Menu
YouTube outage underscores internet weakness

YouTube outage underscores internet weakness

Sunday's inadvertent disruption of Google's YouTube video service underscores a flaw in the internet's design that could some day lead to a serious security problem, according to networking experts.

The issue lies in the way Internet Service Providers (ISPs) share Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing information. BGP is the standard protocol used by routers to find computers on the internet, but there is a lot of BGP routing data available. To simplify things, ISPs share this kind of information among each other.

And that can cause problems when one ISP shares bad data with the rest of the internet.

That's what happened with YouTube this weekend, according to sources familiar with the situation. BGP data intended to block access to YouTube within Pakistan was accidentally broadcast to other service providers, causing a widespread YouTube outage.

The chain of events that led to YouTube's partial black-out was kicked off Friday when the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) ordered the country's ISPs to block access to YouTube because of an alleged anti-Islamic video that was hosted on the site.

According to published reports, the clip was from a film made by Geert Wilders, [cq] a Dutch politician who has been critical of Islam. Wilders is hoping to air a 15 minute anti-Islam film, called Fitna on Dutch television in March.

ISPs in Pakistan were able to block YouTube by creating BGP data that redirected routers looking for YouTube.com's servers to nonexistent network destinations. But that data was accidentally shared with Hong Kong's PCCW, who in turn shared it with other ISPs throughout the internet.

Because Pakistan's BGP traffic was offering very precise routes to what it claimed were YouTube's internet servers, routers took it to be more accurate than YouTube's own information about itself.

Larger service providers typically validate BGP data from their customers to make sure that the routing information is accurate, but in this case, PCCW apparently did not do that, according to Ulevitch. When the Pakistani ISP sent the bad data, PCCW ended up sharing it with other ISPs around the globe.

This kind of accidental denial of service attack has happened before. In early 2006, for example, New York's Con Edison caused data intended for a number of networks to be misrouted following a similar mistake.

By intentionally propagating bad BGP data, an attacker could knock a Web site off the internet or even redirect visitor's traffic to a malicious server, security experts said.

Although there hasn't been a high profile example of criminals misusing the BGP protocol to knock a Web site offline intentionally, it has been misused by spammers to cover their tracks.

Making BGP data more reliable isn't so easy either. Although secure versions of BGP have been developed, it would take a major effort to adopt them and until there's widespread concern over the current system, it is likely to continue.

Two parties were to blame for the YouTube fiasco, said a networking engineer familiar with the YouTube situation, who asked not to be identified. First, the Pakistani ISP should never have forwarded the bad BGP routing data to PCCW. Second, PCCW should have checked to make sure that the ISP was talking about its own domains before accepting the information.."One of the dirty secrets about the internet is a lot of it is still a handshake deal," he said.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags youtubepakistanbgp data

Featured

Slideshows

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

Partners are actively building out security practices and services to match, yet remain challenged by a lack of guidance in the market. This exclusive Reseller News Roundtable - in association with Sophos - assessed the making of an MSSP, outlining the blueprint for growth and how partners can differentiate in New Zealand.

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ
Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

The leading players of the New Zealand channel came together to celebrate a year of achievement at the inaugural Reseller News Platinum Club lunch in Auckland. Following the Reseller News Innovation Awards, Platinum Club provides a platform to showcase the top performing partners and start-ups of the past 12 months, with more than ​​50 organisations in the spotlight.​​​

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018
Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

HP has honoured its leading partners in New Zealand during 2018, following 12 months of growth through the local channel. Unveiled during the fourth running of the ceremony in Auckland, the awards recognise and celebrate excellence, growth, consistency and engagement of standout Kiwi partners.

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ
Show Comments