Can the Internet be Turned Off?


To clarify an issue, I find I need to add further explanation to yesterday’s post (An Unpresidented Action Occurs).

because of my 38 years as an Information Technology Professional, I have been often asked “Can ‘they’ turn the Internet off?”   I guess that the ‘they’ is obvious, e.g. The Government. 

As to turning the internet off it is no different from securing a farm-house in Kansas; you lock the doors.  There are two common ways to lock the Internet’s doors, ‘tell’ (programatically) every router and switch to not access the central Domain Name System (DNS).  This means that you block access to the central address structure, a huge database “in the sky”.  Without it, no packets can flow down the wires because they don’t ‘know’ where to go, or even where they came from.  This is well and good but can be defeated. 

The only to really ‘turn the internet off’ is to physically unplug every piece of coaxial cable, every CAT-5 cable, and every phone line that goes into and out of every switch and router on the ‘edges’ of the country.   There are 10 Atlantic network beachheads.  There are another half-dozen beachheads on the Pacific coast, and several coming in from Canada and Mexico.  These are the ‘doors’ into the US from the rest of the global internet.  They are both a blessing and a vulnerability; easy to control the traffic through their routers and switches but vulnerable to physical and logical attack.  The diagram below might help in your understanding.

Global Internet Map

As in India’s case, this was catastrophic to the traffic going into, and out of, India.  Fortunately, the fiber lines that go through India, to Asia and the rest of the world were not severed.  In the case of this happening to isolate the United States, the result would be catastrophic; the data world would  go dark immediately.

Stay Warm my friends! You are being protected Still.

Cliff

Map Credit: Cogent Networks

Button Credit: Uber_Gizmo

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