Internet traffic hijack disrupts Google services | AP business

Alfred Osborne
November 15, 2018

Network-monitoring companies say service interruptions lasted for almost two hours and ended about 5.30pm EST (12.30 AEDT). Referred to as a BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) hijack, traffic that should have found its way to Google's servers instead pinged Nigerian ISP MainOne Cable Company. In addition to Russian and Chinese telecommunications companies, a Nigerian internet provider was also involved.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some Google services were "temporarily unreachable for some users after some traffic meant to reach the web giant was rerouted through other networks", though the company has not publicly disclosed whether it has determined the issue was a technical error or a hacking attempt. Sadly, while now in revision four, the standard comes with few protections: Routers with BGP enabled will accept any broadcast BGP messages by default, meaning that a properly-equipped attacker can - temporarily, at least - broadcast spurious BGP messages and reroute traffic without the AS owner's consent.

The type of traffic misdirection employed can be used to spy on or steal data or send it into an internet black hole. ThousandEyes is based in San Francisco and its data heading to Google was ending up in China after passing through a Russian ISP.

Internet traffic hijacking disrupted several Google services on Monday, including search and cloud-hosting services.

The company doesn't believe the incident was malicious, it told the Wall Street Journal.

Most network traffic to Google services —94 percent as of October 27 — is encrypted, which shields it from prying eyes even if diverted.

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The vulnerability exploited is built into the internet, which was designed for collaboration by trusted parties not competition by hostile nation-states.

Global internet traffic routing systems are potentially vulnerable because in an era where the internet has become one of the world's foremost geopolitical battlegrounds, the independence and neutrality of providers is not always a certain matter.

Henthorn-Iwane says Monday's hijacking may have been "a war-game experiment".

In two recent cases, such rerouting has affected financial sites.

Google described the issue as "Google Cloud IP addresses being erroneously advertised by internet service providers other than Google". This past April, another hijacking enabled cryptocurrency theft.

Both ThousandEyes and the US network monitoring company BGPmon said the internet traffic detour originated with the Nigerian company.

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