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Prediction: Operation Global Blackout ain’t gonna happen

Mar 29, 20123 mins
CybercrimeData and Information Security

The Rapture failed to materialize — twice. The takedown of Facebook never happened. The Mayan thing? Time will tell, though I have my doubts. Now we have another doomsday deadline — this Saturday, when Anonymous supposedly plans to K-O the Internet in an attack called Operation Global Blackout.

I try not to make predictions, because you always look stupid when you’re proven wrong. Just ask Harold Egbert Camping, the Christian radio broadcaster who was left sitting at the bus stop twice when the Rapture failed to pull up on May 21 and Oct. 21, 2011. But I’m going to make a prediction, anyway.

This Operation Global Blackout everyone’s worried about ain’t gonna happen. I believe this for the same reason I never considered the takedown of Facebook a serious threat: I’m skeptical that Anonymous has enough firepower to seriously damage Facebook’s server capacity. But the bigger reason I’m not worried is that Anonymous adores attention as much as the rest of us. Taking down Facebook would mean less attention for Anonymous, too. If they weren’t really willing or able to K-O Facebook, do you really think they can knock down the entire Internet? If you do, I have a variety of snake oils to sell you.

Anonymous has threatened retaliation for the arrests of about 25 of its members last month, and is also focused on what its members believe is a continuing threat by Congress to censor the Internet through revised versions of the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the companion Senate bill called the Protect IP Act (PIPA), even though the legislation was put on hold in January.  The group announced March 31 as the date of the attack, along with the method they intend to use — disabling the Domain Name Service through distributed denial of service attacks on the root servers of the DNS with an attack tool called “ramp,” which stands for “reflective amplification.”

To be fair, there is always the possibility that Anonymous will slow some sites down. Some security experts told CSO correspondent Taylor Armerding as much yesterday. Meanwhile, Alan Woodward, a professor in the Department of Computing at the University of Surrey, thinks Anonymous could do some damage. In an opinion piece for BBC News, Woodward notes that the top-level DNS systems are in different countries, are monitored by different organizations and run on different technologies. “We can be as sure as one can ever be when dealing with the Internet, that the top level of DNS can be kept secure,” he wrote. Still, he says Anonymous could bring a server down with ramp, in which an army of bots spoof the IP address of a target system and, “cause the DNS to flood the very network it is supposed to be serving.”

That sounds like a bad day for some IT administrators. But it doesn’t come close to a takedown of the Internet. Maybe Anonymous will pull it off Saturday and make me look stupid. But there’s a bright side to that:

If I am proven wrong, none of you will be able to use Twitter, Facebook or any of those other things to tell me how misguided I am.