The cyberweapon that could take down the Internet

An attacker deploying the Schuchard cyberweapon would send traffic between computers in their botnet to build a map of the paths between them. Then they would identify a link common to many different paths and launch a ZMW attack to bring it down. Neighbouring routers would respond by sending out BGP updates to reroute traffic elsewhere. A short time later, the two sundered routers would reconnect and send out their own BGP updates, upon which attack traffic would start flowing in again, causing them to disconnect once more. This cycle would repeat, with the single breaking and reforming link sending out waves of BGP updates to every router on the internet. Eventually each router in the world would be receiving more updates than it could handle – after 20 minutes of attacking, a queue requiring 100 minutes of processing would have built up.

Clearly, that’s a problem. “Routers under extreme computational load tend to do funny things,” says Schuchard. With every router in the world preoccupied, natural routing outages wouldn’t be fixed, and eventually the internet would be so full of holes that communication would become impossible. Shuchard thinks it would take days to recover.