the destruction of significant parts of the USA’s public infrastructure, and determined political sabotage of any efforts to publicly fund the creation of new infrastructure, or the maintenance of existing public benefit assets, like roads, railroads, bridges, utilities, and the entire education system.
What will happen to the underlying internet architecture when it is all privately controlled?
Yes, this business model brought the internet to everyone who could afford the access, but it ignored every opportunity to re-invest in securing what has become a sales platform for a few mega Evil Corps. Re-investment in infrastructure and sustainable systems is anathema to the globally dominant Wall Street model of ‘free market’ capitalism. Not because it doesn’t make sense, but because the consensus since 2007 appears to have been to focus solely on an extremely foreshortened profit cycle, quite likely in anticipation of grim longer-term prospects. Grim because the people in the know understand the inevitability of another financial crisis. They know the rules haven’t changed, and neither has their behaviour.
Not even mentioning this commercial background is denialism in a news media so long inured to the nihilistic excesses of Wall Street it has forgotten what really makes up reportage and analysis.
Of interest in this comment is the inevitable effect of concentrating ownership of the internet infrastructure in too few hands with too narrow a conception of quality of service.
That’s why a DDoS attack on a few targets can create such havoc today.
Unless the internet giants are prepared to invest some of their almost mythical profits in underlying internet infrastructure, the current predictions of more attacks, more often, causing more frequent, and more widespread disruptions are really not predictions so much as announcements of special events with no fixed dates and venues yet.
Of course, it’s in no one’s interest to talk about this too much. It would undermine the entire cloud business model, which works on the economies of scale that come with concentrating server farms and internet infrastructure. Fewer, much larger targets. Much bigger chaos.
All because accountants and other anti-strategic thinkers have forgotten the one real strength of the internet: decentralisation.
In Australia one way to accomplish some remedial public benefit work would be to demand it from the cartel of telcos who get to squeeze a captive local market. Make them fund, as a community service obligation quarantined from flow-on into wholesale and retail prices, heavy duty DNS servers with attack protections in every Australian data centre used by web hosting services providers.
It’s not that they wouldn’t still fix prices and move service quality to the lowest common denominator, but it might provide at least some continuity of service when attacks make the internet go dark for millions of users.